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Seminary formation can’t be done online but…

Seminary formation can’t be done online but…

By Roy Lagarde

May 24, 2020

Manila, Philippines

Online classes have never been an option in seminary formation — until the coronavirus pandemic came along.

But the bishops insist that seminary studies cannot be done fully online because “the other pillar of priestly formation requiring personal accompaniment in the context of community”.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Seminaries (ECS), said that “intellectual formation” is not the only the factor for consideration in seminary studies.

“The seminarians need to be accompanied in their pastoral, spiritual and human formation too. It is an integrated formation that takes place in the context of community accompaniment,” Villegas said in the Guidelines for Seminary Formation during the pandemic.

In “extreme conditions”, the seminary body said that academic deans “may study prudently” which minor subjects may be delivered online.

“The major subjects are best taught with physical presence of the teacher and with interaction among the seminarians,” Villegas said.

According to him, formators may even consider offering more subjects than they used to teach.

“In fraternal charity, we must consider the situation of extern seminarians enrolled who may really need to take their classes online,” he said.

Schools everywhere have been upended by the pandemic and seminaries are no exception.

When classes resume in August, the usual seminary life may never be the same again.

A limited free time outside seminary premises. No personal contact with visitors. A restricted exposure and interaction with seminary staff.

These are among the new measures that await seminarians when they return to their seminaries.

“The seminary administration under the direction of the diocesan bishop must adhere to the instructions of the civil authorities regarding proper conduct during this pandemic,” Villegas said.

He said this include the basic safety protocols such as social distancing, wearing face masks, and hygiene practices.

The archbishop also stressed the need for seminaries to employ the regular services of counselor psychologists and mental health experts.

He said such move is necessary so that “the rapid changes our seminarians and formators are going through may be processed professionally”.

“To ignore the changes now can harm the future,” Villegas said.