Field Education and Pastoral Year Program

The Field Education Program at St. Thomas Aquinas University offers students the opportunity to exercise and develop their academic, social and ministerial skills in diverse pastoral settings. Primary among the available placements is the parish, but experience in hospital, campus, prison, urban and ethnic ministries is also provided and encouraged.


A wide variety of specialized social service placements is also used:


A.  Supervisory Workshops

To enhance the quality of field education experience, the Field Education Department regularly provides an orientation and training workshop, which is required for new field education supervisors in order to assure that they can engage in this work effectively and professionally.


B. Field Work

Under the supervision of trained personnel, students are introduced to pastoral ministry by spending a required number of hours each week in pastoral work. During their course of studies, students are required to take eighteen hours in Field Education one credit per semester. Twelve of these are for the successful completion of the M.Div. Degree, the other units are necessary for formational purposes. Six of these are Pastoral Year credits and the others are obtained during the course of regular semesters. Students are expected to gain a reasonable competence in the following areas: Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and sacramental preparation, religious education, ministry to the sick, liturgical celebration, team ministry and collegial parish leadership, and, if possible, other important ministries, such as involvement with social justice.


C. Pastoral Year

Students are offered the opportunity to further develop their pastoral skills by participating in a Pastoral Year, normally after their second year of studies. This positioning in the curriculum was chosen for two reasons: 1) to enable the student to complete two full academic years, thus enabling him to experience the Pastoral Year with a certain degree of theological expertise; and 2) the enable student’s return to the seminary program with new insights about his pastoral abilities and sustains the opportunity to test these abilities during his final two years of seminary training.The Pastoral Year is normally a ten-month (September-June), full-time, parish-based experience of pastoral ministry in the student’s own diocese, under the direction of the seminary. Supervision, evaluation, theological reflection, complemented by a spiritual program, are the essential elements of the pastoral year. Six units of Field Education credits are granted for the successful completion of the Pastoral Year.The Course Credit Activity (CCA) is designed to document and assess certain key activities of the Pastoral Year for the purpose of assigning university credit hours. It is a sample of the many activities in which the seminarian participates during this time of formation. The CCA has been established to satisfy several important requirements of the seminarian’s formational experience. 1) The CCA rigorously documents the study, planning, preparation and learning which St. Patrick’s Seminary & University believes is inherent in all major Pastoral Year activities. 2) It provides evidence and justification for the six credit hours which the Seminary assigns to the program. 3) When assessed as a year-end CCA portfolio, these documents provide a comprehensive view of the wide range of Pastoral Year activities in which the seminarian has participated, and their formational and academic value. The CCA involves research, study, preparation and planning prior to the activity; careful observation and documentation during the activity; and thoughtful, introspective evaluation, research and documentation following the activity. CCAs have six areas of focus: liturgy, education, social justice, pastoral care, preparation for sacraments and youth ministry. A well-executed CCA will require six to eight hours of focused, uninterrupted work or the majority of a full work day. CCAs will be reviewed and evaluated by the assigned Pastoral Year director. CCAs which are deemed to be unacceptable or in need of significant revision will be returned to the seminarian and supervisor for re-submission. Six acceptable CCAs are a requirement for successful completion.If the diocese should decide not to include the Pastoral Year in a seminarian’s program, the student must earn the six field education credits through additional pastoral work during the seminary program.


D. Pastoral Ministry Courses

In addition to on-site supervision in the field, students are required to take two pastoral ministry courses at the Seminary, which seek to sharpen pastoral skills: 1) Pastoral Leadership: Ministry and Skills and 2) Parish Administration and Finances.


E.Clinical Pastoral Education

While St. Thomas Aquinas University does not require CPE units as part of its Field Education requirements, Clinical Pastoral Education is highly recommended for every student. The student's own diocese should arrange this during one of the summers. The Field Education Department is able to make known to a diocese/student available CPE programs.


As an extension of the Field Education program, St. Thomas Aquinas University will grant two credits of Field Education to a student who successfully completes a full quarter of CPE at an accredited CPE program.