Molding the Minds of Shepherds
Priestly formation is a daunting task in the contemporary American landscape. Short of increasing the time of seminary studies, it is important that the available time is maximized and focused to the intended goal: to form faithful shepherds adequately prepared to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century church. While the human, pastoral, and spiritual dimensions of priestly formation are obviously critical, this dissertation focuses on the state of intellectual formation in American diocesan seminaries, specifically theological formation. A number of questions arise with respect to this topic of intellectual formation in seminaries. What is the point and purpose of theological education for diocesan priests in the United States? How has this purpose been understood and pursued in the past? What are the norms of the universal church with respect to theological education of priestly candidates? How are these norms understood and applied in the context of present day American diocesan seminaries? What is the current state of theological formation in diocesan seminaries and what adjustments might be made to best meet contemporary challenges? These are the questions this dissertation aims to respond to regarding the intellectual formation of diocesan priests in the United States. The first four chapters of this dissertation is a survey of the history of diocesan seminaries in the United States, with particular attention on the purpose and understanding of theological education in the formation of diocesan priests. Special focus is given to the key ecclesial documents governing priestly formation and their application in the concrete circumstances and historical context of American seminaries. Chapter 5 is concerned with current theological programs at six American seminaries during the 2019-2020 academic year.