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Sunday, February 26, 2017
More young men spend year ‘discovering priesthood’ before entering seminary
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Royal English College, Valladolid
An increasing number of men are being asked by their bishops to spend a year ‘discovering priesthood’ before actually entering seminary, according to statistics released by the National Office for Vocation this week.

In the past four years, Catholic Bishops’ in England and Wales have sent more than 66 men to the Royal English College in Vallodolid, Spain, to take part in the ‘Propaedeutic Year’. Originating from the Greek word ‘propaideúo’, meaning ‘to teach beforehand’; this year provides prayerful reflection to those contemplating priesthood. It offers the opportunity for priestly candidates to grow in their faith and to develop their relationship with God through all the tried and tested means of the Church tradition.

Father John Flynn, a young priest from the Diocese of Salford, who was one of the first candidates to take part in the Vallodolid Propaedeutic Year in 1997 said: ”The Propaedeutic Year, set up by the current bishop of Middlesbrough, Bishop Drainey is a year of preparation for all things priestly for men who are discerning their vocation and who probably in all likelihood would want to go on to be a priest.

“A year spent learning the basics of the faith, reading the catechism, having an introduction to prayer, a regular holy hour….learning about the saints, those kind of things, reading the Bible as well…all these things were given to us, the bits and pieces and nuts of bolts which would furnish us for our later studies.”

Fr David Featherstone, the Salford Diocese Vocations Director said: “It is the norm rather than the exception to send our seminarians to Spain before entering Senior Seminary. Almost without exception, the men who have gone through Valladolid say how it helped them to settle into Senior Seminary very quickly. The one year programme is well thought through with the catechesis and spirituality supplemented by the experience of life and traditions in Spain, especially during Holy Week.

"Students also take responsibility for the various roles and 'house jobs' to which they are allocated. The one month pastoral placement in January (for which I've hosted eight different students now) is a real eye-opener for all of those who come ~ it’s often the first foretaste of the reality of the life of the priest in today's Church. The placement often acts as a reality check and a real test of the strength and authenticity of the individual's vocation.”

An Augustinian priest working in the Diocese of Westminster has brought a similar model of vocational discernment to London. ‘The purpose of the Vocations Discernment Community is to give young men, aged 20-36, a year (September – July) where they can learn about priesthood and the various forms of religious life, and come to some conclusion about where God may be calling them. It is for men who are aware of God’s calling but are not sure how specifically to respond, or who need some time for personal or academic development. It is not geared to any particular form of religious life or priesthood but will support the members in their personal discernment.’

This year’s statistics show that in September 2008, 31 men began formation in one of the major seminaries for the English and Welsh dioceses. In addition, 15 men began formation in a recognised pre-seminary programme, most of these attend the Royal English College in Valladolid, Spain.

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Tags: Propaedeutic Year, Royal English College in Valladolid

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