FOUR YEAR COURSE IN THEOLOGY
The four-year course in Theology aims at the formation of men for the priestly ministry through a systematic and scientific understanding of the content of Catholic faith and worship of the history of administration of the Catholic Church, so that the student, permeated with a professional knowledge and appreciation of Christian truth and its consequences in the lives of men, and mastering the methods and skills of the pastoral ministry, may be able to communicate effectively this Christian view of life to others in the varied personal and missionary situations of the priestly apostolate.
The UPDATED PHILIPPINE PROGRAM OF PRIESTLY FORMATION recognizes the necessity of a suitable human formation as the foundation for priestly formation. It encourages seminaries to take a “serious and keen attention to the factors arising from personal history, culture and from the wider Philippine history, culture, society, etc. that form the ‘humanity’ of the seminarians and to formulate programs suitable for their unique needs.” (UPPPF #25 p. 17)
In response to this, ICST is in the process of restructuring and intensifying its human formation program as it embarks on its own updated program of formation this year. To accomplish this, the formators and the seminarians themselves have decided to hold a series of workshops to tackle this concern. Initial activities had already been undertaken to enhance human formation. One is a seminar on basic social graces to remind them how to act appropriately in different situations. Another is the ICST GREEN PROGRAM designed by the seminarians themselves to inculcate ecological awareness among themselves and the youth.
A program of Human Formation for ICST is being designed with the recommendations of the UPPPF taken into serious consideration. Specific areas recommended by the UPPPF are the following: Self-Esteem and Self-Giving, Attitudes toward Authority, Celibate Chastity and Sexuality, Detachment and a Lifestyle of Simplicity, Motivational Maturity, A Sense of Justice, and A Moral Conscience
SPIRITUAL FORMATION YEAR PROGRAM
RATIONALE – The Spiritual Formation Year (SFY) is a yearlong program during which time the seminarian is assisted in the discovery of his person – his woundedness and giftedness – and the vocation he is called to live and commit himself with. It is a year of discovery and discernment. It is a year of uncovering the unique interplay of the human and the spiritual in each person.
The SFY is founded on the conviction that grace builds on nature. It is founded on the belief that those who are called by God’s grace to respond to His invitation to the priesthood come from human histories that are wounded in different ways and degrees but are open to the possibility of healing and integration, open to grace. The program builds on the conviction that integral spirituality means being healthy in all the dimensions of one’s being. It seeks to echo the spirit of St. Irenaeus who proclaimed: “The glory of God is man fully alive!”
The program is ICST’s response to the ecclesial mandate to provide for seminarians an integral spiritual formation program that incorporates the human formation along side the spiritual-pastoral formation.
The SFY is as much about being human as being spiritual. It is growth in spiritual life according to one’s own personal and individual uniqueness. It is also a program that seeks to develop the beginnings of a Diocesan Spirituality as it helps seminarians reflect on the spiritual significance of their pastoral context and experiences. The program is ICST’s way of providing a spiritual formation that is integral and contextualized for future pastoral ministers of Northern Luzon.
SFY VISION – The SFY program of ICST hopes to provide a year of formation during which time the seminarians are assisted at self-discovery, growth in personal maturity, vocation, clarification and spiritual growth. At the end of the SFY it is hoped that the seminarians have sufficient self-knowledge, knowing their weaknesses and strengths, understanding their personal histories and behavioral patterns. It is also hoped that the seminarians would have achieved sufficient inner freedom as to be able to decide with mature deliberation the life they intend to live. Finally, the SFY hopes (a) to enable each seminarian to honestly examine his motivations for the priesthood, (b) to help each seminarian enter into a more personal relationship with the Lord, and (c) to lead each seminarian to recognize and experience the graciousness of the God who calls those whom he loves.
SPIRITUAL FORMATION PROGRAM FOR THEOLOGIANS
“The end of spiritual training is the perfection of charity, and it should lead the student, not just by his dint of ordination, but from the intimate fellowship of his whole life, to become in a special way another Christ: deeply penetrated by his spirit, he should truly realize what he is doing when celebrating the mystery of the Lord’s death, he should imitate what he is handling, and follow Him who came not be ministered but to minister (cf. Matt 20,28)” [Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, no. 44].
- Holy Mass and other Liturgical Celebrations
“Daily celebration of the Eucharist, which is completed by a sacramental communion received worthily and in full liberty, should be the center of the whole life of the seminary, and the students should devoutly take part in it.
Sharing in the Sacrifice of the Mass, “source and culmination of all Christian life,” they share in the charity of Christ, drawing from this richest of sources supernatural force for their spiritual life and apostolic labour.”
“A sound variety in the manner of participation in the Sacred Liturgy should be provided for, so that the students may not only realize great spiritual progress themselves, but also be prepared practically, from their Seminary years, for their future ministry and liturgical apostolate” (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, no. 52).
Following the aforementioned norms, the seminarians are enjoined to observe the following exercises:
- Sunday Masses
- Daily Masses
- Community Masses (Wednesday Evening and Sunday Morning)
- Commitment to Daily Adoration (CDA)
- Commitment to Daily Prayer (CDP)
- Bible Services (Community Bible Service: 3rd Thursday of the Month)
- Novenas and Triduum on significant Feasts of the Church
- Solemn Vespers on Sunday evening.
In any liturgical service, the official uniform should be worn is clerical soutana with shoes or sandals.
The Community Masses (i.e. Wednesday Evening and Sunday Morning) are sponsored by each of the Formation Communities.
Headed by the Regional Liturgist and in consultation with Liturgico-Spiritual Priest Coordinator and with the Mass Presider, the Formation Community prepares the theme, readings, songs, etc. for all the liturgical celebrations.
“To follow Christ in the spirit of the gospel is an intention certainly to be renewed every day. The virtue of penance, then, should be instilled into future priests. Penitential acts made in common may be used, which serve both for personal formation and for mutual instruction. Students should strive to acquire a real enthusiasm for a life crucified with Christ, through love of Him, and for purity of heart. They should therefore pray fervently for the help of the grace they need; frequent recourse to the sacrament of penance should become a habit: there, everyone’s efforts are in a sense consecrated” (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, no. 55).
Confession: Community penitential service with individual confessions is done every 1st Tuesday of the month. Third Tuesday of the month is another opportunity for confessions done after community compline.
If there is a need, however, the seminarian is free to confess to any priest. In the latter care, the manner and time for confessing is left to the individual seminarian.
- Devotional Exercises
“The priest will keep to all these duties only if in his seminary days he has faithfully practiced the devotional exercises that have long proved their word, and are sanctioned by the Rule of the Seminary; and if he has correctly grasped their importance and force. If it should be necessary to adapt one or other of those practices to modern needs, its inherent and essential purpose should carefully be kept in mind so that it may be attained in some other suitable ways” (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, no. 54).
- Common Exercises: On Wednesday afternoons, the rosary or other forms of Marian devotion like the Perpetual Help Novena are said.
- Individual Exercises: Every day, each seminarian is encouraged to find time to pray personally at his own convenience. Such devotions as daily recitation of the rosary, regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament, making the Stations of the Cross are highly recommended.
The reading of the Bible and other Spiritual Books is also encouraged for the cultivation of the seminarian’s spiritual life.
Each Formation Community is encouraged to post relevant points (e.g. liturgical theme of the week or month) for common and individual meditation in the chapel’s bulletin board.
- Spiritual Direction
“Moreover each (seminarian) should have his Spiritual Director to whom he may humbly and confidently open his conscience, so as to be guided safely in the way of the Lord” (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, no. 55).
- Seminarians are advised to consult their SD regularly, at least once a month.
- Peer Confidants:
Each seminarian may choose one or two fellow seminarians with whom he can open up matters of the internal forum. The chosen confidant has a role similar to that of the SD.
- Spiritual Retreats, Recollections and Conferences
“Besides the spiritual direction of individuals, students should also be given, at fixed times as each Seminary’s Rule determines, a spiritual instruction of conference suited to the situation and outlook of modern youth: their efforts in the spiritual life receive in this way a regular fresh impulse, and can be directed towards the gaining of a genuine mature priestly spirituality, according to the mind of the Church.
Self-examination, regular periods of recollection and other exercises of the kind should also have their place. Every year all should spend some days in retreat” (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, no. 56).
- The Spiritual Coordinator (in coordination with the House Council) arranges the schedule for the two annual retreats and invites the retreat masters. The retreat at the start of the school year is normally scheduled from four to five days around the month of June. Another retreat is likewise scheduled sometimes at the beginning of the second semester in November.
- Regional community recollections are scheduled twice a semester. Whole community recollection is scheduled once a semester.
- Class recollection is done once a year. (In view of the lectorate and acolytate installation). Hence, this is to be done a week before the said event.
- Once a month spiritual conference is held with the Regional SD on the evening of the 2nd Tuesday of the month. The nature of this conference is flexible giving rooms to such forms as dialogues, group activities, etc. Topics for these conferences may be suggested by the seminarians.
- A 30-day retreat is recommended to the candidates for ordination for the Holy Order of Diaconate upon completion of their theological studies in ICST after the end of the school year.
- Prison Apostolate at the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail and Vigan City Jail (every Thursday Afternoon)
Objectives: The seminary aims at forming men with deep commitment to and competence for pastoral leadership and service, especially of the poor and suffering, in union with Christ, the Good Shepherd, and the shepherds of the Church, towards the building of the local church in communion and mission. With this in mind, they have the following objectives for the apostolate to the inmates of the provincial jail and the paraplegics in Tahanang Walang Hagdan.
- to immerse themselves in the lives of the imprisoned and disabled;
- to learn the value of suffering and to recognize the face of the crucified Christ in them
- to instill in them the value of their own human dignity as persons
- to be able to practice the charism of preaching/teaching through witnessing and giving catechesis
- Basic catechism
- Bible sharing
- Recollection and mass (once a semester)
- Formation programs (the choir and lectors for the mass)
- Teaching basic prayers and liturgical songs
- Giving them magazines for their artwork (livelihood)
- Recreation activities
- Neighborhood Apostolate at SHELTERVILLE, San Julian Norte, Vigan City (every Saturday afternoon)
Objectives: The Neighborhood Apostolate is actually an apostolate of presence, letting the people feel their influence upon the seminarians and for the seminarians to know the people in the neighborhood. They immerse themselves into the real life situations of the people and to gain knowledge about their socio-cultural situation and thus learn from their daily experiences. Moreover, part of this neighborhood apostolate is for the seminarians to let the people be actively involved in religious activities, especially the Sunday mass sponsorship in the seminary.
Campus Ministry (every Thursday Afternoon)
Campus ministry is one of the pastoral programs of ICST for the seminarians. It is a school-based youth ministry. The young people of God find special place and concern in this apostolate for indeed the Church loves the young people. Because of this, the seminarians, who are the future pastors of the Church, must develop a special care and concern for the young people. And so, this program provides the seminarians an opportunity to be involved with the young people in school campuses so that they will come to know them and lead them into a deeper understanding and appreciation of their faith in Christ. In the process, the seminarians must acquire proper attitude, support, and skills needed for their future ministry as priests.
The different activities and their specific aims
The different activities of the campus ministry of ICST are the following: Catechism/sacraments, Recollection giving, organization, Choir organizing, Guitar learning. The seminarians will immerse themselves on these activities with these specific aims.
- To teach the students the basics of faith, morals and worship.
- To teach the students about the sacraments of the church
- To help the students to familiarize themselves on the different parts of the Holy Mass
- To train altar servers and readers.
- To foster a deep appreciation of the Holy Mass
- To guide the students for a better appreciation and experience of the love of God
- To facilitate the students in the self-discovery
- To inspire the students in their journey of growth, guiding them to make good decisions based on a better grasp of the realities in life.
- To learn with the students their skills of building communities and organizing.
- To organize youth ministry in high school campus
- Choir organizing and training
- To allow students to appreciate the importance of music (theory and practice) and its contribution for the school and for themselves
- To help the school train a choir
- To train students how to sing well by learning the fundamentals of music like voice, discipline in performance, etc.
- Guitar learning
- To teach and train students interested to learn the basic of guitar playing
- To assist the students who know little on playing guitar to make it better
- To lead into a greater appreciation of music and guitar playing
The different school campuses
The different school campuses that seminarians go for campus ministry are the following: Ilocos Sur National High School (ISNHS), Vigan National High School – West (VNHS-West), Caoayan National High Schol and Pantay-Tamorong High School, Caoayan. The different schools have their own unique vision and mission based on specific charisms and needs. It goes with it that there are also different programs to realize their vision-mission. Flowing from their vision and mission are programs to realize their vision and mission. And so the seminarians avail of these programs and fit themselves into the schedules of programs that the schools provide. The following are the programs of activities of the school campuses.
The regular assessment of the program of ICST on campus ministry is necessary. It is an avenue to sit down and gather together in order to look back at the activities done, whether the seminarians have attained the aims for which the activities are intended. In so doing, the seminarians are given a space to express the positive results and to identify areas which need improvement. Moreover, it is an occasion for seminarians to share their reflections on the activities in the context of their personal growth. The regular assessment is scheduled quarterly on Saturdays when there will be no schedule of activities in the campuses. With this assessment, the efficiency of the program and the growth of the seminarians are properly monitored and addressed.
The Pastoral Formation Program is seen as partnership of Immaculate Conception School Theology with the St. Mark Vicariate of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. In particular the main agents in this apostolate are the 3rd and 4th year theologians. They will go to Sinait, Ilocos Sur. The pastoral formation of future priest is to be facilitated with the following principles:
- integral evangelization and ministries
- pastoral thrust of BEC building
- contextualized and inculturated
- focused on option of the poor and
- immersion action-reflection processes
For fruitful participation in the pastoral formation processes, each seminarian has to make the required attitudinal shift:
- shift from pedestal and privileged status of clericalism to equal human dignity
- shift form seminary comfortable and secured lifestyle to immersion into the harsh reality of poverty and insecurities
- shift from expert attitude to learning from the unlearned
- shift from establishing personal loyalties and friendships to nurturing mission commitment
Levels Focus Skills Workshop Content
Third Year – Pastoral Orientation, Thrust, Framework and Processes
- Immersion Experiences
Conversion – Community profile
- Communications and relational skills
- Facilitating skills – Social Analysis
- Church of the poor
- Community organizing
- Participatory Church
Fourth Year Pastoral program and Management – Module Crafting
- Program Design
- Training Design
- Personal Management / development – Empowerment for mission
- Kingdom mission as liberation
In other words, the Third year theologians’ apostolate is Pastoral Orientation and Basic Immersion which thrust is the dialogue with day to day life. Skills to be learned are communication with people and social analysis. The challenge is to live with the poorest among the poor. For the Fourth year, their apostolate is Pastoral Design and Pastoral Management. Expected skills to be learned are Module Crafting, Program Design, Training Skills, Leadership, and Personal Management and Development. They will go in twos.
The weekend immersion/apostolate is scheduled every 2nd and 4th week of the month. Other weekends, i.e. 1st and 3rd, will be used for workshop training, sharing of experiences, reflection and processing.
III. Possible end product: Pastoral exposure should bring about radical conversion. Specifically, the following should be expected from the seminarians:
- paradigm shift consciousness from perspective of the poor
- simple lifestyle freed from tools of oppression
- capable of differentiating liberating pastoral program from oppressive program
Pastoral formation looks up to Jesus as a model and guide. He is the Good Shepherd whose imitate knowledge of the flock and sacrificial love for them remains the norm for priests. Pastoral formation, therefore, also aims at preparing seminarians to enter in to communion with the charity of Christ the Good Shepherd (UPPPF 147).
Pastoral training brings the seminarians in contact with the living Church. They learn to identify with the rich traditions of their particular Churches. They learn to make their own the struggles and predicaments that the communities have to face, especially the poor (UPPPF 148).
Apostolate of Fourth Year Theologians: Parish-based
General Objective: to experience life in the parish through week-end immersion in preparation for priestly life and ministry.
- to learn from the wisdom of the parish priest in pastoral management
- to enhance skills in social relations
- to expose oneself to the different commissions in the parish
- to acquire/imbibe pastoral charity and diocesan spirituality
- to develop and discover skills necessary for pastoral work
- giving seminars (e.g. to first communicants, BEC leaders, youths, etc.)
- giving recollections
- assist in the canonical investigation
- canonical book-recording and correction
- financial book-recording
- celebrate priest-less Sunday services
- to give his sharing on Sunday Masses