Divine Word Theologate
When you start your theological studies at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago (CTU), you are normally a vowed member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Divine Word students live with fellow SVDs at Divine Word Theologate residence about a mile from CTU. The mission of Divine Word Theologate is to become a Christ-centered community and bring about greater human maturity, professional competence, and committed faith. This part of your vocational journey at the Theologate is a focused preparation for ordination to the priesthood through theological studies, supervised ministerial experiences, spiritual growth and living in a multicultural environment.
Instead of the structured life of the Novitiate, daily life at the Theologate may be quite varied from semester to semester. Your day starts with Morning Prayer and Mass followed by a breakfast you prepare for yourself. Your classes at CTU depend on which courses you choose to take and your academic emphasis. As an SVD student, you are expected to earn the Master of Divinity Degree (M.Div.) in World Mission, the basic professional degree in ministry. Many seminarians choose a second emphasis and also earn a Master of Arts Degree in areas such as Biblical Studies, Pastoral Theology, Liturgy, Church History, Systematic Theology, or World Mission. CTU is the largest Catholic school of theology in the United States. Fifty-five different religious communities of men and women as well as numerous lay people interested in theology and ministry make up the student body. A highly qualified faculty adds to the richness of this academic community.
While a student at the Theologate, you choose a ministry site where, under supervision, you begin actual ministry. You also become a member of a “small” community within the larger community. Each community of between 10 - 12 seminarians has its own lounge, dining room and kitchen. Once a week, each person fixes supper for the small community. At weekly meetings you share experiences and issues arising from life together, discuss relevant articles, develop in faith, have Bible sharing, and support and challenge each other in a quest for self-knowledge. Larger activities bring the whole Theologate community together. You meet regulary with a Spiritual Director, and you are an academic advisory by CTU.
After a year of theology, you choose a Clinical Pastoral Education site for an intensive summer of active, reflective ministry. SVD students take this first experience in a hospital setting as a chaplain. There you learn about ministry with individuals from other faiths. In this intensive ministry experience you receive feedback from peers and teachers to develop a greater awareness of your ability to minister to the needs of others.
After the second year of theology, you participate in a unique Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP) where you have the opportunity to learn a language and to live and work in a ministry in a different culture. This experience will take place in one of the many countries where SVDs work. It can last from one to three years, depending on the site. You might minister to the poor in Africa, work with youth in a European country, assist in a parish in the Philippines, Argentina, New Guinea, or even in a poor parish community here in the United States. The exciting possibilities for personal challenge and learning in ministry seem endless!
Returning home to the United States and the Theologate can feel a bit strange after living in another culture for an extended period. But after a vacation at home with family and friends and the opportunity for reflection on the experience, it is back to theological studies. You will feel the difference in your studies as you find yourself more focused after the CTP experience.
Besides studying, you now need to prepare for final vows as a Divine Word Missionary, ordination to the priesthood, and start thinking about where in the SVD World you wish to do your ministry. Maybe you’ll wonder, as I did at this time: “Where did all the time go?” An exciting future lies ahead in building God’s Kingdom and ministering to God’s people, a future filled with promise because of the excellent educational, personal, and spiritual formation you received. Once ordained a priest, is formation complete? No. It is never complete. As in the poem of St. Irenaeus that you can read under “What is Formation?” you will need to “Let the clay be moist lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of the Creator’s fingers.”