Readiness for Ministry Program
Bachelor of Sacred Theology
Master of Arts
Master of Arts in Ecclesial Ministry
Master of Divinity
Permanent Diaconate
Dual Degree Program
Continuing Education

All Saint Vincent Seminary students who are ordination-bound, regardless of program of study or degree, are required to take the Ministry Capstone Seminar (PA 800) and the Readiness for Ministry Exam (TH 00R) in their last year of studies.

Sponsors, Vocation Directors and students alike should be aware that no exceptions will be made to this policy.

The Ministry Capstone Seminar and the Readiness for Ministry Exam were instituted in academic year 2012-2013 at Saint Vincent Seminary. Together, these form the Seminary’s response to the Association of Theological Schools’ (ATS–our accrediting agency) recommendations for assessment of student learning outcomes and programmatic assessment. The Ministry Capstone Seminar and the Readiness for Ministry Exam were developed and modeled upon programs found in other major seminaries around the U.S. Aside from their utility for assessment requirements of ATS, the program we have developed is a very revealing and helpful tool, for both the individual student and for his sponsor, for measuring the strengths and weakness of a student’s preparedness for priestly ministry just prior to ordination.

This process also forms a link between the student’s academic career and his ability to minister as a future priest, whether in a pastoral setting or within the confines of a religious community. This process gives the student, his sponsor, and the Seminary a measure of the individual’s ability to draw on everything he has learned in his seminary education and formation, and to apply it to a given pastoral situation that he might encounter, either in active parish ministry, or in counseling, advising or spiritual direction. As priests, whether diocesan or religious, students share in the common priesthood of Jesus Christ and will be called upon to fulfill their priestly ministry in a religious community, a parish setting, a campus ministry situation, or in many other situations. As Blessed John Paul II wrote in Pastores dabo Vobis:

Para. 17: Each priest, whether diocesan or religious, is united to the other members of this presbyterate on the basis of the sacrament of holy orders and by particular bonds of apostolic charity, ministry and fraternity. All priests in fact, whether diocesan or religious, share in the one priesthood of Christ the head and shepherd; "they work for the same cause, namely, the building up of the body of Christ, which demands a variety of functions and new adaptations, especially at the present time," and is enriched down the centuries by ever new charisms.

At Saint Vincent Seminary, we strive to take seriously our duty and our vocation to prepare faithful priest-leaders for the New Evangelization in the true spirit of Blessed John Paul II, who said:

PDV para. 2: The formation of future priests, both diocesan and religious, and lifelong assiduous care for their personal sanctification in the ministry and for the constant updating of their pastoral commitment is considered by the Church one of the most demanding and important tasks for the future of the evangelization of humanity.

The following is a brief description of each part of our Ministry Capstone Seminar and the Readiness for Ministry Exam program at Saint Vincent Seminary.

The Saint Vincent Ministry Capstone Seminar and Readiness for Ministry Exam

An Assessment of a Seminarian’s Preparedness and Competency
to transition from Seminary Education to active Pastoral Ministry

In the final year of a seminarian’s academic formation, Saint Vincent Seminary has developed a two-part program designed to assess a student’s preparedness for active pastoral ministry, whether in a religious community, diocesan setting, or elsewhere. This program begins in the Fall semester of the final year of seminary training with what we call the Ministry Capstone Seminar. The purpose of this seminar is to assist the student to prepare for the Readiness for Ministry Exam (given in the Spring Semester) and to help facilitate the transition from the classroom to parish ministry. During this semester, the instructor first assesses the student’s general knowledge and pastoral preparedness. The instructor then reviews principles of catechesis, evangelization, sacramental preparation, and mystagogy. Students research and give oral presentations on specific topics in which the assessment has shown that they need remedial work.

In the latter part of the semester, the focus shifts to a more immediate preparation for the upcoming Readiness for Ministry Exam. The students are given instruction and opportunity to discuss, work through, and practice responding to a few samples of pastoral scenarios just as they will have to do on the exam. The students are asked to address the following questions as they apply to each practice scenario:

1) What are the theological issues addressed in the scenario?
2) What are the canonical issues relevant to the scenario?
3) How would the scenario be addressed in preaching?
4) How would the scenario be addressed in a pastoral counseling situation or during the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

The Format of the Readiness for Ministry Exam:
The Readiness for Ministry Exam is held about mid-way through the seminarian’s final semester of studies. It is a major assessment mechanism and is meant to give a measure of the student’s ability to integrate and pastorally apply all that he has learned throughout his career in the Seminary to actual situations that might occur in his pastoral ministry as an ordained priest in a religious community or diocese. The exam takes place in the following manner:

a) Four faculty members comprise the Panel of Examiners with one professor from each of the following four areas: Sacred Scripture, Systematic Theology, Moral Theology, and Sacraments/Canon Law.

b) The examining committee has a collection of 40-50 numbered scenarios available from which the student is asked to randomly select three scenarios for his examination. These scenarios are actual pastoral situations experienced by faculty priests and other priests from whom they were solicited.

c) The student is given up to three minutes to organize his thoughts and then, at the signal given by the time-keeper the student is given 10 minutes to answer, as fully as possible, how he would respond to such a scenario as a priest. The faculty members do not ask any questions of the student.

d) When the student has finished his response to each scenario, the faculty member writes a brief evaluation of the student’s response and grades the student on each of the three scenarios, using the forms provided. The grades of each professor will be averaged for each question and an overall average for all the scenarios will be the final grade for the exam.

Preparation and Grading for the Exam:

Fourth-year students are encouraged to meet regularly together in small groups to practice scenarios that they make up for one another in preparation for their exams. What is important for the actual exam is that they be relaxed and comfortable. The exam is truly meant to measure the cumulative knowledge the student has gained throughout his years in the seminary. They are meant to show how well he can think and respond to actual ministerial situations he will encounter in real-life ministry.
During the exam the faculty will not be questioning the student. The student simply responds to each scenario and the faculty members listen and evaluate his response. When the time is finished for each scenario, the faculty will individually evaluate the student’s response to each scenario in writing. When the student has completed the entire exam, he departs.

After the exam, the Academic Dean reviews the evaluations, types the examiners’ remarks for each scenario, tallies the grades or all examiners, and determines the final grade. He will then prepare a formal report which he will present in person to the student in an interview in which he will solicit feedback from the student on his experience throughout the process. The same formal report that the student receives will also be sent to his sponsor. The scenarios themselves are not given so that they may be reused for future exams. The comments are given in order to allow both the student and his Bishop or Sponsor to get a sense of the evaluations of the faculty concerning the student’s responses. Together with their individual grades, these evaluative comments allow the reader to get a very clear picture of the faculty member’s evaluation of the student’s readiness for pastoral ministry.



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