With the establishment of the priestly branch of Heralds of the Gospel, a sustained effort has been made to constantly improve the formation of candidates to the priesthood. This effort has given rise to houses specifically designated for the education and formation of future clerics. Functioning as full-time seminaries, a rich program dedicated to developing the human, academic, and, above all, spiritual qualities of the candidates is undertaken with the unique characteristics of the charism proper to Heralds of the Gospel.
The first seminarians of Heralds of the Gospel benefited from the best teachers in the Archdiocese of São Paulo, who had been personally recommended by then the Archbishop, Claudio Cardinal Hummes. But, as is only natural in any religious congregation, the Heralds have gradually formed their own teaching staff in order to ensure that the seminarians would receive the best possible formation and education particularly adapted to the needs of the institution and its charism.
Preparation in the seminary, however, is not confined to a simple academic curriculum. It is essential to acquire meaningful pastoral experience and the know-how wherewith to undertake the task of evangelization to the wider community. So, besides healthy physical activity, such as, sports, doing household chores, gardening, cleaning, cooking and so forth, the seminarians will also alternate their academic studies with practical experience in the apostolate.
…and pastoral training
The holidays often offers opportunities for a more intense period of evangelizing activities for the Heralds, so the seminarians will normally be assigned to help in some pastoral activity, under the guidance and supervision of an experienced priest. During these periods, they gain experience through missions assisting the poor, especially in the favelas (slums), visiting orphanages and hospitals, carrying-out “Marian Missions”, traveling with “Mary’s Cavalry,” a sort of outreach caravan which visits rural areas, and helping to organize and to run youth programs, which entails everything from their logistics to their artistic preparation.
Rigorous selection process
The process of discernment for a vocation to the priesthood is the object of particular attention and concern for those charged with the formation and education of the seminarians. Every candidate is carefully guided by an experienced Herald, who helps to them in this process. Moreover, along each step of the way, a confidential survey regarding the aptitude for the priesthood of the candidate is conducted among the directors, formators, educators, and even some of his confrères, while spiritual directors or confessors are always excluded.
This careful process of selections means that only a part of those who enter the seminary will be called to the priesthood. However, every Herald will complete the full course comprised of three years of philosophy and four years of theology and will thus be prepared to fully engage in the apostolate even if only as a lay brother. The institute’s founder, Msgr. João S. Clá Dias, E.P., emphasizes the importance of every Herald – without exception – receiving an excellent academic preparation, especially in the sacred sciences, but in other areas as well, in order to be effective apostles. Moreover, if circumstances later change, one or another may still be called to Holy Orders.
As a general rule, candidates to the diaconate must wait for at least a year before being ordained to the priesthood so that they can acquire a solid pastoral experience. Generally only candidates who have reached thirty years of age are ordained to the priesthood. This allows the priestly vocation to be firmly rooted in the perseverance and the maturity of life in community lived in a serious and consistent manner. However there are notable exceptions.
The ordinations are, of course, moments of intense happiness especially for all of the members of the great family constituting Heralds of the Gospel, where everyone involved in nurturing, encouraging, forming, and educating the seminarians, formators, teachers, classmates and especially the families meet in an atmosphere filled with spiritual joy.