This summer marks the tenth anniversary of the Institute for the Preparation of Seminary Formation Staff & Advisors that was cofounded in 1993 by Sulpician Father Melvin C. BLANCHETTE, S.S. and Father James WALSH of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. At the time, Father Walsh was executive director of the Seminary Department of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), which cosponsored the Institute with the U.S. Province of the Society of Saint Sulpice.
Father Blanchette, the retiring rector from Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was then serving as Director of Personnel for the U.S. Province of Sulpicians. He and Father Walsh designed the program specifically to meet the need for a professional program of training priestly formation staff, which was practically non-existent in the U.S. at the time.
The current Sulpician director for the program is Father Gerald D. McBREARITY of Theological College, who also serves as Director of Formation for the U.S. Province of Sulpicians. Numerous Sulpicians and other experts in priestly formation participate as presenters.
Held almost every other year, the English-language Institute is a “basic training” for those who participate in programs of priestly formation, especially throughout the United States and abroad. It primarily serves those who are administrators, teacher, formation advisors, or spiritual directors in seminary formation. The program attends to issues in both diocesan and religious formation contexts. Some four hundred formators from around the world have participated in the program since its inception.
This year some twenty-five participants engaged themselves in the intense eight-day training sessions. Among the presenters and topics were:
■ Rev. M. Blanchette, S.S.: The Integration of Chaste Celibacy and Sexuality
■ Rev. P. Keane, S.S.: Role of Academics and Intellectual Formation
■ Rev. J. Kemper, S.S.: The ABC’s of Multicultural Formation
■ Rev. G. McBrearity, S.S.: Human and Spiritual Formation: Internal and External Forum
■ Rev. J. Myers, S.S.: Cultivating Priestly Spirituality
■ Sr. K. Schuth, O.S.F.: Trends and Transitions in Seminary Formation
■ Rev. G. Stevens, S.S.: A Theology of the Priesthood and Implications for Seminary Ministry
The program is very inter-active, allowing for an exchange between experienced formators who attend and those who are new in priestly formation ministry. Each participant receives a four-volume set of The Core Elements of Priestly Formation Programs: A Collection of Readings, as well as other materials handed out by the presenters.
The Institute has been traditionally hosted at Sulpician seminaries, either St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland or Saint Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park, California (near San Francisco), where it was held this year. Both the U.S. Province of the Society of Saint Sulpice and the NCEA underwrite the program with generous grants, permitting the costs of tuition and room and board to be kept to a reasonable level.
The testimony of participants over the years has indicated how successful and important the program has been. Its focus on contemporary issues, its attention to the four main pillars of priestly formation (human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral), and the personal interaction creates an affirming environment in which to explore the many delicate issues related to priestly formation today. In addition, the program has some built-in relaxation time and a regular rhythm of daily Eucharist and prayer.
Ongoing formation has been a hallmark of the Sulpician tradition since our founding, and it is not surprising to find Sulpicians engaged in the formation of formation personnel. The French Province of Sulpicians has held in Paris a regular program of formation of French-speaking formators, called the Institute for the Formation of Educators of the Clergy (IFEC), since its founding in 1969. It will be profiled on this website at a later date.
In addition to such formal Institutes, Sulpicians from all three Provinces (France, Canada, USA) participate in other ongoing formation programs for formators, most notably those sponsored by the Holy See’s Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, organized for the benefit of African and Asian countries that have few resources for such programs.
For further information about the Institute for the Preparation of Seminary Formation Staff & Advisors, one can contact:
Vatican II Institute
St. Patrick’s Seminary & University
320 Middlefield Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025 USA