The Theology Program is at the heart of The Saint Paul Seminary’s mission to provide integrated, Catholic formation for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church. The requirements of the program reflect recent Church documents: the Apostolic Exhortation of St. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis (PDV); the proposals of the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis; and the norms of the PPF. Men who successfully complete the Theology curriculum receive a Master of Divinity (MDiv.) degree and are prepared to begin a lifetime of priestly ministry. Some seminarians enroll in a dual-degree track, earning a Master of Arts in Theology (MAT) as well.
Key elements of the Theology Program include:
To receive the Master of Divinity (MDiv.) degree, the seminarian must successfully complete:
1. 122 credits with a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.3 or higher, including a supervised ministry placement, a hospital ministry experience, and the final integrative seminar.
2. The requirements and evaluation process of the seminary formation program.
Some seminarians enroll in a dual-degree track, earning a Master of Arts in Theology (MAT) in addition to a Master of Divinity degree.
Click here for MAT program goals and requirements.
In addition to the classroom experience, our seminarians participate in the highly acclaimed Teaching Parish Program. Under the guidance of seminary faculty and an experienced pastor, each man is assigned to a teaching parish during his four years in Theology. Seminarians grow in pastoral charity through extensive engagement with the lay faithful and follow a plan for ministerial development that will best prepare them for ordained pastoral ministry in their dioceses. They identify competencies essential to the role of the priest, practice those skills with supervision, receive valuable feedback, reflect theologically on their experiences, and identify their gifts for service and leadership in the Church.
Every week, seminarians gather by class for interactive presentations, seminars or small group discussions designed to deepen their integration across the human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral dimensions of formation. Conferences focus on topics that are important for all disciples, including prayer and virtue, as well as ones particular to the priestly vocation, such as simplicity of life, celibacy and obedience. These sessions have a developmental arc over their years of formation.
Drawing upon the expertise of the formation faculty and staff, including a full-time, licensed psychologist, seminarians are accompanied in reflecting on their personal history in order to grow in self-knowledge and self-acceptance, so as to make an authentic gift of self to Christ and His Church (cf. PPF5, 80).
Every month, seminarians make a day of recollection. Classes are suspended while a priest or bishop presents spiritual conferences and presides at Mass. The day of retreat and reflection is spent in silence to allow for rest in the Lord and integration of formation.
Seminarians participate in an eight-week summer program that combines ministry to the sick and suffering, prayer, theological reflection and a study of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The course’s central elements include a healthcare ministry practicum and an examination of the theology of healing and suffering. This summer program gives seminarians the opportunity for spiritual and ministerial growth, supplemented by individual spiritual direction, a silent retreat and group reflection.
Rural Ministry Practicum is a unique summer experience that brings seminarians to area farms to learn firsthand the challenges and opportunities of rural ministry. In partnership with Catholic Rural Life, a national organization dedicated to the vitality of rural America, our seminarians interact with farmers and their families and reflect on and explore these realities in a contemplative setting outside of the seminary.
Program content also includes input from agricultural experts and pastors with extensive rural experience. The Rural Ministry Practicum is designed to meet Pope Francis’ call to give increased attention to the important topic of integral ecology.
To meet the needs of an increasingly diverse Church, seminarians attend Olé Center for Spanish and Culture in Querétaro, Mexico, for eight weeks of Spanish immersion. Each seminarian lives with a host family and works one-on-one with a Spanish teacher to grow in his language abilities and to learn important cultural realities. In addition to valuable language and evangelization skills, seminarians grow in confidence while engaging those from other cultures.
Newly ordained transitional deacons participate in a 10-week parish placement in their home dioceses to experience parish life, live in a rectory, practice pastoral care and preside and preach at liturgies. Deacons work with their supervising pastor, parish staff and parishioners.
Theology II seminarians spend two weeks in Mexico City to encounter the poor. By visiting with the inhabitants of the Neza Landfill and working with the Missionaries of Charity, seminarians encounter those who live on the margins and those who minister to them. They also make a pilgrimage to Guadalupe to experience the key role Our Lady plays in Latino culture and in the life of the Church in the Americas.
Seminarians then return to the Twin Cities metro area for a week of encounter with local Latino immigrants, participating in Latino parish life, engaging in discussion with experts in outreach and evangelization, and accompanying local missionaries and youth. All of this serves the goal of enkindling pastoral charity and the desire to serve all who are present in the local Church. The experience concludes with a week-long retreat.
Theology III seminarians make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the so-called “Fifth Gospel,” so that they may be formed by the places so important to salvation history and divine revelation. The pilgrimage also serves as a homiletics practicum, particularly important for those who will soon be ordained as transitional deacons. A silent retreat completes the experience.
Prior to ordination to the priesthood, transitional deacons are immersed in the history and life of the Universal Church. Through on-site visits with selected dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as well as religious communities and ecclesial movements, they learn of the Church’s engagement in missiology and evangelization, and their implications for ministry in their home dioceses. The experience concludes in Assisi with the seminarians' canonical retreat for priestly ordination.
The ordained and lay faculty at The Saint Paul Seminary are committed to a man’s integrated formation and provide the theological foundation of his priestly ministry. Their expertise in Dogmatic and Moral Theology, Liturgical Theology, Homiletics, Philosophy, Pastoral Ministry and Church History is complemented by the personalized attention of an exceptional formation faculty and staff. In addition, a number of our priest formators are earning a Certificate in Seminary Formation for Missionary Discipleship from the Seminary Formation Council.
Seminarians benefit significantly from the regular counsel of faculty members in reaching decisions concerning their formation. The academic advisor assists students in planning their program of study and fulfilling degree requirements, as well as providing counsel as their studies progress. The formation director, who is a priest faculty member, works with students to integrate all aspects of formation and coordinates the work of the formation team.
As called for in the Program of Priestly Formation, each seminarian's progress and development in formation is monitored and reviewed in a general way throughout the year and more intensively during the formal evaluation process during spring semester.