There are six houses of formation for our Institute all around the world: the mother house is in San Rafael, Argentina; there are two more seminaries in South America, in Brazil and Peru; there is an international seminary in Italy with students from all Europe (Italy, Spain, Holland, England, Scotland, Ukraine…), Africa (Nigeria, Egypt) and Asia (Tajikistan, Russia); we have an English-speaking seminary in the Philippines and a house in Washington D.C. (USA).
The seminary, or house of formation, is the place where the future missionary priests receive the “triple formation”:
- Human formation: since the supernatural grace of God requires a well-disposed nature to receive it, the development of “human virtues” is thus necessary. We want to form men which are authentically free and capable of self-control, future priests with a strong human and cultural maturity so that they can face the modern world.
- Intellectual formation: the evangelization of culture needs a serious philosophical and theological formation, especially guided by St. Thomas Aquinas.
- Spiritual formation: a priest must be first of all a man of prayer and contemplation of God, so we form the spiritual life of our seminarians with an intense life of prayer, spiritual retreats, exercises and the study of classical spiritual masters such as St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Avila.
The studies of the future priest last seven years, divided into three years of philosophical and four years of theological studies.
The first years introduce the seminarian to philosophy, which is “an indispensable help for a deeper understanding of the Faith and the communication of the truth of the Gospel to those who still do not know it” (Directory of Intellectual Formation). A serious philosophical formation is necessary for a complete knowledge of Christian Faith as well as to take more conscience of the human person, his freedom, his relationship with the world and with God. We want to “do philosophy” –not just study its historical development, which brought to a general skepticism– by the reading of the great works of ancient philosophers (Aristotle, Plato…) and the direct contact with the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, so that we can discuss and dialogue with the problems and modern thinkers.
“The intellectual formation of the future priest is based and built above all on the study of sacred doctrine and theology” (Pastores Dabo Vobis). “In the theological subjects they (the members of the Institute) will give the Magisterium of the Church, the doctrine of the Holy Fathers and the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, the honoured place accorded to them by the Popes, by the Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canonical Right” (Constitutions, 178). The knowledge of the Holy Scriptures is also essential for our theological studies, not just their reading but also their meditation, since they contain the Faith that we are going to preach.
In addition to philosophy and theology, the future priest should seriously think to develop a general culture to bring the light of the Gospel to the world, which is impossible without knowing the modern culture. The study of languages –especially Spanish, English and French– is required for our apostolic work in the world.
Joy and happiness
The formation should not consist only in studying. We want to form joyful priests, who are happy to live their vocation and serve the Church, who can live a community life and show that God is infinite joy.
In our houses of formation, therefore, there is always a group of seminarians which animates our feasts, called “group St. Philip Neri”, a saint who lived in the 16th century and was especially marked by a great joy and happiness, that supernatural joy which does not come from the world but from the grace of God in the souls.
Moreover, the timetable of a formation house must include sport every week and a time for recreation or, as we call it, “eutrapelia” (a Greek term that means “the art of having a good time”). In addition to that, we dedicate Sundays to community life, sport, rest, and some days to celebrate special occasions. We want to form cheerful seminarians because, as our Directory of Spirituality says, “the joy arises from considering that God Is, that the truth overcomes the lie (…) God overcomes everything”. Through the community life, we are united in Christ and this condition helps everyone in his personal vocation.
Due to the importance of Liturgy in our Institute and the fact that, as St. Augustine said, “he who sings prays twice”, every seminary has a choir of both seminarians and sisters who sing in special occasions during the Holy Mass. Throughout the year some houses organize music courses or singing lessons every week to form a musical culture that will make the liturgical celebrations more worthy and deepen the culture of the future ministers of God. Almost every seminary has also a group of students who make CDs and albums of popular or religious music of the nation where the seminary is set.
Cultural Project Cornelio Fabro
The intellectual formation is based on the knowledge of St. Thomas Aquinas, according to the instructions of the Church (Code of Canonical Right, c. 252 § 3). Along with St. Thomas, we follow the most important Thomist thinkers who have somehow contributed to the teaching of the master. One of them is Father Cornelio Fabro, an Italian priest who, in the past century, has clarified and explained different points of the Thomist doctrine in various books and articles. He has especially criticized the difficulties and contradictions of some modern philosophers using the philosophy and theology of the “Angelical Doctor”.
On April 11th 2002 the Institute founded the “Cultural Project Cornelio Fabro” in Segni, Rome. The Project dedicates to know the thought and the person of Cornelio Fabro more deeply, and spread his doctrine in the world mainly through the press. In the house of formation in Montefiascone (Italy), some religious are involved in the Project re-editing the works of Fabro, while the Editions of the Incarnate Word (EDIVI) distribute them. Other works are the organization of conferences dealing with Fabro and the recovery of documents about his person, such as recordings of his university lessons and articles.
What is peculiar in our Institute is the presence of students belonging not just to the Roman Rite but also to other rites of the Catholic Church. When the Institute established his religious communities in Ukraine and Egypt, the Oriental Branch of the Institute began to form. Today, the Ukrainian seminarians and sisters are formed according to their Ukrainian Byzantine Rite, studying and celebrating their proper liturgy and devotions, the saints and the history of the Oriental Church. The same happens for the Egyptians, formed in their Egyptian Coptic Rite. Every year they organize the Days of the Oriental Rites, where they make talks and expositions showing the richness of their rites and their spirituality. St. John Paul II said that the Church breathes with two lungs: the Occidental and the Oriental one. The presence of other rites is therefore a great richness of our Institute.