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St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation and Pre-Seminary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany

The St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation and Pre-Seminary program follows the principles of Priestly Formation as is laid out in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Program for Priestly Formation (PPF)

“All priestly formation must have its foundation in an adherence to the truths of faith about the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood. Those who are involved in the process of priestly formation whether as administrators, teachers, formators, or seminarians must adhere to these teachings.

 All priestly formation must be firmly grounded in the truths of the Catholic faith, for it is from these truths that the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood are drawn. Likewise, it is critical that formators and seminarians keep returning to the core of the faith for the integrating vision necessary for the full realization of the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral.” (PPF:13-14)

The Four Pillars of Formation, Human, Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Formation are principles of Formation which guide the St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation and Pre-Seminary program. Those participating in this program will study the foundational documents of Priestly Formation, Pastores dabo vobis, Program for Priestly Formation, Presbyterorum Ordinis (Decree on Ministry and Life of Priests), Optatam Totius (Decree on Priestly Training) along with other encyclicals and documents which outline the requirements for Priestly Formation.

Discernment of Vocation
“Potential candidates for the priesthood must be in prayerful dialogue with God and with the Church in the discernment of their vocation. The linkage of this divine and ecclesial dialogue is especially important because “in the present context there is a certain tendency  Program of Priestly formation to view the bond between human beings and God in an individualistic and self-centered way, as if God’s call reached the individual by a direct route, without in any way passing through the community” (Pastores dabo vobis, no. . Eventually, this dialogue, properly conducted, may bring candidates to the admissions process, completing this first phase of vocational discernment.” (PPF:33)

Before a discerner reaching the application process, they will experience a period of spiritual discernment will then lead the discerner entering into Formational development through Human, Intellectual, Spiritual and Pastoral Formation. Through discernment of the potential candidate and the Formators of the St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation and Pre-Seminary a candidate will then be considered for an application. This process can last up to two years and the following areas of Formation must all be met before an application can be considered.   

Human Formation
Those who are accepted into the Pre-Seminary Program will learn about the importance of human formation through presentations and study of the development of the human person. The participants will learn and understand more fully of their own individual human formation and how their own human formation will aid them in their Priestly Formation. The participants will live in a community atmosphere which will further aid their human formation and help the participants develop a spirit of fraternity and charity. To aid a man in his continued human development, all participants will be required to undergo a psychological evaluation at the St. John Vianney Center in Philadelphia, PA as well go for counseling to have a more profound understanding of their human development.   

Spiritual Formation
Spiritual life is central to the Formation of all men for the priesthood. The participants will experience the liturgical life of the St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation and Pre-Seminary through daily prayer and worship. All participants will be expected to come together as a community faith for praying the Liturgy of the Hours, morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayer. All men are expected to attend mass daily in the House of Formation or if their schedules do not allow in a parish that is convenient. The Seminarians life is centered on the Holy Eucharist in receiving it daily and in adoration. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is an essential part of the spirituality of the St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation. All participants in the program are expected to pray in adoration on a daily basis in the Chapel of the House of Formation. Along with the Liturgy of the Hours and the centrality of the Holy Eucharist. A devotion to the Blessed Mother is a sign of man’ call to Priestly ministry. The Rosary and other devotional prayers to the Blessed Mother are highly encouraged. The candidate will also be encouraged to practice lectio Divina as well as scripture study. All candidates will be required to have a Priest Spiritual Director whom they will meet with on a regular basis. The Vicar for Vocations will provide a list of Spiritual Directors.

Intellectual Formation
Intellectual Formation is essential for the education of all candidates for the Priesthood. The candidate will be asked to provide transcripts from High School, College and graduate school, depending on which level of education they have completed. Intellectual Formation includes college and graduate level education. The Pre-Seminary program takes into account these various levels of education and the Pre-Seminary program will be tailored to the specific needs of each candidate with at the same time meeting all the requirements of the Pre-Seminary program.

College Pre-Seminary Program
  Candidates who need to complete college will be placed in one of two College Pre-Seminary Programs, The St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation and Pre-Seminary Program through Maria College in Albany and the St. Bernard’ School of Theology. For candidates who are entering college once completing High School will attend Cathedral Seminary in Douglaston, New York and will attend college either at St. John’ University in Queens, NY or Fordham University in Bronx, NY

Pre-Seminary Program
Master of Arts Degree in Catholic Philosophy offered by St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry
Master of Arts Degree in Catholic Philosophy is offered by St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry in its responsibility in overseeing the Pre-Seminary Program offered by the Roman Diocese of Albany.”

The  pre-seminary program is designed to be part of a concerted effort on the part of a diocese to form a young man spiritually, pastorally, humanly, but especially intellectually so that candidate might grow in his vocation and be ready to undertake his theological studies and formation for the Priestly Formation when the candidate enters Seminary.

This program is guided by the Program for Priestly Formation. It establishes best practices for each of the four pillars of formation and is determinative of the form of such a program, especially its curriculum.

St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, working closely with the Roman Diocese of Albany and the St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation has developed the Pre-Seminary program that addresses the Intellectual Formation of the pre-seminarian. This is a two-year program that consists of 11 three-credit courses in philosophy (33 credits), 3 four-credit courses in theology (12 credits), and a two-credit course as a capstone to the program. 15 courses (47 credits) are thus required for the completion of this program and successful addressing of the requirements for admission to the seminary.

The six-semester course of study is to be completed in two years. The course descriptions are offered for all 15 courses in this pre-seminary program. These descriptions are in conformity of with the philosophical school that is privileged by the Program for Priestly Formation, namely that of the Augustinian and Thomistic schools of thought. These descriptions adhere to the norms of the Program for Priestly Formation and that which is required by major seminaries.

The successful completion of the pre-seminary program offered by St. Bernard’s will result in the awarding of a Master of Arts in Catholic Philosophy (MACP). The minimum requirement for completion of the MACP is the completion of the 11 philosophy courses and the capstone/thesis course (12 courses/35 credits). The Pre-Seminary Program requires the addition of 3 four-credit courses in Theology, raising the total of courses to 15 (47 credits).

The Curricular Requirements of a Pre-Seminary Program

In the guidelines set forth by the USCCB in the Program for Priestly Formation, the intellectual pillar of a pre- seminary program requires specific courses in the fields of (a) philosophy, (b) theology, and (c) other areas important to the historical and pastoral realities of the Church. The most important of these areas is philosophy as it leads to the acquisition of skills necessary for discernment, the study of theology, and the communication of Church teaching to people who have not had the benefit of a philosophical or theological education.


The Program for Priestly Formation sets forth 12 areas that must be covered in philosophy through a minimum of 30 credit hours (typically 10 three-credit courses)

Introduction toPhilosophy,
History of Philosophy:
Ancient (pre-Socratics, through Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, to the Stoics)
History of Philosophy: Medieval (St. Augustine through to St. Thomas Aquinas)
History of Philosophy: Modern (Scotus, Ockham, and Descartes through to Kant)
History of Philosophy: Contemporary (Post-Kantian philosophers leading to the Existential, Phenomenological, and Analytic traditions)
Epistemology (The Philosophy of Knowledge)
The Philosophy of Nature (The Philosophy of the Natural World by way of Aristotle’s Physics)
Metaphysics (The Philosophy of Being and Essence)
Natural Theology (The Philosophy of God/The Philosophy of Religion)
Anthropology (The Philosophy of Human Nature)


Although the Program for Priestly Formation is very clear that the intellectual formation provided by philosophy in a pre-seminary program is primary, nevertheless it states that at least an introduction to the study of theology be provided. The PPF sets forth 5 areas that should be covered by a pre-seminary program through a minimum of 12 credit hours (typically 4 three-credit courses).
I.       Doctrine
II.      Liturgy
III.     Sacraments        
IV.    Morality
V.     Prayer
VI.    Sacred Scripture

The Program for Priestly Formation states that much of what is presented in these areas (particularly doctrine, liturgy and sacraments, morality, and prayer) can be covered through an examination of the Catechism of the Catholic Church10 (typically over 3 three-credit courses or 2 four-credit courses), leaving 1 four-credit course for an introductory study of Sacred Scripture. Or, 4 courses could be dedicated to the 4 sections of the Catechism and a 5th course covering Sacred Scripture.

How these areas are addressed is left to the discretion of the formation team offering the pre-seminary program. The treatment of the philosophy curriculum, however, does not vary, something that reflects the emphasis and purpose of the pre-seminary program.

Other Courses
The PPF makes mention of two more categories of courses that are desirable for the pre-seminary program:

I.   An initial exposure to the Latin and Spanish languages;
II.  A grounding in the liberal arts and sciences at the undergraduate level.

Pastoral Formation: The Pastoral Formation of each candidate is specifically tailored to their needs. Each candidate will have pastoral placements that will consist of parish and institutional settings. The candidate will serve in parish pastoral placements throughout the academic year as well as in summer placements in a parish setting. There will also be opportunities for the candidate to serve in hospital and nursing facilities through Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Candidates will also be involved in outreach ministry, i.e. food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other such ministries. Candidates may also be required to serve Pastoral year placements in parishes as a requirement for their Formation. The candidate will be evaluated by the Pre-Seminary Formators and their placement supervisors throughout the Pastoral Formation process. Each of the four Pillars of Formation will be evaluated in this process.  

Completion of the Pre-Seminary Program: Once all requirements as specified above have been met the Pre-Seminary Program will be completed. The candidate will have received the Seminarian application at the beginning of the second year of the Pre-Seminary program and if accepted by the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany then he becomes a Seminarian and will enter Priestly Formation and theological studies at one of the following Seminaries.

  • St. Joseph’ Dunwoodie Seminary Yonkers, NY
  • Pontifical North American College Rome     
  • Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary Weston, MA
  • St. Mary’ of the Lake Seminary Mundelein, IL
  • St. Mary’ Seminary and University Baltimore, MD
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