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Home : Faith/Spirituality : Living Faith
11/21/2012 10:46:00 AM
What does it take to form a priest at Mount Angel Seminary?
Mount Angel Abbey photos
Seminarians sing during Mass in the St. Joseph Chapel at Mount Angel Seminary.
Mount Angel Abbey photos
Seminarians sing during Mass in the St. Joseph Chapel at Mount Angel Seminary.
Seminarians in class at Mount Angel Seminary.

Seminarians in class at Mount Angel Seminary.

Sandra Chiodo

ST. BENEDICT — The road to the priesthood at Mount Angel Seminary is something like a pilgrimage, involving much prayer and work, faithful guides, and the good company of fellow pilgrims. Seminarians apply to Mount Angel Seminary after discerning a calling within their home dioceses or religious communities and working with their vocation directors. The application process is lengthy and includes careful review and interviews.

Students arrive on the Hilltop at all stages of life; some begin working on a bachelor’s of arts degree if they have not attended college. Others complete their preparation for a master’s degree by taking additional philosophy and theology courses. Ultimately students preparing for the priesthood typically earn both a BA and a Master of Divinity degree, with the possibility of additional degrees such as a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (from the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome) or a Master of Arts.

But, you may ask, what does it take to graduate and ordain a class of new deacons and priests each year? For the Abbey, it means providing an outstanding academic faculty composed of 40 priests, monks, religious, and lay men and women. Currently the Mount Angel Seminary faculty includes 15 members holding doctorates. Of special note are Dr. Owen F. Cummings, Regent’s Chair of Theology, and Rev. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, who serves special assignments in the Vatican, as well as teaching in the Seminary.

In all, a man studying for the priesthood spends four years earning his bachelor’s of arts degree before taking an additional four or five years to earn his theology degree(s). Students follow a highly structured program of formation outlined by Pope John Paul II in his document, Pastores Dabo Vobis. The four pillars of priestly formation include: human formation, intellectual formation, spiritual formation and pastoral formation. Faculty directors are assigned to each seminarian and meet with them regularly to ensure they develop as well-rounded men in each of these areas.

The final pillar, pastoral formation, is pursued through on-site ministry assignments each year. Early in his formation, a seminarian may be assigned to a nursing home or a parish near the Hilltop. Later, as he has more experience and has developed in his formation, his assignments can become more challenging – such as serving in correctional facilities and hospitals.

For many seminarians, there is also one more year of pastoral formation, undertaken sometime during their theology studies, when he serves in a parish in his home diocese, working closely with a parish priest. With these pastoral experiences completed and approximately one year left in their theological studies and formation, the men are normally ordained to serve the church as transitional deacons. Then, after one more year of study at the Seminary and serving as a deacon in a parish, the man is typically ordained to the priesthood.

The Seminary is overseen by a Board of Directors which is currently chaired by Br. Donald Stabrowski, former Provost of the University of Portland and now Assistant Provincial of the Congregation of the Holy Cross religious community. The Board also includes the Archbishop of Portland, as well as the Abbot, Prior, President-Rector, and several additional members (lay men and women, priests and Benedictine monks.)

As you can see, the work done at Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary to form your future priests is both challenging and deeply rewarding. It costs approximately $36,150 to educate each seminarian in 2012-13. To ensure its program is accessible to all its students, dioceses and religious communities, Mount Angel Seminary charges only $28,900, or 80 percent of the total cost. That means the Abbey and Seminary must raise more than $1.3 million in donations each year to close a funding gap of about $7,000 per student. We are grateful for the loyal assistance and support of our benefactors! The monks of Mount Angel are pleased to be able to provide this service to the Church and invite you to continue your support and prayers for their ongoing mission.

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