Some men look at the seminary primarily as an ordeal to be endured. It can be that sometimes, like anything else in life. Midterms begin the week after next here at St. Patrick's, on top of all the research papers we have to write. I came here one year after I graduated with my Bachelor's from California State University Sacramento, so I was still quite used to academic life (now that I think about it, that year was the only time in my adult life when I haven't been in some kind of school :p) Some of the seminarians here are over 40 and were out of school for twenty years or more before they came, so it was a big adjustment to go from having one's own home and a career back to living in community in an educational setting. In some ways the seminary is similar to a secular university. I believe my brother seminarian Colin operates on a different schedule over at the NAC in Rome. St. Patrick's operates on the semester system. Our last day of classes is May 1, with the second week of May devoted to final exams. Then we're off to our summer assignments somewhere in the diocese which can include staying in a parish, at St. John Vianney House of Discernment in downtown Sacramento, or possibly working at the chancery.
St. Patrick's is definitely not just one university among many however. The word you will hear a lot around here is "formation." Intellectual formation is only one piece of the puzzle. In my opinion, the most important piece is the spiritual formation. Another vitally important part of formation is the human aspect. Every year the fourth year men are ordained to the priesthood, and most of the second year men move out for their pastoral year. This coming fall we will be welcoming who knows how many new faces. Even so, we are a family here and we are strongly encouraged to take care of one another. Man is a social animal as the Catechism teaches, so there are many different levels of community in which one must integrate. There are your brother seminarians from your own diocese of course, but there are also your immediate classmates. I hope we all keep in touch after we're ordained, God willing. I think it's good training for parish life too. You don't need to be a bubbly extrovert - Lord knows I definitely am not! - but it is important to know how to relate well to people.
If you're like me, i.e. you possess a BA in something other than philosophy, then you would have to complete two years of pre-theology before you were permitted to take theology proper. Pre-theology is basically philosophy. If you're thinking about the priesthood, or if you've already made the decision to apply, I recommend reading something on the history of philosophy - I did and it's been a tremendous help. Two years of pre-theology, four years of theology, and one pastoral year equals seven years. Does that sound like an eternity? :) Take it from me though, you will be astonished at how fast the time goes. I still feel like I just got here and I'm almost done with my first year!
In case you're curious about the subject line of this entry, yesterday was our "Day of Dialogue" followed by an afternoon of community fun and games. A Day of Dialogue is basically when the seminarians break off into groups and we propose five areas where seminary life can be improved and five areas we believe are outstanding. It is not meant to be a complaint fest, but a time for constructive criticism. Afterward, one of the games was Seminarian Jeopardy! The pre-theology "buzzer" was... a cow bell. I'm thinking of saying to Fr. McKearney, our director of music, "Those hymns are good but they could really use..."