Theological education in the light of a contemporary understanding of priestly formation and ministry : proposals for action
The project provides a rationale for a systematic view of the role of theological education in a life-long approach to priestly formation. In particular, it examines perceptions and proposals for action in relation to theological education in the context of the contemporary understanding of Roman Catholic priestly formation and ministry. This contemporary understanding involves the concepts of collaboration and mission which should occur within an ecumenical dimension. The project is divided into three parts. First, the priestly ministry is set within the changing context of theological, historical and social awareness in modem England. The argument is presented that even in a secular context a residual interest in theological and religious questions increase in a society where clergy are generally trusted and well respected. The conjunction between theological theory and actual ministerial practice is. then confronted. The argument presented here is that these two realities must be seen in inter-relationship. I argue next that priestly ministry ought to be contextualised within a particular society. I make, therefore, observations about the 'place' of the Roman Catholic Church in English history and society and in relationship to the Church of England. Secondly, I present my research concerning inter-activity which is discussed on three levels: between priests and other professionals: doctors, teachers and lawyers, the clergy acting in ecumenical partnership and between priests and the lay faithful of the Church. The emerging picture reveals considerable revaluation in other professions in which, particularly in the case of medicine and teaching the clergy have an important role to play in terms of pastoral ministry and ethical focus. A complex series of inter-relationships emerge which demand on the part of priests, a broad intellectual and pastoral vision of priestly ministry, Thirdly, parts one and two provide the foundation for part three which offers the notion of the relationship between Jesus and his disciples as a paradigm for priestly ministry and formation. Various aspects of Gospel study are explored in the context of both initial and on-going formation. The purpose of this section is to give a clear Christological focus to priestly ministry. The concluding chapter presents proposals for innovative action regarding an holistic approach to theological education which covers both initial and on-going priestly formation. This action should enable the priest to present his own vocation and professionalism in a way that can be useful and supportive to other professionals and apply the ancient faith in a contemporary context.