Students are offered the opportunity to develop their pastoral skills by participating in a Pastoral Year, normally after their second year of theological studies. This positioning in the curriculum enables the seminarian to experience the Pastoral Year with a certain degree of theological expertise and to return to the seminary program with new insights about his pastoral abilities and the needs of parish life.

The Pastoral Year is normally a nine month (September through May), full-time, parish-based experience of pastoral ministry in the student’s own diocese, under the direction of the seminary. Supervision, evaluation, theological reflection, complemented by a spiritual program, are the essential elements of the pastoral year. Six units of Field Education credits are granted for the successful completion of the Pastoral Year. If the diocese should decide not to include the Pastoral Year in a seminarian’s program, the student must earn the six field education credits through additional pastoral work during the seminary program. 

The Pastoral Year (PY) is the best opportunity for the seminarian and all those interested in his prospective Priestly Ordination to assess his capacity to serve as a pastoral minister in his sponsoring diocese. There are several constituencies involved in the Pastoral Year: the seminarian, the Pastoral Year parish and staff, the Pastoral Year Supervisor, the sponsoring bishop and diocese, and the faculty and staff of STPSU. The purpose of the Pastoral Year is to provide the following benefits:

  1. To help the PY Seminarian integrate theological and philosophical theory with pastoral practice, to allow him to experience rectory living and a full cycle of parish ministry prior to ordination to the Diaconate and Priesthood, to help him further discern the truth of his calling to diocesan pastoral ministry, and to help him set specific goals for his remaining education and formation.
  2. To provide the PY parish an opportunity to assess the seminarian’s ability to minister in an effective, pastoral manner; to demonstrate sensitivity and skills in dealing with issues of age, gender, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, culture and orthodoxy in order to work collaboratively and minister to the people of God.
  3. To provide his Bishop and presbyterate the opportunity to assess his potential to serve as a priest within his diocese; to assess his ability to relate well to the Bishop and priests of the diocese; and to assess his ability to sustain a healthy and balanced ministerial lifestyle, with appropriate time for prayer, study, work, and leisure.
  4. To allow the faculty and staff of STPSU the opportunity to assess the progress of his intellectual, human and spiritual formation in an intensely pastoral context; to assess his emotional, spiritual, and intellectual maturity; to assess his appropriateness for ordination to the diaconate and continuing formation for priestly ordination; to assess his pastoral leadership abilities and to determine areas of focus for his continuing formation.