school of theology and ministry
In addition to an excellent, rigorous academic program, we take great care to provide opportunities for the spiritual and human growth of the whole person. Our spiritual formation program is shaped according to the needs and desires of each student in relationship to the community at the STM and beyond.
Opportunities for prayer and worship, spiritual direction and retreats, personal guidance and service all facilitate and support growth in self-awareness, authenticity, and generosity as a minister in this twenty-first century world.
The wisdom and practices found in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola give the STM its unique Jesuit flavor all the while honoring and drawing on the richness of other ecumenical and interreligious traditions.
spiritual formation requirements
You may wonder why the formation program at STM is so robust. After all, the STM is known for its stellar academic program which ranks among the best in its field. You see, the administrators, faculty, and staff of the STM see their day to day work as a ministry, a vocation. Their commitment is to provide the best individualized programs so that each student continues to grow in wisdom and grace. The formation requirements presented below offer multiple opportunities and support for each student to develop as mature, well rounded ministers for the Church and the world today.
M.Div. students participate in a comprehensive program of formation that expresses the STM’s commitment to the formation of the whole person for effective ministry. Lay students, in conversation with their advisors, develop a spiritual formation plan that fulfills the degree requirement for formation. Students who are members of religious orders or candidates for ordination fulfill the degree requirement for formation by participating in the formation programs required by their religious orders or diocese.
All students, lay and ordination track, are guided by the four pillars of formation: academic, human, spiritual, and pastoral.
The program of formation for lay students is overseen by faculty, the associate dean of student affairs, and the associate director of spiritual formation. The formation program for each student will be shaped according to the student’s needs and hopes, while addressing the standards approved by the U.S. bishops in the National Certification Standards for Lay Ecclesial Ministry (National Association for Lay Ministry, National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, and National Conference for Catechetical Leadership):
- personal and spiritual maturity;
- lay ecclesial identity;
- Catholic theology;
- pastoral praxis;
- professional praxis.
STM faculty and staff are committed to supporting and cultivating the four pillars of formation through the respective programs of all students: academic, spiritual, pastoral, and human. To that end, students consult with the associate director of spiritual formation to plan a process of suitable spiritual formation to address area (1). They consult with their academic advisors to plan a suitable course of studies to address area (3). They consult with the professor of Pastoral Care and Contextual Education to plan pastoral courses and ministerial placements to address areas (2, 4, and 5).
Students are expected to be proactive, adult learners who, with the advice of their advisors, will choose among multiple options to develop an appropriate formation program. Students will keep a Spiritual Formation Profile to document their participation in, completion of, and reflection upon various elements of their formation process. The associate director of spiritual formation maintains oversight of the whole process by meeting with each student once each semester to explain and coordinate the formation process and to review the student’s progress in completing the profile. Likewise, the associate director will verify to the student’s advisor when each student has fulfilled the formation requirement for graduation. At the conclusion of a student’s degree, the associate director of spiritual formation meets with each student to reflect on human and spiritual growth that has occurred and to hear the student’s insights about how the program can grow. This is followed by a final assessment of the student’s spiritual formation which is submitted to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.
M.A. theology and ministry students participate in the one-credit Spiritual Formation for Ministry seminar (TMPS7080). This program consists of two parts: the Spiritual Formation for Ministry group and the Spiritual Formation Plan. During the first year or during the summer for those studying part time, students participate in small groups facilitated by experienced facilitators which allow them to integrate spiritual growth with their academic and pastoral work in a supportive and prayerful atmosphere. During the academic year, the groups meet six times per semester; during the summer, groups meet twice each week for three weeks. At the end of the year or the summer, students receive a J grad (extended incomplete) until they have fulfilled the components of their Spiritual Formation Plan.
The students create a personalized Spiritual Formation Plan (SFP) in consultation with one’s academic advisor and one’s Spiritual Formation facilitator. Students have the duration of their degree program at STM to fulfill the SFP. When a student has completed the components of the Plan, the student informs the academic advisor who will then verify the completion of the Spiritual Formation requirement by signing the Plan. The student gives the signed form to the associate director of spiritual formation who then processes the change of grade from J (incomplete) to P (pass).
The purpose of the SFP is to establish a habitus of spiritual practice for a life of ministry. Each student discerns an individualized plan that will help the student broaden and deepen human and spiritual growth in accord with the student’s gifts and call to serve by choosing one option from two of the three areas offered in the Plan. This may be completed during the course of their studies but it must be completed before graduation.
- Spiritual Direction (six month experience or more)1
- A retreat experience of at least 3-4 days
- Immersion experience
- Intentional Christian community experience
- Monthly volunteer experience with journal reflection (six months minimum)2
- Participation in an STM student group, e.g. BIRDS, Community Life, Corazon Latin@, ECOsySTM, Faith and Justice in Action, Gaudete, International Students Association, Liturgy, Lumen et Vita, Prison Ministry Initiative, Racism and Diversity, Women’s Group
- Participation in additional BC offerings, e.g. BC Continuing Education programs and those sponsored by the Church of the 21st Century
- An experience suggested by the student, similar to those listed above, with the approval of one’s faculty advisor.
1 Please note: A regular practice of spiritual direction is strongly encouraged for one's life in ministry. As a helpful resource, the STM offers a listing of seasoned spiritual directors in the BC vicinity and beyond. If a student feels that she/he would benefit from engagement in counseling or pastoral counseling rather that spiritual direction, this, too, remains an option.
2 Journal reflection may be processed with a qualified mentor approved by one’s advisor.