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ONGOING PRIESTLY FORMATION

 

Priestly formation is a lifelong process. The seminary program of priestly formation can appropriately be viewed as initiation to sacramental life. Sacramental preparation and initiation necessarily includes a period of post-sacramental catechesis or mystagogia.


An Eparchial Office of Ongoing Formation exists primarily to provide an atmosphere wherein priests may develop their vocational call to the priesthood and commit themselves wholeheartedly to ongoing formation after ordination. The process and the journey of the ongoing formation of priests is both necessary and lifelong. Its purpose is not only the spiritual growth of the priest himself but also the continued effectiveness of his mission and ministry.

 

While Christ is calling to the Holy Priesthood throughout the generations, every generation faces unique challenges to living a priestly life. The world around us is constantly changing. It presents unique opportunities and challenges to bear witness to Christ, preserving the essence of our Ukrainian Catholic heritage, while presenting it in a new way to a changing world.


The basic principle of ongoing formation for priests is contained in Pastores dabo vobis, 70: "...one can speak of a vocation 'within' the priesthood” . The fact is that God continues to call and send forth, revealing his saving plan in the historical development of the priest's life and the life of the Church and of society. It is in this perspective that the meaning of ongoing formation emerges. Permanent formation is necessary in order to discern and follow this constant call or will of God.

 

•"It is particularly important to be aware of and to respect the intrinsic link between formation before ordination to the Priesthood and formation after ordination.


•The planning for ongoing formation and learning how to plan begins in the seminary, "...long-term preparation for ongoing formation should take place in the Seminary, where encouragement needs to be given to future priests to look forward to it, seeing its necessity, its advantages and the spirit in which it should be undertaken, and appropriate conditions for its realization need to be ensured."

•The Office of Ongoing Formation and the Eparchy alike must encourage priests to engage in the process of ongoing formation in all its dimensions—human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral.

 

A newly ordained priest who begins his first pastoral assignment or arrives in a new pastoral seating should expect to find the following elements:

- formal and informal welcoming by the eparchial bishop and presbyterate;

- a pastor who is sensitive to the needs of the newly ordained and able and willing to offer advice and direction;

- a spiritual director;

- some group interaction with peers to reflect on the process of transition and the development of priestly identity and sources of support; and

- a mentor, as considered appropriate or necessary, with whom the newly ordained can reflect on ministry and life as a priest.

 

In the process of beginning priestly ministry and life, significant formational roles are played by the eparchial bishop and the entire presbyterate.

 

In the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, the ongoing formation of priests engages priests in three different forms of formation:

 

- Annual Clergy Retreat – spiritual formation

 

- Annual Clergy Conferences focusing on ongoing human, intellectual, and pastoral formation

 

- Sabbatical studies and theological courses for priests working in a new pastoral seating:

a. Eastern Canon Law, Eastern Christian Spirituality, Eastern Christian Sacramental Theology, Theology of Patristic Fathers, History of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America,

b. Church administration: Baptismal Records, Marriage Records, parish records and certificates, Bookkeeping, Parish Councils,

c. American Culture for Foreign Born, History of US, Civic awareness

 

- Clergy Exams – scheduled by the Eparchy of Stamford