A Key Element of Ministerial Development: Theological Formation
Theological Formation is a necessary dimension of diaconal formation insofar as it offers the aspirant and candidate a substantial nourishment for his spiritual life and a precious instrument for his ministry. It is particularly urgent today, in the face of the challenging of the new evangelization to which the Church is called at this difficult juncture of the millennium. Religious indifference, obscuring of values, loss of ethical convergence, and cultural pluralism demand that those involved in the ordained ministry have an intellectual formation which is complete and serious. [Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Diaconorum Permanentium].
The goal of diaconate formation is not to form a theological expert, but to form a person who understands his faith so well that he can explain it to others through the use of every available resource.
To see theological formation as essentially distinct from preparation for ministry would be a grave error. Because the aspirant and candidate are ministers of the church, they are to radiate the gospel and the teachings of the church not only in their ministry, but also in the total commitment of their life to Christ. Spiritual, pastoral, and theological aspects of formation are an interlocking triad.
The following general norms are applied:
1. Given the differing backgrounds, educational levels, circumstances of commitment to wife, family, and work, and the absolute necessity for a solid theological formation, the theological formation process will extend over the entire four years of diaconal formation.
2. The setting and the process for theological formation is adult-centered. Group dynamics are encouraged and the classroom atmosphere is informal. The courses have substantive content and are taught by qualified instructors, most of whom have their Masters degree or their Doctorate in their field of instruction.
3. Aspirants and candidates are required to attend all class sessions. If an emergency arises which prevents him from attending class, it is aspirant / candidate's responsibility to contact the diaconate office as soon as possible. He is also to make arrangements to meet with a classmate or the teacher to obtain information presented on the night he was absent.
4. Aspirants and candidates are evaluated each trimester by the members of the formation team. Projects, examinations, or reports are the ordinary means of evaluation for most instructors. A permanent record of all course work is kept as part of an aspirant or candidate's file.
5. The theological formation program is structured on a trimester basis. A trimester course may be either 15 or 10 hours of instruction. There are four courses per trimester or a total of 12 courses for the academic year. Classes meet at St. Joseph's Seminary, Yonkers, or at Our Lady of Lourdes High School, Poughkeepsie, on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6:45 pm to 10 pm for both English and Spanish programs.