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Formation at the Jesuit School of Theology

Overview: Through the richness of Jesuit and Catholic tradition, formation at JST integrates the contextual study of theology with a commitment to faith and justice.   Our approach to formation reflects our mission of educating “scholars and ministers to serve the Church and society by enlivening faith, promoting reconciliation, laboring for justice, and participating in God’s mercy.” (see JST Mission Statement). We envision formation as a process of growing in deeper relationship with God and in one’s self-understanding in relation to God, so as to serve the global Church and the world more effectively.

We regard God as the primary agent of formation. However, God encourages and empowers a student to take initiative and actively engage in her/his formation process, in response to God’s prompting. JST offers an array of resources and opportunities to facilitate this process of formation, with some elements that may be required depending on the degree program, and others that are optional. We view the school community as a primary locus for formation, where relationships and participation in a diverse academic community provide a fertile terrain for learning and for encountering God in others.

Formation for Jesuit students, for religious men and women of other congregations, for diocesan clergy, and for lay persons will vary according to the individual’s charism.  Whether a student’s program is more pastorally or more academically inclined will also be a factor.  However, all students experience formation through:

  • a curriculum oriented toward faith in action with a preferential option for the poor;
  • a focus on contextual theology, bringing “theology into dialogue with communities, within their particular histories and cultures, serving people and learning from them in a spirit of solidarity.” (See JST Mission Statement);
  • Ignatian spirituality;
  • a vibrant liturgical and community life;
  • the vibrant interreligious, ecumenical, and intercultural contexts of the Graduate Theological Union situated in Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Four Areas of Formation:  As a graduate school of theology, JST emphasizes intellectual formation, while also providing resources for pastoral, spiritual and human formation. For an outline of the various resources offered to students in these four areas, click here. Additional resources for spiritual formation are presented here. In identifying and cultivating these four areas of formation, JST draws upon Program of Priestly Formation and Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry, documents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). See www.usccb.org.

Lay Formation: In addition to the formation resources that it offers to all students, JST also offers resources and opportunities specifically for lay formation. These include:

  • an annual weekend overnight retreat for lay students,
  • a course in Lay Presiding offered every fourth semester,
  • bi-weekly liturgies with lay students presiding and preaching
  • the opportunity to live in a lay intentional community,
  • lay faith sharing groups initiated and led by lay students,
  • Sant’Egidio Lay Community liturgies initiated and led by students,
  • career advising and assistance with career placement, and
  • an annual liturgy of “Lay Sending” for the school community to celebrate and send graduating lay students into ministry and service.

To develop further resources for lay formation, JST is drawing upon the findings of the Research Report on Lay Ecclesial Formation at JST, issued by the Director of Ministerial Formation. 

Student Life and Formation Cluster:  Three offices - Student Life, Ministerial Formation, and Spiritual Formation – comprise the Student Life and Formation Cluster, whose purpose is to collaborate in offering various formation resources that complement the intellectual formation students receive in their academic classes.  For a more complete outline of the resources they offer, click here.

Conclusion: JST invites each student to engage fully in their own formation process, each according to her/his charism and vocation, and in response to God’s prompting.   We welcome students to avail themselves fully of the resources and opportunities that JST provides to further and deepen their formation.