St. Joseph’s Seminary Adds Pastoral Year to Priestly Formation Program

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St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie is instituting an additional year of priestly formation, a Pastoral Year, beginning at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, for men studying for the Archdiocese of New York and the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, who have completed second theology. Their third year of theology will be moved back a year to accommodate the additional year, as will their fourth year of theology and subsequent ordination.

Msgr. Peter Vaccari, rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary, spoke with CNY Sept. 10 to discuss the particulars of what will now be a five-year program of priestly formation.

Cardinal Dolan, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Rockville Centre Bishop John Barres, “the three bishops of the Borromeo Partnership,” Msgr. Vaccari said, “see this fifth year, this Pastoral Year, as being a way, along the process of formation, to make sure that the men who are going to be priests, will be priests who are genuinely formed after the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, with the heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd.” (The Diocese of Rockville Centre had already added a Pastoral Year.)

For background, the rector referenced the document, the “Program of Priestly Formation,” used by bishops and seminaries throughout the United States. The Program of Priestly Formation, Msgr. Vaccari explained, includes four dimensions for men preparing for priesthood: human formation, spiritual formation, intellectual formation and pastoral formation.

The ideal, the goal, of the man’s years of formation, is the integration of those dimensions. “It all culminates, and is directed toward, his pastoral preparation,” Msgr. Vaccari said.

“The Pastoral Year will measure, for example, what skills does the man have for an effective, public ministry,” he added.

During Pastoral Year, the seminarian is also to show the growth that he needs to manifest as a priest in cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity, and the ability to cultivate “a bond of affective communion” to serve an immigrant community.

The immigrant community is “a historical reality” and “a blessing,” Msgr. Vaccari said, of who the Archdiocese of New York is, and it is a blessing of who the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre are.

Additionally, the seminarian should manifest his sensitivity to the poor at the pastoral level, and see how he can grow in his own leadership skills.

“A seminarian, during Pastoral Year,” Msgr. Vaccari said, “is also manifesting his theological understanding and his pastoral application to the sacramental life of the Church.”

Obviously, in Pastoral Year, a seminarian who is between second and third theology is not going to be doing those things that he would do as a priest one day, the rector said, but he will be serving at the altar, and will have the opportunity to talk about the Word of God.

“These are all things that, on a Pastoral Year, the seminarian is developing his skills,” Msgr. Vaccari said.

All of this is done in a parish. Cardinal Dolan will assign those seminarians studying for the Archdiocese of New York to particular parishes, Msgr. Vaccari said, and in those respective parishes the seminarians will be under supervision. “That’s very important,” Msgr. Vaccari said. “That’s probably the key to a good Pastoral Year—the quality of the supervision.”

The supervision comes primarily from the pastor, who is responsible, in effect, for putting together a parish team, which is given instruments of assessment by the seminary.

Msgr. Vaccari said his responsibility as rector “is really to execute the wishes of the bishops.” In that regard, “I am very enthusiastic in my attempts now to make the best possible Pastoral Year for the Archdiocese of New York, and for the Diocese of Brooklyn and for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.”

Three other dioceses that send seminarians to St. Joseph’s Seminary, namely the Dioceses of Albany, Camden, N.J., and Bridgeport, Conn., at this time do not mandate a Pastoral Year, according to Msgr. Vaccari. Religious orders such as the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the Piarists and the Idente Missionaries, along with Eastern dioceses/eparchies who send their men to St. Joseph’s Seminary, do not include a Pastoral Year.

The St. Charles Borromeo Inter-diocesan Partnership is an agreement of the diocesan bishops of New York, Brooklyn and Rockville Centre to have their local churches cooperate in the education and formation of Catholic leadership, particularly seminarians preparing for the priesthood.

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