Through study, especially the study of theology, the future priest assents to the word of God, grows in his spiritual life and prepares himself to fulfil his pastoral ministry.
Pastores dabo vobis, paragraph 51.
The academic course constitutes eleven semesters of full time study, spread over seven years. Most studies are undertaken at Catholic Theological College (CTC) which awards, through the multi-denominational Melbourne College of Divinity, state-recognized degrees. The Seminary provides regular tutorials to complement the CTC courses and help the seminarians integrate their studies with the rest of the formation. Almost all students graduate as Bachelors of Theology; some also as Masters of Theology or Masters of Theological Studies.
The first year in the Seminary emphasizes the spiritual foundations that the seminarian and the priest must have. The academic component is geared to that. The history of Christian spirituality is taught through the study of important texts in their theological and cultural contexts. There are also introductory courses on Liturgy and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In preparation for more formal scripture studies, students read through the Bible in the course of the year. There are language studies in Latin, or English depending on students’ needs. In the latter half of the year, the first unit of philosophy is taught.
Second and Third years
The study of philosophy dominates the next two years. Most seminarians are required to complete eleven units (the equivalent of one and a half years of full time study) of philosophy during their course. In addition, studies in sacred scripture and church history begin.
Seminarians spend part of fourth year residing and working in a parish. During this time, they complete further units in theology and scripture at Catholic Theological College. As well as ensuring that the demands of the academic formation are met within the seven years available, this practice trains the student in organising his time.
Sixth and Seventh years
Returning to the College, the seminarian resumes full-time study: now in systematic and moral theology, canon law and the continuation of his work in scripture and history.
Finally, most students complete, under supervision, a 25,000 word Theological Synthesis: a personal, synoptic presentation of Christianity, which is publicly and formally examined. The aim is to assess how well the student has developed an integrated view of Catholic theology which he can clearly expound.