Deepening discernment: at the heart of the newly instituted propaedeutic scene at Saint Paul Seminary – Newsroom

Nineteen young men in a family kitchen is a fascinating sight. And the sound. And smell.

Sizzling bacon, sausages and eggs. A table sprinkled with oatmeal, cereal and fruit. And once in a while, a unified singing of a rock song from the 90s. But for the men of the “propaedeutic” new year of the Saint Paul Seminary, it is just another common breakfast after mass. daily.

This is a household. A family.

Some will go to the major seminary. Others will discern another vocation. Either way, they will have made a free and well-intentioned decision to do so, says the priest in charge of the program.

“With all the different voices in our society today, young people need to be quiet in some way, so they can hear the voice of God in their hearts and in their lives,” said Fr. John Floeder, director of humanities at the seminar. training and propaedeutic year.

“I don’t think I could find the words to describe how God works in each of our lives.”

James Semling, aspirant, Diocese of Helena, Montana

The world has changed a lot since Floeder was ordained a priest in 2007. He welcomes Pope Francis’ recent call for seminaries to provide an additional year of priesthood training. St. Paul’s Seminary was one of the first in North America to institute what some church leaders call a spiritual “detox.”

“I didn’t have the internet before I got to college, and Netflix was always a service where you got DVDs in the mail,” Floeder said. “So what these men face today is a very different world than the one I grew up in.”

Father John Floeder, director of human formation and the propaedeutic scene at St. Paul Seminary, addresses seminarians inside St. Mark’s Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Housed in St. Mark’s Church about a mile from St. Paul’s Seminary on St. Thomas’ campus, the men are distinctly different from major seminary life and have a different daily rhythm. The goal is to step back from the madness of the world and allow men to discern openly where God is calling them – whether to priesthood or married life.

“They need time and space to rediscover authentic love and connection with the Lord, and authentic love and connection with one another,” Floeder said.

One of the ways men receive this time and space is to abstain from technology. Phones and laptops are placed in the “computer lab”, which is open briefly once a week so the men can catch up with friends and family.

The rest of their free time, the men read, play board games, run group errands, sing music, and simply spend quality time together.

“As Americans, we think we know what freedom is – do whatever you want,” said seminarian Anthony Olmes of Helena Diocese. “In fact, taking things like our cell phones and laptops away and having a schedule where I have to wake up before 7 a.m. every day has brought a lot of [true] freedom. I have never experienced this in my life before.

The group attends a daily holy hour, morning prayer and mass. Their program also includes weekly community work, including ministry to underprivileged children in Minneapolis. Half of them help the Church of St. Stephen’s High School youth group on Friday nights; the other half goes to the Risen Christ for four hours every Wednesday to spend time with younger students.

Another source of growth, they say, has been their bi-weekly class sessions in the common area.

Once a week, St. Paul’s Seminary professor Dr. Bill Stevenson leads discussions on the classic literature of greats like Dante and Homer. Renowned catechist Jeff Cavins also comes once a week to teach the men what it means to be a disciple and guide them through the history of salvation. And Paul Ruff, the director of counseling services at the seminary, facilitates a process group and is available for individual counseling. Floeder has also invited special speakers like Father Josh Johnson from Ascension Press and “Ask Fr. the fame of Josh.

One theme is consistent across all of their classes: no grades.

“What makes the introductory year so different from direct entry to major seminary is that there just isn’t the same academic pressure,” Olmes said. “We just read books together and talk about them in our sessions. We really form ourselves as a whole person without this academic stress.

As the seminary’s inaugural foundation year draws to a close, its participants tend to be filled with a sense of inner peace about the next step in their vocational journey.

“I don’t think I could find the words to describe how God is working in each of our lives,” said James Semling of the Diocese of Helena, Montana.

Aspirants attend a daily holy hour, morning prayer and mass. Their program also includes weekly community work, including ministry to underprivileged children.

And while Floeder had some nerves about what the year would be like at the start, the growth and maturity he saw in the men under his care left him in awe, he said.

It is one more way for the Church to ensure good, strong and holy priests.

“Being able to lead this program and live as a spiritual father to these young men has filled me with a tremendous sense of hope,” Floeder said. “This program is really, I think, realizing what all of our hopes and dreams should be for what it is to be a priest and to serve in the Church.”

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