The Seminary Formation Programme

What Happens?

Seminarians live at, and undertake their human, spiritual, and pastoral formation at, Holy Cross Seminary. Most of the academic formation takes place at nearby Good Shepherd College along Ponsonby Road (

In general it takes six and a half years to train for priesthood, although this can vary depending on English language proficiency and previous qualifications and pastoral experience. While a day in the seminary programme is primarily focused on personal prayer and communal liturgies, study, pastoral and formational work, there are recreational, artistic and social emphases that help bring balance to seminary life.

The seminary year is between thirty-two and thirty-three weeks in duration, based primarily around university academic terms. Three between-term breaks and the main summer break provide opportunities for seminarians to return to their home dioceses and assist in parishes and/or gain employment in the ordinary workplace. Human formation is the basis of all priestly formation. As we encounter God through our basic humanity and as grace builds on nature, so human formation helps shape the seminarian’s personality in such a way as to help him, as priest, to be a bridge for others to Jesus Christ.

Spiritual formation is focused on spiritual growth and discernment. It forms the seminarian in a closer relationship with Christ through development of a personal and communal prayer life. Pastoral formation helps the seminarian experience and appreciate the practical realities of ministering Christ's priesthood to others in everyday life and circumstances. Academic formation focuses on studies in theology and philosophy at Good Shepherd College. The college is jointly staffed by diocesan clergy, Society of Mary priests, religious sisters from Dominican, Our Lady of the Missions, and Sacred Heart of Jesus religious orders, and lay men and women lecturers.

Year 1

The First Year programme focuses primarily on a candidate's discernment of a call to priesthood, through deepening of his prayer life and understanding of others, God, and self. This is essential preparation for building the confidence and focus of candidates before they begin full-time academic studies in theology and philosophy from the second year onwards.

Years 2 – 4

It is in these years that the seminarian works towards the Bachelor of Theology degree at Good Shepherd College. This degree is made up of courses including theology, scripture, ethics, church history, liturgy, homiletics, philosophy, spirituality, Christology, ecclesiology, psychology, Canon Law, and pastoral ministry. 

Year 5 (Pastoral Year)

The fifth year is spent in the seminarian’s home diocese, living and working in a parish to which his bishop appoints him, to obtain more practical experience of parish life and activities, such as: Liturgy planning and preparation; School and youth chaplaincy; Resthome, hospital and hospice visitation; Communion to the sick and assistance with anointings; Preaching and reflections; Helping prepare children for Baptism, first Holy Communion and Confirmation; Involvement in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA); Marriage preparation; Assistance with funerals; and General visitation. 

Years 6 – 7

These years take place back at the seminary and involve further academic study and practical formation (e.g. Baptism, Mass, Reconciliation, and Anointing practicums). Usually ordination to the diaconate occurs towards the end of the sixth year, and ordination to priesthood around the middle of the following year. The newly ordained priest is then appointed by his bishop to a parish as an assistant to the parish priest.