The Jesuit School of Theology’s mission statement highlights the importance of integral formation: “The Jesuit School of Theology achieves its mission through the academic, pastoral and personal formation of Jesuits and other candidates for ministry, ordained and lay, in the Roman Catholic Church.” Scholarship, teaching, and research are all understood as a form of ministry and should have, depending upon the program and the interest of the student, a dimension of formation.
The Jesuit School of Theology spiritual formation programs serve personal and ministerial development through prayer days, retreats, faith sharing groups, spiritual direction, and liturgical prayer.
Prayer days take various forms. A mini-retreat of one day, open to all students and usually facilitated by a faculty member, is offered on a Saturday in Advent and another Saturday during Lent. Every year, each M.Div. cohort goes away for a day of prayer. The New Directions sabbatical program offers two prayer days during each semester, one in the middle of the term and one at the end.
The Jesuit School of Theology offers a five-day directed retreat in August and a weekend retreat in January. The August retreat is a silent, directed retreat in the Ignatian tradition and takes place at El Retiro Retreat Center in Los Altos, California. Students pay a small fee and JST subsidizes the remaining expense. The January retreat occurs in the weekend before the Spring semester begins and takes place at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, California. Students again pay a small fee for this retreat and, again, the remainder is subsidized by the School.
Faith sharing has taken various forms over the years, but the key intent is to gather students in small groups to talk about their experience of God and their journey in faith. Groups have been coordinated through two offices. The Director of Spiritual Formation organizes groups that are open to all students, and the Director of Sabbatical Programs organizes groups that are designed specifically for sabbatical students. Information regarding faith sharing opportunities is distributed throughout the year.
JST provides ongoing spiritual direction for any student who requests it. This support includes paying spiritual directors so that students do not incur an added expense. At the beginning of the Fall semester the Director of Spiritual Formation, George Murphy, S.J., arranges a meeting at which a number of spiritual directors are introduced to interested students and, from this meeting, students go on to set up exploratory meetings with potential directors and eventually select one.
Liturgical prayer is another traditional means of carrying out integral formation in the Roman Catholic tradition. Each Tuesday, the JST community gathers for Eucharist at 5:15 p.m. followed by a soup and salad supper. After supper, students and staff are offered presentations on a variety of topics, many of which touch upon Ignatian spirituality. On an informal level, this community night has done much to foster integral formation for many students.