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What Is Priestly Formation?

Ongoing conversion is the vocation of any disciple of Christ. The seminarian pursues ongoing conversion in the priestly formation program in a particular way, considering how he might be serving the Church as a diocesan priest. The pursuit of holiness is a call to perfection in the ways of the Lord. The seminarian grows in his understanding of faith, hope, and love and comes to understand how the priest, configured to Christ, is called to be Head, Shepherd, and Spouse of the Church.

The governing documents of priestly formation speak about the areas of formation a seminarian must address in his discernment and preparation for the priesthood. Saint Paul Seminary emphasizes an integrated formation which considers the following pillars: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation. The two most current magisterial documents governing priestly formation in the Catholic Church are Presbyterorum Ordinis (1965) and Pastores Dabo Vobis (1992).

Human formation

The purpose of human formation is to develop the personal and interpersonal qualities that will allow each seminarian's personality to develop after that of the Good Shepherd. The diocesan priest leads people to Christ and His Church. Therefore, his personality, attitude, and disposition are to serve as "a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of humanity" (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 43). Human formation is foundational for the life of grace, but also for the other pillars of formation.

Spiritual formation

Spiritual formation strives to establish a foundation within the seminarian for a lifetime of priestly ministry in the Church. This foundation is an intimate relationship with the triune God, the source of all love and truth, a relationship nourished by Scripture and Tradition, celebrated in the sacraments—most particularly in the Eucharist—and marked by a sincere devotion to Our Lady, the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church. To this end, the spiritual formation program challenges the seminarian to grow in loyalty to the Church, the sacrament of salvation.

Intellectual formation

The purpose of intellectual formation is for the seminarian to grasp the Catholic intellectual and liturgical tradition, to be able to proclaim and teach the Gospel of Christ, to communicate the mystery of God to the people of today, and to be equipped for the continuing pursuit of truth.

For more information on the course of studies at Saint Paul Seminary, please see the Academics page.

Pastoral formation

The priestly formation program at Saint Paul Seminary introduces the seminarian to pastoral formation in a number of ways, but most particularly through the apostolic works program. The students are exposed to an array of pastoral opportunities which will both enhance their gifts and challenge them in areas of needed growth. Each seminarian assists in an assigned ministry for normally two to four hours a week, supervised by onsite supervisors.



Rector — Very Rev. Brian J. Welding, J.C.D., S.T.L.

As rector, Father Welding is directly responsible to the bishop concerning all matters related to the priestly formation program at Saint Paul Seminary. The rector lives among the seminarians and acts as one of the formation advisors, giving periodic conferences to the seminary community.


Apostolic Works Coordinator — Sr. Cindy Ann Kibler, S.H.S.

As Apostolic Works Coordinator, Sister Cindy Ann Kibler is responsible for planning and directing the seminary apostolic works program in accord with the Program of Priestly Formation. She meets periodically with the seminarians to discuss the general area of apostolic activity and the specifics of each seminarian's particular apostolate.


Spiritual Director — Rev. Brian W. Noel, S.T.L.

Father Noel serves the seminary as in-house spiritual director and confessor. In addition to this assignment, Fr. Noel is Chaplain at Bishop Canevin High School.


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