How Fr. Ligato’s Pre-Seminary Program Tripled in Size & Saved $100k in 2 Semesters

Nov 15, 2019

Dr. Stephen J. Loughlin

One of the more pressing issues facing the Church today is how to affect the formation of the next generation of priests. In an increasingly secular world, one often hostile to the Catholic Faith, we need to provide our seminarians with the means to develop their hearts and minds to withstand the assaults of this world, and, at the same time, to be its salt and its light. St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, working closely with both the Diocese of Albany and the St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation, have responded to this situation with a renewed vision of how best to nurture and train the priests of tomorrow. Drawing young men into the heart of the Albany Catholic community and establishing a community where they can grow in wisdom and grace, the pre-seminary program identifies and nurtures the four pillars of character: the human, the spiritual, the pastoral, and most especially the intellectual.

When a young man enters the St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation, he is introduced into an intentional community whose purpose is to nurture his great desire to become a priest. He takes up a beautiful examination of what constitutes the path to mature human character and to travel with guidance down this road. He begins to experience the many and diverse ways by which he might live in unceasing and intimate union with God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. He embarks upon that process whereby he might one day become a true pastor of souls. But most importantly, he enters upon a training of mind that will give definite direction to his human, pastoral, and spiritual growth, prepare him for his theological studies at the seminary, and position him solidly within the Catholic intellectual tradition out of which will then flow all that the culture and the people of God stand in need.

The training he receives is philosophical. Now, one might wonder why philosophy? What does philosophy have to do with the Word of God and the duties of a priest, especially to the people that he will serve? The answer to these questions is found in the fact that philosophy within our Catholic tradition has been and continues to be a sure way to discipline the minds (and hearts) of our priests. It equips them with the wisdom that is both common to all people irrespective of their faith (or lack thereof) and introductory to the greater study of the Faith. This study of philosophy prepares them to engage the Holy Scriptures more powerfully and deeply. It allows them to bring the fruits of this engagement to bear upon many things: his own personal life; his advancement in the understanding of our Faith; the advice and guidance that he can offer to others (especially in difficult moral situations); and his evangelizing activities of those outside our Church, whether it be through drawing them into closer communion, or in defending our Faith and its teachings against those who attack them.

As part of his pre-seminarian training, a young man at the House of Formation will study 12 courses in philosophy offered by St. Bernard’s covering areas like ethics, human nature, the art of reasoning and debate, and the history of philosophy from ancient times (with Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle) up to the present day. Combined with his training in the human, pastoral, and spiritual areas that the House of Formation provides, a young man is thus well prepared to enter the seminary and to engage upon the rigorous training that it provides to make him fit to serve the people of God.

To date, the pre-seminary program in Albany has been very successful with 21 men living in community at the House of Formation, most of whom take part in the philosophy program offered by St. Bernard’s and who, at its completion, will receive a Master of Arts (Catholic Philosophy). St. Bernard’s also offers the philosophy courses that comprise MACP to anyone outside of the Diocese of Albany who wish to take them through its advanced Distance Education program. This program allows for a full range of instructional options from asynchronous courses to hybrid approaches utilizing Zoom video conferencing software. Having based this program upon the criteria established by the USCCB in their guide Program for Priestly Formation, St. Bernard’s privileges both the Augustinian and Thomistic traditions in the philosophical training it provides. All professors are well versed in these traditions and have much experience in teaching those in formation for the priesthood.

I invite you to consider this new model of pre-seminary formation and to join me and the Vocation Director for the Diocese of Albany, Fr. Ligato, in an upcoming live webinar. We will offer further descriptions of this new pre-seminary model, and will be happy to answer any and all questions you may have.

Learn More about the Live Webinar

Dr. Stephen J. Loughlin is President and Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry in Rochester, NY. Dr. Loughlin earned his Master's and Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Toronto. Before coming to St. Bernard’s last year, Dr. Loughlin was an Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at DeSales University in Center Valley, PA., a position he held for almost 20 years. Dr. Loughlin’s academic work has appeared in The Thomist, Nova et Vetera, Pro Ecclesia, and Josephinum, and his areas of research interest include Medieval philosophy, and Thomistic anthropology. Dr. Loughlin deeply loves teaching, having engaged in the profession for 25 years. Dr. Loughlin has been married for the past 30 years to his lovely wife Carol who just recently retired as a NICU nurse.