The Tolton Teaching Parish Program is at the heart of seminarian formation at Mundelein. This innovative program immerses our seminarians in parish life throughout their time in seminary. Every seminarian (and second-year Pre-Theology students) are assigned to one of more than 80 teaching parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago and nearby dioceses. Spending their entire seminary tenure at the same parish, they are able to form true bonds with parishioners and fully invest themselves in the life of the parish. Our seminarians spend time each week at their teaching parishes—learning practical and pastoral skills from experienced mentor pastors, participating in Masses and parish events, getting to know parishioners personally, and gaining a better understanding of what it takes to shepherd a community of faith.
While the Teaching Parish Program is an essential educational experience, it is also an opportunity for our seminarians to enrich local parishes through their presence and spiritual gifts. Seminarians are frequently called upon to teach CCD and RCIA classes, lead parish Bible studies and small faith-sharing groups, and attend youth and young adult group meetings and events. By interacting with the lay community in these ways, they learn to pass on their faith—inspiring vocations in young Catholics and renewing hope in the future of the Church.
The seminarians also grow in their sense of priestly identity. This helps to ground them in selfless dedication to the local Church which they will serve one day as diocesan parish priests.
The process of priestly formation proceeds along a series of sequential stages that are designed to configure the seminarian’s life to that of Christ. This means that his identity must increasingly resemble the qualities that Jesus himself manifested to his disciples.
He must take on the heart of a shepherd, ready to compassionately lead God’s people without a domineering attitude.
He must develop a servant’s heart, willing to put the needs of others before his own and be able to offer competent assistance in a wide variety of situations and to people of disparate backgrounds.
And he must come to see himself as the spouse of Christ’s Church, able to sacrifice his own needs and desires out of love for her people.
Throughout this process, he is accompanied in multiple ways by people who are entrusted by the Church to help him grow intellectually, spiritually, pastorally, and in his ability to know himself better and to interact more effectively with others. The Teaching Parish Program is an essential element in this formation process.