French Seminarians Move Closer to the People

La Croix – do you have your subscription to that yet? – has an interesting article: “French Seminarians Move Closer to the People.” (It’s behind a paywall.) It reports on the interesting trend in France to move seminarians from enclosed, out of the way settings to locations in the middle of the city and closer to parish life. This change is motivated by Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis [the Gift of Priestly Vocation] —  a document updated by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy in 2016 under Pope Francis.


  1. From the point of view of an outsider looking in, the seminary life at our local seminary (University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, IL) looks pretty monastic in its isolation and its communal life. I understand it was much more intensively isolated a couple of generations ago.

    I suppose the traditional fear regarding what the French are now doing is that the impressionable young men will meet young, attractive people. My point of view is that there are many young, attractive people in the world, and if one is destined for parish ministry, one can’t avoid them forever. And if one is fated to fall to their charms, perhaps it’s better that it happen prior to ordination than afterward.

  2. Utterly delightful. Of course they should be imbedded with their flocks to be, and oh dear, of course they should engage in theological debates with them, as they complete their own learning. How more vibrant might the Body be if this was a universal practice? Clerics and laity might learn to engage their own heresies with loving snarkiness and challenge! And clerical pedestals might disappear; delight-full. We actually did this at my theological institute, until Rome threatened to pull credentials if we did not separate clergy for formation. Ludicrous. Aggiornamento needed and welcomed, bring it!

    1. Glorious, especially the clerical pedestal, and the loving snarkiness comments. I found this after seeing your TUC Facebook posts. Thanks Donna.

    1. Our Lord spent 40 days in the wilderness. Most of the places mentioned have put in place an “année propédeutique” or spiritual foundation year (the “La Croix” article mentions it for Paris, which started the trend under Cardinal Lustiger:, and most if not all of them include a 30 day Ignatian retreat. And the dimension of retreat for spiritual formation is far from absent over the rest of the time spent in formation. So that comment is pretty pointless, as comments in that style usually are.

      1. Thank you for the response.

        It was an honest question, asked without ulterior motive. I had always understood the seminary experience as a deliberate sequestering for intense discernment and formation, of young men already familiar with many of the practical considerations of parish life from their experience of life and service within their own parishes prior to entering the seminary. In the dioceses with which I am familiar, the seminarians spend their summers on assignment in actual parishes, and thus there is achieved a kind of balance between practical, hands-on formation and the quasi-monastic prayer and study of the academic year. I am not familiar with any praxis in French dioceses, where the need could very well be greater for this kind of practical exposure.

        I should admit that I am not subscribed to La Croix, so had no access to the article to find out the details for myself. The prior comments were my only insight beyond the brief commentary that accompanied the link.

        I’m sorry that the way my comment came across somehow managed to elicit the second half of your response. I asked it succinctly and without comment to avoid any semblance of condescension or disparagement; while I did not succeed in that, I did succeed in having my question answered, so thanks again for that.

        Peace & good.

  3. Another illustration of one of the internet problems: conversational remarks, without the conversational tone, are easily misunderstood. I do apologize for my own un-evangelical and hasty judgment! I do suggest having a look at that link, even though the site liked to is in French. It still gives a good idea of how the whole set-up is conceived.

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