PILLARS OF FORMATION
All four pillars of formation are interwoven and go forward concurrently. Still, in a certain sense, pastoral formation is the culmination of the entire formation process: “The whole formation imparted to candidates for the priesthood aims at preparing them to enter into communion with the charity of Christ the Good Shepherd. Hence, their formation in its different aspects must have a fundamentally pastoral character” (Pastores dabo vobis).
The aim of pastoral formation—the formation of a “true shepherd” who teaches, sanctifies, and governs or leads—implies that such formation must include a number of essential elements:
Proclamation of the Word: Pastoral formation needs to emphasize the proclamation of God’s Word, which indeed is the first task of the priest. This proclamation ministry is aimed at the conversion of sinners and is rooted in the seminarian/preacher’s ability to listen deeply to the lived experiences and realities of the faithful. This listening is followed by the preacher’s ability to interpret those lived experiences in the light of Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Tradition.
The sacramental dimension: The celebration of the sacraments is central to the priest’s ministry. Although the seminarian cannot celebrate the sacraments as a priest does, he can accompany priests who do and he can prepare those who participate in them.
The missionary dimension: All priests are to have the heart of missionaries. The Church is truest to her identity when she is an evangelizing Church. This is because the very nature of the Church is missionary.
The community dimension: Pastoral formation must initiate seminarians to the care, guidance, and leadership that are extended to a community. The pastor is to be a man of communion and shepherd of a flock.
Cultural sensitivity: Pastoral formation must flow from and move towards an appreciation of the multifaceted reality of the Church. In Ghana, this means a genuine appreciation of the diversity that marks the Catholic Church as well as the diversity that typifies this society generally. Seminarians need exposure to the many cultures and languages that belong to
the Catholic Church in Ghana.
The poor: If seminarians are to be formed after the model of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who came “to bring glad tidings to the poor,” then they must have sustained contact with those who are privileged in God’s eyes—the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering. In the course of these encounters, they learn to cultivate a preferential option for the poor.
Clearly, pastoral formation not only connects with the other three pillars of priestly formation, but in itself provides a goal that integrates the other dimensions. Human formation enables priests to be bridges to communicate Jesus Christ, a pastoral function. Spiritual formation enables priests to persevere in and give depth to their ministry. Intellectual formation provides criteria and content to ensure that pastoral efforts are directed correctly, properly, and effectively.