The theology program at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary meets all of the requirements for priestly formation specified by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The program of study forms seminarians in the wisdom of the Church. The program include Scripture, Languages, Dogmatics, Liturgy, Church History, Pastoral Studies, and Canon Law. During the program of academic formation at the seminary, each seminarian is enrolled in a graduate level program that enables him to earn both a Sacred Theology Baccalaureate Degree (S.T.B.) and a Master of Divinity Degree (M. Div.) prior to ordination. The sequencing of courses within the theology curriculum allows requirements for both degrees to be completed within eight regular semesters and two summer parish internships. The academic programs within the graduate level curriculum are described below.
The Second Vatican Council taught that, “the ‘study of the sacred page’ should be the very soul of theology.” (See Dei Verbum, 24 and Sapientia Christiana Art 67.1.) In response to that call, we have instituted a strand in the curriculum that begins with an introductory course and runs throughout the eight semesters of theology. This strand is intended to lead the seminarian through a systematic study of the Scriptures which exposes them to current historical-critical investigations, but which is primarily concerned with the traditional way in which the Church has read the Bible in her contemplation and liturgy. To aid in the study of Scripture, the curriculum includes courses in New Testament Greek.
Ressourcement is the pursuit of a spiritual and intellectual communion with the most vital moments of Christianity as transmitted to us in its classic texts for the purpose of responding to the critical questions of our time (aggiornamento). The faculty of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary embrace ressourcement in their programs of study under the belief that to more truly meet the challenges of our time, we must first return to the sources of Christian faith, with a rediscovery of the riches of the whole of the Church’s two-thousand-year tradition.
The fundamental sources of theology are Scripture and Tradition as expressed by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and as manifested in the Church’s liturgy. These sources are the object of study for both the positive and systematic divisions of theology under the authoritative guidance of the Church’s magisterium. The Scripture, liturgies, and magisterial documents of the Church are therefore the fundamental sources for theological study at the seminary. In line with the emphasis on Sacred Scripture, the curriculum offers courses that have constant recourse to the saints, doctors and great thinkers of the Eastern and Western Churches throughout their history.
Theological courses are offered in dogma, morals, and Church history; sacraments and liturgy; and pastoral theology. With Scripture as its foundation, theology incorporates Tradition through its commitment to ressourcement. By addressing contemporary authors, a strong emphasis is also given to the integration of ressourcement and aggiornamento in theology. This is done in accord with the pastoral guidance of the magisterium. In this way -through these three strands – the indivisible components of Scripture, Tradition and magisterium work together to form the minds and hearts of seminarians.
Communication of the Christian message to the faithful occurs predominantly through homilies. In recognition of the importance of the homily in ministerial practice for conveying the message of the Gospel, a sequence of courses provides the opportunity for each seminarian to develop skills in public speaking throughout his seminary career. This strand of courses begins in the philosophy cycle with Philosophical Methods and Logic, followed by Rhetoric. In the theology cycle, the strand continues with Liturgical Practica. The Lector courses focus on public speaking and organization of thoughts, followed by reading and proclaiming the Word of God. The practicum courses of Acolyte and Deacon accent the ministerial presence. Two courses in Homiletics pair the formal presentations of homilies with the integration of the Gospel in the proclaimed message. Finally, during the diaconate year, each seminarian has the opportunity to present homilies, to receive critique, and to grow more skilled in this fundamental dimension of priestly ministry.
The Apostolate is an integral part of the formation of each seminarian throughout his seminary career. During each academic year the seminarian is engaged in a continuing ministry within schools, parishes, nursing homes, outreach organizations, and hospitals in which he has the opportunity to grow in pastoral effectiveness. During and after each experience he receives valuable critique to strengthen the quality of his ministerial presence and skills. The ability to integrate personal faith, academic knowledge, and service to the Church in a balanced, holistic and meaningful manner is an ongoing challenge that is made practical through involvement in ministry. Apostolic service occurs weekly and requires a three to four hour time commitment. In addition, summer pastoral assignments provide seminarians with the opportunity to combine theology with direct pastoral experience in parishes. In their summer assignments, seminarians work with pastors of the Archdiocese of Denver, or pastors in their home diocese, who serve as mentors to the seminarians and provide sound pastoral experience. Each seminarian is responsible to the Director of Pastoral Formation for this ministry and a formal evaluation is completed each year.