Like all Roman Catholic seminaries, St. Mary's Seminary & University follows the norms for the formation of Catholic priests contained in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Pope John Paul II's 1992 Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, the 2006 Program of Priestly Formation (PPF) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other prescriptions of ecclesiastical authority at various levels. St. Mary's Ecclesiastical Degree Program follows the norms of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana (1979).
St. Mary's is owned and operated by the American Province of the Society of St. Sulpice (Sulpicians), whose headquarters are located on the Roland Park campus. The Society of St. Sulpice
was founded by Jean-Jacques Olier at the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris in 1641. Today, the Sulpicians direct major seminaries in the United States, France, Canada, South America, Vietnam, Japan, and Africa. In terms of its Sulpician heritage, St. Mary's Seminary follows the principles and norms for priestly formation contained in the Constitutions of the Society of St. Sulpice.
Some particular emphases in the Sulpician Tradition of St. Mary's are expressed in its priestly formation. These include the following:
Community Life and Faculty Presence
The faculty and seminarians constitute a single community of prayer, study, and residential life. In the Sulpician tradition, priestly formation takes place in what is called the communauté educatrice, or "formational community," and primarily by word and priestly example.
Priestly Prayer and Spirituality
The faculty cultivates in seminarians a priestly spirituality based on the Eucharist, liturgical prayer, Sulpician meditation, devotions, and the priestly promises of celibacy, obedience, simplicity of life, and the divine office.
Pastoral Leadership and Generosity
The faculty emphasizes the development of pastoral charity, generosity, and leadership in seminarians demonstrated by involvement in the seminary community, parish experience, collaboration with others in ministry, and generous self-sacrifice.
Characteristics of the Theological Program
St. Mary's Seminary faculty emphasizes the following priorities in teaching theology as part of its program of priestly formation.
- Courses present thoroughly, and in detail, authentic Catholic teaching on all topics. Clear distinctions are always made between Catholic doctrine and theological opinion. Seminarians are expected to master the Catholic doctrinal and theological tradition by the time they complete the seminary program.
- Theology courses cover the state-of-the-question on all theological topics and explain responsible theological opinion in the Church on these issues. Seminarians are taught to appreciate the history of doctrine and the various types of theological argument.
- Theology courses also emphasize the pastoral and spiritual implications of the faith for priestly ministry. Theological topics are treated to prepare seminarians for the real life questions and concerns of parishioners.
- The ecumenical and interfaith content of religious faith in the modern world is also examined in the study of Catholic theology. Special attention across the curriculum is given to Jewish-Christian issues.
- From the very beginning, the academic program helps seminarians develop skills and habits of careful study, reading, and writing while respecting the academic backgrounds and learning needs of individual seminarians.