‘[Pastoral Formation] is a scientific reflection on the Church as she is built up daily by the power of the Spirit, in history […] as a living sign and instrument of the salvation wrought by Christ through the word, the sacraments and the service of charity. […] Pastoral theology is not just an art. Nor is it a set of exhortations, experiences and methods. It is theological in its own right, because it receives from the faith the principles and criteria for the pastoral action of the Church in history, […]. Specifically important is that of the evangelical discernment of the socio-cultural and ecclesial situation in which the particular pastoral action has to be carried out. (Pastores Dabo Vobis , §57).
All theology is pastoral; therefore Pastoral formation enters into every aspect of Seminary life. The seminary aims to form good pastors committed to mission and a life of service of God’s people. Pastoral formation is therefore not only concentrated on the challenges to mission presented by the contemporary society, but also on the personal conversion of the one who will continue the mission of the Christ.
Pastoral formation is facilitated in a range of ways.
Lectures and seminars
Students in all years participate in lectures and seminars which develop an understanding in theology relevant to the critical study of Christian practice. These include the need to foster a culture of Christian vocation, commitment to mission, a study of the man and woman of European secularism who needs to recover his/her Christian roots and appreciate the gift-character of human powers and achievement, a study of Jesus, who educates in different ways.
Study of Great Thinkers
We tend to think of great thinkers in the tradition as having done something. But great thinkers do not do anything at all, they respond to what is there; they respond to the deepest level, but they also respond because some necessity has arisen. For Descartes there was the rage to bring the medieval thinking to an end, because the description of the cosmos no longer worked due to scientific enquiry.
The pastoral course studies great philosophical and theological thinkers who bring to adequate description the deepest impulses and thoughts of their Age. It thereby develops the ability of students to understand how the drama of our time has been shaped – the gap between the culture and the Gospel – and, to assist students to consider and develop ways to respond to it.
Theologicical Reflection and Pastoral Exposure
EPP & Pastoral Diaconate
Students undertake a supervised placement from September to June after the third year of their studies.. Placements are usually in a parish in a student’s own diocese, but have included L’Arche and a catholic boarding school. Supervision includes monthy reflection groups and meetings with the Pastoral Director or another member of formation staff. These placements have consistently demonstrated their ability to contribute significantly to the discernment and formation of students.
Students will often also undertake a supervised period of pastoral service as a Deacon before they are ordained as priests.
In May / June each year students undertake a 3 to 4 week placement in a parish, usually in their own diocese.
Student will also be given a weekly placement in a local parish, school or hospital. Wonersh is within easy reach of a very wide range of potential placements and excellent partnerships have been built up over the years.