By Fr. Hien Nguyen
During the different breaks in a school year especially for theologian students, they can be placed in different parishes to be formed pastorally. “The parish should be given particular importance for it is a living cell of local and specialized pastoral work in which they will find themselves ministry.” The candidates will learn and be inspired by the pastor and the people they work with; they also through pastoral charity, learn to resolve conflict through justice, patient, wisdom, and peace. They will discover their strength and weakness and contribute their gifts of self to the common good.
The bishops should establish a place such as a suitable parish or a House of Clerics for candidates who are at the end of their formation years to begin a Pastoral Year. During this time, the candidates are exposed to a full experience of parish ministries and at the same time to learn to cooperate with other priests to minister the parishioners in supporting their ordinary.
Pastoral formation is the thread that brings together all aspects of formation. It allows the candidate to integrate and apply what he has become through his human, intellectual, and spiritual formations. Priestly formation today is the best it has ever been in the history of the Church and again primarily because of the end products of Pastores Dabo Vobis, the Program of Priestly Formation, and the urge of the Church wanting to reform focusing on not just the identity but also process of formation with Apostolic Visitations of all seminaries. Saying this, there should be a reminder that it is an individual who is “primarily responsible for ongoing formation. Such a duty is derived from the fact that no one can take the place of the priest in watching over himself.” There is also no end to the formation but a working progress of each individual for the rest of his life.