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Human Formation Program

To be a credible witness for Christ, a priest must be authentic, approachable, kind, and uncompromising in character as a Christian gentleman. His humanity must be a bridge and not an obstacle for others to encounter Christ.

Purpose of Human Formation

As the foundation for the other three dimensions human formation is the necessary foundation with which to begin. The late Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Pastores Dabo Vobis said, “The human personality of the priest is to be a bridge and not an obstacle to others in their meeting with Jesus Christ, the redeemer of the human race.” (PDV #43) The seminary provides solid human (personal and interpersonal) formation so that seminarians become balanced men, effectively mature, capable of relating well to others, of giving pastoral care within different cultural contexts, and of living celibacy in a healthy manner. This happens in a three-fold growth in self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-gift, done in the light of faith, with the purpose of more perfect conformity to the perfect humanity of Jesus (PPF #80).

Program Components

As the foundation for the other three dimensions, human formation is treated first and foremost and it is considered the integrating dimension of priestly formation.

1. Rule of Life and Seminarian Handbook

The Rule of Life (.pdf) and the Seminarian Handbook (.pdf) combine to provide a detailed description of the formation and evaluation program, with clear expectations for daily life in the seminary and for the behavioral and attitudinal expectations regarding formation in celibacy. These documents are used to guide daily communal living and to clarify the behavioral expectations of seminarians pursuing a priestly vocation. The Rule of Life also seeks to balance freedom, responsibility, accountability, activities, and solitude.

2. Formation Advising

  • A measure of a student's personal maturity is his willingness to be fully engaged in the formation program and his ability to be faithful to the community rules. 
  • Each student meets regularly with a designated faculty member who guides him in the development of personal goals in light of the recommendations of the Admissions Committee, the expectations of the Church, and the sequence of goals as identified in the Seminarian Handbook. Together they deal with any concerns in human formation that need to be addressed and identify ways to help the student grow further.
  • Faculty formation teams, meeting on a regular basis under the direction of the Vice Rector for Human Formation, discuss the seminarians’ personal strengths and weaknesses and recommend to them, through their formation advisors, areas where they need further growth.

3. Formation Seminars and Workshops

  • Seminarians attend a sequence of Formation Seminars each semester to address a variety of human formation issues. Descriptions are available in the Seminary Catalog, ORDN 001-ORDN 802.
  • Additionally in the fall Formation Workshops treat issues of transition into seminary, study skills, pastoral formation, such as teaching, hospital visitations, working with women, multicultural ministry, and personal health.
  • As needed spring semester afternoon Conferences or Workshops to treat issues relating to human formation or to broaden the seminarians understanding of a current affair of particular interest (e.g. friendship/boundaries; celibacy/sexuality; substance abuse; development of human social skills, manners, leadership skills).

4. Seminary Life and Community Dinners

  • Human formation happens informally in the interaction of seminarians among themselves, with the faculty, the wider university community, and with the people they serve in their field education placements. Their participation in social events, athletics, student government, university sports team chaplains, seminary house jobs, campus ministry and class activities helps them develop friendships and social skills. All seminarians are expected to actively engage in seminary life. 
  • The entire seminary or smaller class-based groups come together regularly on Thursday evenings for a community dinner. At least one faculty member and a deacon sit at every student table for the purpose of fostering non-class faculty-student interaction and growth in human formation skills such as table manners and conversation skills.  

5. Counseling and Spiritual Direction

Human formation issues are treated in the internal forum both in spiritual direction and, if necessary, in counseling. The seminary contracts with a counselor who sees students in-house several days per week. Formation team minutes (external forum information) are shared with all spiritual directors and the counselor for the purpose of a more integrated human formation. This enables the internal forum faculty to work in cohesion with the external forum faculty.

6. Evaluation by Peers and the Rector

  • All seminarians in second pre-theology, second theology and fourth theology are asked to confidentially evaluate their classmates in the spring semester. The goal is to give each student a deeper insight into himself and how he is being perceived by others. These peer evaluations are tabulated and the composite is given to the formation advisor. He shares this information with the student and the formation team.
  • Every seminarian has an opportunity to meet with the Rector to discuss his personal formation and growth areas. Since the Rector attends all formation team meetings, he is kept apprised of each seminarian’s strengths and weaknesses in the area of human formation.

Goals / Objectives

In human formation of the candidate for the priesthood, the seminary aims to accompany him in conforming his heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ, so as to become a sign of the love God has for each person. Human formation fosters growth in his character as a man who:

1. Practices virtues


  1. Displays prudence by appropriately setting formation goals and choosing the means to accomplish them
  2. Manifests justice in showing respect toward others and completing his house job
  3. Shows fortitude by persevering in accomplishing goals and tasks
  4. Demonstrates temperance in food, drink, and the use of technology

2. Demonstrates affective maturity


  1. Cultivates friendships with others
  2. Respects appropriate boundaries in relationships
  3. Manifests an ability to work and relate well with others
  4. Exhibits balance in judgment and behavior

3. Lives as a public person


  1. Takes responsibility for his actions
  2. Communicates well with others
  3. Shows initiative

4. Cultivates a healthy lifestyle


  1. Exhibits good hygiene and professional appearance
  2. Makes healthful choices in food and drink
  3. Exercises regularly
  4. Gets proper rest and uses leisure time well
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Rule of Life

Seminarians use the Rule of Life to guide daily communal living and to clarify the behavioral expectations of seminarians pursuing a priestly vocation. The document also seeks to balance freedom, responsibility, accountability, activities, and solitude.

Download the Rule of Life (.pdf)