Human Formation at Notre Dame Seminary

From the Notre Dame Seminary Formation Handbook

330. “Future priests should…cultivate a series of human qualities, not only out of proper and due growth and realization of self, but also with a view to the ministry” (PDV 43). Human formation is neither psychotherapy nor intensive psychiatric assistance but rather an interactive process entered into with a responsible other who facilitates personal growth through listening and speaking. (see 355) It also involves the collaborative formulation of realistic goals and establishing the means by which these goals may be measured. The goal of human formation is the achievement of mutually recognized goals.


331. The purpose of human formation is to develop the personal and interpersonal qualities that will allow each seminarian’s personality to develop after that of the Good Shepherd. The diocesan priest leads people to Christ and His Church. Therefore, his personality, attitude, and disposition are to serve as “a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity” (PDV 43).

332. St. Pope John Paul II reminded those engaged in the work of priestly formation that human formation is foundational for the life of grace but also for the other pillars of formation. “The whole work of priestly formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human foundation […] Future priests should therefore cultivate a series of human qualities, not only out of proper and due growth and realization of self, but also with a view to the ministry” (PDV 43).


333. The goals of human formation are summarized in Pastores Dabo Vobis (43-44) and confirmed in the Program of Priestly Formation (2005).

a) Seminarians will possess the human qualities that are signs of personal maturity and that are needed for pastoral service. These include the capacity “to love the truth, to be loyal, to respect every person, to have a sense of justice, to be true to their word, to be genuinely compassionate, to be men of integrity and, especially to be balanced in judgment and behavior” (cf. PDV 43).

b) Seminarians will manifest the skills required to relate well to all the people they will encounter in their ministry in a variety of cultural contents. Among the qualities the seminary looks for are affability, generosity, kindness, hospitality, courtesy, civility, and magnanimity (PDV 43).

c) Seminarians will have an affective maturity that is manifested in the capacity for friendship and for living chaste celibacy in a healthy, joyful manner (PDV 44).

d) Seminarians will demonstrate a well-formed moral conscience through their actions that indicate a responsible freedom (PDV 44).

334. The criteria for human formation, summarized by the Program of Priestly Formation challenges seminarians to consider cultivating the following qualities:

  1. The human qualities of truthfulness, respect for others, justice, humility, integrity, affability, generosity, kindness, courtesy, integrity, and prudence, docility, flexibility, joy, inner peace, common sense, and zeal;
  2. The capacity to relate to others in a positive manner and the ability to get along with others and work with them in the community;
  3. Good self-knowledge, self-discipline, and self-mastery, including emotional self-control;
  4. Good physical and mental health;
  5. A balanced lifestyle and balance in making judgments;
  6. Affective maturity and healthy psychosexual development; clarity of male sexual identity; an ability to establish and maintain wholesome friendships; the capacity to maintain appropriate boundaries in relationships;
  7. Skills for leadership and collaboration with women and men;
  8. Capacity to receive and integrate constructive criticism;
  9. Simplicity of life, stewardship of resources, and responsibility for financial obligations;
  10. Temperance with material goods; use of alcohol; awareness of manifestations of consumerism/materialism;
  11. Mature respect for and cooperation with church authority;
  12. Engagement in the community life of the seminary


335. The formation program unifies and integrates the goals of human formation in the programming of the seminary. Notre Dame Seminary uses a number of instruments to assist the seminarian in his discernment and formation.

  • Instruction from the Rector-President and faculty through weekly conferences, courses, and occasional workshops.
  • The personal reflection of the seminarian who examines with regularity his behavior, motivations, inclinations, respect of boundaries, and appropriation of life experience.
  • Community life that develops in the seminarian a generosity of spirit and that fosters discipline, self-mastery, and faithful perseverance in commitments.
  • Living the rhythm of seminary life that enables the seminarian to accept authority, develop the habit of using freedom with discretion, learn to act with initiative, and work harmoniously with other members of the community.
  • Formation advisors who serve in the external forum to observe and assist the seminarians to grow humanly by offering feedback about their general demeanor, their relational capacities and styles, their maturity, their capacity to become a public person and leader in a community, and their appropriation of the human virtues that can make them men of communion.
  • Spiritual Directors who serve in the internal forum and contribute to the human formation of the seminarians with open and frank discussions addressing topics including sexuality, chastity, celibacy, affective maturity, intimacy, friendships, freedom, moderation, etc. The Spiritual Director assists in cultivating the virtues of self-reflection and self-discipline, which are foundational for human development.
  • Counseling and psychological services, offered in house or through referrals to outside professionals, intended to help a man work through particular emotional or psychological issues that are stunting growth in affective maturity. The specific goals of counseling are varied depending on the presenting issue of the seminarian. Confidentiality is upheld, with certain limitations, unless a seminarian is specifically referred for counseling services by the rector or his formation advisor, where an agreement is signed to disclose information pertinent to the reason for referral.


336. The priestly formation program at Notre Dame Seminary seeks to prepare the seminarians for ordained ministry and for ongoing formation after ordination. Thus, seminarians completing their formation at Notre Dame Seminary ought to be men who are:

  • men of communion
  • good communicators
  • prudent and discerning persons
  • persons of affective maturity
  • men who respect, care for, and exercise vigilance over their bodies
  • men who can take on the role of a public person
  • men who are free to be at the service of the Gospel
  • men of solid moral character with finely developed moral consciences  men who are good stewards of material possessions


337. An essential part of a seminarian’s human formation concerns the types of relationships he establishes. The presence of healthy friendships is an important indicator of personal conference. The capacity to establish such relationships with men and women is one of the elements to be considered in discerning the presence of a vocation to ordained ministry particularly diocesan priesthood.

338. Discerning a vocation to the priesthood, however, also includes discerning a call to a chaste, celibate life. An essential component of the personal development of the seminarian, therefore, is the development of a capacity to establish authentic friendship in the context of celibate commitment. This development is both complex and absolutely necessary.

339. In an effort to support and foster that development, the following guidelines are followed at Notre Dame Seminary:

  • Seminarians should learn how to transform “the experience of loneliness into a holy solitude based on a ‘strong, lively, and personal love for Jesus Christ’ ” (PPF 79).
  • Seminarians avoid codependent personal relationships.
  • Seminarians should foster the ability to develop friendships with individuals while remaining open, cordial and approachable to all the members of the community.
  • Since honesty, openness, and trust are the basis of good friendship, any friendship or relationship that tends towards a devious or secretive nature must be looked upon with concern.
  • Romantic relationships are not consistent with the commitment expected of a seminarian. If a seminarian feels the need for such relationship he is to withdraw from the seminary formation program.
  • Seminarians are expected to be committed to and lead a chaste celibate life.
  • Any pattern of inappropriate sexual behavior with another would indicate that the seminarian is not yet ready to pursue the program of priestly formation and he will be dismissed.