Saint Vincent Seminary announces the establishment of a new institute, aimed at offering spiritual direction training, spiritual retreats, ongoing education and peer support networks extended through technology that can link remote and local communities. The Institute for Ministry Formation will extend the Seminary’s formational and educational offerings to the wider ministerial community. It will incorporate the ongoing apostolic works of the monastic community, many of whom are Seminary faculty members, with the goal of formation and renewal. 

The program, as it unfolds, will harness the Seminary’s existing domestic and international network of faculty, alumni, Benedictine monks, and lay and ordained church leaders in a new way to create a network of support, dialogue, and engagement for pastoral ministers and leaders, said Shannon Jordan, director of development. The Seminary will utilize existing resources to provide a new blend of virtual, on-location, and on-site content delivery, enhancing both the sphere of influence and the connectivity of those in ministry. 

“A key focal point of our approach to content resides with our advanced formative expertise and our emphasis on creating disciples and disciple-makers,” Jordan said. “With the shifting and shrinking demographics of Christian communities in our time, pastoral leaders can find themselves over-extended and under-supported, preventing them from thriving in their ministry. Saint Vincent Seminary seeks to foster several key elements to remedy this.”

“Pastoral ministry is at its best when the minister develops a closeness with the people being served,” said Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B., rector. “At the same time, because of its apostolic scope, it is always temporally taxing. All pastoral leaders need a support network. They need opportunities to share in their ministerial experiences with one another, to learn coping techniques and to have healthy outlets to express themselves, to come together and be supported by other pastoral leaders, to learn from one another, and to have opportunities to grow intellectually, spiritually, and pastorally. They also need periods of rest and renewal with opportunities for deepening or developing practices of prayer such as meditation and contemplation.”

Content will be delivered through a new part of the Seminary’s website being developed exclusively for the institute. Initial goals will include developing retreats, courses, and learning resources for ongoing formation of pastoral ministers; training new spiritual directors; fostering peer support networks among pastoral ministers with easy access to field experts and spiritual directors; and developing the technology platforms that are necessary to make the courses, resources, and peer support networks more accessible and broadly available.

Seminary administrators and faculty members will help develop the program, including Father Edward, professor of Sacred Scripture, systematic theology and Biblical languages; Father Boniface Hicks, O.S.B., director of spiritual formation; Father Thomas Acklin, O.S.B., professor of theology; Brother Elliott Maloney, O.S.B., professor of New Testament and Biblical languages; and Father Patrick Cronauer, O.S.B., academic dean and professor of Sacred Scripture and Biblical languages.

While Saint Vincent Seminary is primarily focused on forming seminarians to become priests, Jordan said, “our expertise also applies to forming lay and religious disciples. Our faculty and staff already provide retreats and ongoing education for priests, religious and laity throughout the world. Centuries of experience demonstrates that our teaching, preaching, mentoring, and hospitality are effective instruments for forming intentional disciples into pastoral ministers.”

“Due to our expertise in the four pillars (human, intellectual, pastoral and spiritual) of priestly formation and its historic Benedictine service of formation to the Church throughout the world, we believe that Saint Vincent Seminary is uniquely positioned for delivering effective results in each of our four program goals,” Jordan said. “We have seen this in the successful priestly ministry of our alumni. Our retention rate for our seminarians who have become ordained is over 94% from 1989-2015.”

Look for more news in the coming months.