Christianity is a mystery, the event of the coming of the Son of God who becomes man and gives to those who welcome him the power to become children of God. It is the proclamation, the gift of a personal covenant of love and life between God and human beings. Only if future priests, through a suitable spiritual formation, have become deeply aware and have increasingly experienced this mystery will they be able to communicate this amazing and blessed message to others.
Pastores dabo vobis, paragraph 46.
The First Year programme
This establishes prayer, word and sacrament, lived in community, as foundational to the formation programme. Throughout the year, by instruction and practice, the seminarians discover in silence, in the Bible, in the Liturgy of the Hours and in daily Mass, a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ in prayer and life. They are introduced, by the resident Spiritual Director, to the practice of receiving regular spiritual direction.
Spiritual direction continues beyond first year, and seminarians are free to continue with the resident director, or choose an approved priest from outside the College. The spiritual directors meet annually at the College for discussion. This is to keep the directors informed about what we are trying to do, and to seek general advice from them about the spiritual formation program. There is strict confidentiality about what goes on in spiritual direction: neither the staff nor the bishops seek or receive directors’ recommendations about seminarians who are their directees. The only enquiry made is whether or not a student is regularly seeing his director. From time to time, the Rector may need to inform a director about the progress of a seminarian, but that communication is one way.
There is a community celebration of Mass and at least two of the Hours of the Prayer of the Church each day, as well as half an hour of silent prayer together and the opportunity for Eucharistic adoration at other times.
The Lord’s Day
Sunday is usually celebrated in the College: with the Liturgy of the Hours, Mass and Benediction included in the program. Seminarians are encouraged to invite family and friends to Mass and a roast lunch. From time to time, a Sunday is designated a Day of Recollection.
Regular and frequent confession is an important part of a seminarian’s life. The Sacrament of Penance (First Rite) is available most days at a set time in the chapel. Many seminarians choose to celebrate the Sacrament with their spiritual directors, or at nearby churches. Each term, we have a Second Rite of Reconciliation, with visiting priests.
Our Blessed Mother
Every aspect of priestly formation can be referred to Mary, the human being who has responded better than any other to God’s call.
Pastores dabo vobis, paragraph 82.
The seminary has a fine Lady Chapel with a beautiful icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. This becomes a focus each night, when the community ends the day by singing a hymn to Our Lady. The community observers additional Marian devotions in May and October, months especially dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Community recitation of the Rosary is obligatory in First Year and encouraged thereafter.
Word and Faith groups
There are four Word and Faith groups, comprising seven or eight seminarians each, which meet weekly. The groups offer an opportunity for the participants to develop in articulating their own faith and listening to others. All meetings include proclamation of and response to a passage of scripture.
Every student observes a week long annual retreat. These are usually organized according to year level groups and are held at locations away from the College. Moreover, in the first week of the new year, first year seminarians retreat offsite. The rest of the seminary participates in a three day retreat at the College. Melbourne and Vinh students also observe a week of recollection in Holy Week. Students from country dioceses generally spend Holy Week at their home cathedral.