Updated: Sep 20, 2021
The crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic caused great fear and anxiety to the entire world. It disrupted many aspects of our lives, from our health concerns, economic issues, and educational systems. The “New Normal”, which is not exactly normal, has given us new challenges especially in the Seminary Formation. These challenges brought us to make extraordinary measures and adjustments in the way that we program the formation of seminarians. The task is for us to take the necessary precautions and provisions provided by the Department of Health and the Department of Education during this time of the pandemic without compromising the vision and mission of the Oblates of St. Joseph Minor Seminary.
The Seminary is a formation center for young men aspiring to the Religious Life and the Priesthood. Its aim is to holistically form these seminarians in all aspects of their Human and Christian Formation. Education is necessary but it is only a parcel of its concerns. The restrictions of the pandemic make seminary formation unconventional because a huge part of it lies in living within a community, that is, being together in one place and interacting with one another in a schedule of activities. However, the safety and health of our seminarians are on top of our priorities. In line with this, the Formators of the OSJ Minor Seminary propose this contingency plan for the Formation Year 2020-2021 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Provide guidelines for the Formation of the OSJ Minor Seminarians at their homes.
2. Formulate the Academic System for E-learning or Online classes.
I. Seminary Formation at Home Program
(Parents/ Guardians as Co-Formators and Value of Self-Discipline)
A. Seminarians will stay at the safety of their homes for the time being.
· Unless a vaccine for COVID is developed and made available for everyone, we do not recommend seminarians to return to the usual seminary formation inside the seminary. To ensure the safety of everyone, the seminarians will have to stay at their homes
· With the help of their parents who will act as formators, the seminarians are expected to continue to practice the essential elements of seminary formation such as following the prescribed schedule of the seminary and the discipline that is expected of them.
· The role of the parents as co-formators will be very important in this program, especially in the human and Christian formation of their sons.
· What should the parents do as co-formators?
1. They are responsible in their son/s observance of discipline expected of them as seminarians.
2. They must make it sure that their son/s continue to follow the rules and regulations stated in our seminary handbook.
3. They must also monitor their son/s observance of the schedule provided by the seminary.
4. They are also required to be in constant communication with the formators regarding updates, concerns, and other matters about formation.
5. Finally, parents will also be asked to answer an evaluation form by the end of the formation year or if the situation returns to normal.
B. Seminarians must not see this crisis as a hindrance to seminary formation but rather, it challenges them to value self-discipline.
· Seminarians are practically on their own homes where the seminary formators’ presence is not around. It is now a greater challenge for them to realize that their discipline and formation are not dependent on the presence of their formators but rather on themselves.
· They can either take this seminary formation at home seriously and accept the responsibility or see this as an opportunity to disregard the seminary rules, discipline, and schedules.
· The seminarians are expected to bring the formation that they received inside the seminary to their respective homes by following the structure and way of life they experience in the seminary.
· The seminary will strive to provide the program and materials needed for them to be guided in this formation at home set up. Formators will communicate to the seminarians about these through their parents.
· Take note that the seminarians will still be given evaluation by their parents based on how they observed the guidelines for seminary formation at home. The evaluation will serve as material for the formators to process and guide seminarians in their human and Christian formation.
· What should the seminarians do in their seminary formation at home?
1. They will be given a structured daily schedule that they are expected to religiously observe with the guidance of their parents.
2. They must perform the activities prescribed by the program of formation especially spiritual and academic activities.
3. They will also be required to submit results or proofs of completion of certain tasks or activities.
4. They need to undergo individual dialogue and peer conference with their guidance counselor, prefect of discipline, and spiritual director. This will be possibly done online or via video call.
5. They will also be required to have a daily reflection notebook which will be checked by their parents. This can be a matter for discussion during the dialogue between the parents and the formators.
Seminary Formation at Home Program Matrix
1. Holy Eucharist
The Eucharist is the center and heart of our Christian Formation. In order to cultivate their devotion to the Holy Mass, seminarians must participate in the daily celebration of the Mass via live streaming in the seminary Facebook page.
OSJMS Formators will share the live stream celebration of the Eucharist during the scheduled time.
Parents and family members are also encourage to attend the celebration of the Eucharist.
Seminarians must follow the guidelines on attending online masses such as preparing a simple altar where they may place their gadget which will be used for viewing the celebration. They must also observe proper reverence and active participation.
2. Communal and Personal Prayer
Prayer is our direct communication with God and the soul of our vocation. The seminarians must pray the prescribed prayers noted in the schedule. The Liturgy of the Hours, as the official prayer of the Church, will be prayed as a community. Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Joseph Marello, and St. Stanislaus Kostka are also needed for seminarians to grow in their spiritual life.
OSJMS Formators will have a live stream of the liturgy of the hours on our Facebook page according to the schedule. This also serves as a guide for seminarians who are not yet well familiar in using the breviary.
Parents and family members are also invited to join in the communal prayer. They are recommended to pray the rosary and novenas together as a family.
Seminarians must simultaneously join in prayer using their breviary at home. Other prayers such as the rosary and novenas must be prayed personally or together with the whole family.
3. Meditation/ Examination of Conscience/ Spiritual Journal and Reflection Writing
Meditation allows the seminarians to become closer to God by having a personal dialogue with Him. They must allot time everyday to meditate, have their examination of conscience and write their personal reflection about the Sunday Gospel.
Seminarians must submit on their Google Classroom for Formation a personal reflection on the Gospel of the previous Sunday. Parents must be able to check also if their son/s are faithful in making their reflections.
Seminarians must set time for meditation and reflection writing. The suggested format is one page reflection typewritten and attached to the Classwork Tab of their Google Classroom. They are greatly encouraged to share personal experiences and also to write their reflections using the English language.
4. Sacrament of Reconciliation/ Confession
It is very important for seminarians to see the Mercy and Compassion of God in their lives. The Sacrament of Reconciliation allows the seminarian to grow mature spiritually and to repent from their sins.
The Spiritual Director and Confessor who are not capable of meeting the seminarians personally may ask the seminarians to find the nearest possible priest and ask them for the possibility of receiving the sacrament at home.
Seminarians are asked to be honest and faithful to this activity with their Spiritual Director and Confessor during their personal dialogue.
5. Holy Hour for Vocations
The Holy Hour is our devotion to the Body of Christ outside of the Holy Mass. This is for the intention of asking God for more vocations to the religious life and the priesthood and we also pray for the pandemic to end.
The OSJMS Formators will have a live stream at our Facebook page on the scheduled time for Holy Hour.
Seminarians are required to privately join in prayer during the Holy Hour. The protocol for online celebration of the Mass shall be applied.
6. Individual Spiritual Direction and Guidance Counselling
Spiritual Direction is the dialogue between the seminarian and the Spiritual Director regarding matters in the formation of their spiritual life. Guidance Counselling, on the other hand, is the dialogue between the Guidance Counsellor and the seminarian about the issues needed to be addressed in the psychological, emotional, physical, and even intellectual aspects of their lives.
The Spiritual Director and the Guidance Counsellor shall provide a scheduled encounter with the individual seminarians at least twice the entire F.Y. or as necessary. This shall be done through video call or chat messenger.
The parents must remind their children on the communication to them by these two offices.
The seminarians must submit themselves to this activity with honesty and trust with their Spiritual Director and Guidance Counsellor.
7. Online Monthly Recollection
Every month, the seminarians are given the chance to have a recollection that serves as a supplement in their spiritual formation. Different topics about spirituality and vocation will be shared by speakers to the seminarians.
The OSJMS Formators will provide the topics and ask speakers, either from the Formators or other confreres, to share their thoughts and reflections through online live conference or a recorded video.
The seminarians are required to be present during this recollection using their gadgets to view them. They shall also be asked to write a reflection about the topic shared in the online conference.
1. Class Encounter/ Sharing
We cannot deny the fact that one of the anxiety that seminarians may be facing in this crisis is the longing for their peers and the feeling of being alone. The class encounter will serve as a sort of “kamustahan” and sharing of experiences.
The elected class representative of each class will be the one responsible for facilitating the activity which will be done online.
The OSJMS Formators will be monitoring the class encounter and may also share some insights or words of advice to the class.
Seminarians have to realize that they are not alone and we are all in this situation. They must make themselves present in this activity. Absence without necessary or acceptable reason will be subject for evaluation.
2. Individual Colloquium/ Dialogue
The seminarians’ formation is a personal journey that needs a lot of guidance so as not to be at lost. They are expected to be open to their formators about their personal concerns and on the other hand, the formators must be able to process and understand their situations.
The Prefect of Discipline is responsible for making a schedule for individual colloquium at least twice for the entire F.Y.
The Guidance Counsellor shall also do the same and may disclose matters that require the formators’ decisions and actions.
Seminarians must make themselves available on the date and time of their scheduled colloquium. They must be open and honest in order for them to receive the necessary help in their formation as a seminarian.
3. Family/ Parents Encounter
Parents are not exempted from the anxiety that the situation we have are causing to our lives. It is also important for the formators to listen to the parents of our seminarians.
The OSJMS Formators will make themselves available for online dialogue with the parents regarding the formation of their sons at home and other concerns.
The parents need to make a reservation for the online encounter which is also based on the availability of the formators. It will be a first-come-first-serve reservation.
1. House Cleaning
The Congregation of the Oblates of St. Joseph values hardwork and manual labor by the example of our Patron, St. Joseph. Seminarians have the schedule for house chores and their assignments will be directed to the parents by the formators.
The Prefect of Discipline will give the parents the areas of assignment for the house cleaning every week.
The parents are tasked to check and evaluate whether or not the seminarians properly cleaned the area of responsibility.
Seminarians must do the house chores as scheduled. However, this does not mean that outside of the scheduled time, they will not be having the initiative to clean or arrange things around their house.
2. Sports and Recreation
Part of taking care of our health is through sports and recreation, as well as proper exercise and relaxation. During this time that contact sports are prohibited and they are not allowed to play outside, the seminarians are encouraged to engage in other available activities with their family members. Examples: Zumba/ Dance/ Aerobics/ Indoor Games.
They are not prohibited from computer or e-games but these must be under the guidance of their parents.
The parents will also have to monitor the recreational activities of their son/s. They must also remind them of the time and schedule for playing.
Seminarians must understand the purpose of recreation and relaxation. They also have to realize that there are things that must be prioritized aside from playing.
Daily Schedule for Seminarians’ Formation at Home
Rising/ Showers/ Personalia 5:30 am - 6:00 am
Online Lauds and Holy Mass (Everyday) 6:00 am - 7:00 am
Online Lauds and St. Joseph Rosary (Wednesday) 6:00 am - 7:00 am
Breakfast 7:00 am - 7:30 am
Online Class 7:45 am - 10:00 am
Break/ Merienda 10:00 am - 10:15 am
Online Class/ Performance Task/ Activities 10:15 am - 11:45 am
Angelus/ Lunch 11:45 am - 1:00 pm
Online Class/ Performance Task/ Activities 1:00 pm - 3:45 pm
Break/ Merienda 3:45 pm - 4:00 pm
Grades 7, 9, 11 (Monday and Wednesday - Household Chores / Tuesday and Thursday - Sports and Recreation) 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Grades 8, 10, 12 (Tuesday and Thursday – Household Chores / Monday and Wednesday – Sports and Recreation) 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Friday will be freetime for everyone. 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Showers/ Personalia 5:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Online Vespers (Everyday) 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Rosary (Monday and Thursday) 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Novena to St. Joseph Marello (Tuesday) 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Novena to St. Joseph and Holy Eucharist (Wednesday) 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Holy Hour Online (First Thursday) 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Dinner 7:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Compline/ Night Prayers (Personal and Not Online) 7:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Strict Study Period 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Lights off 9:30 pm
Saturdays and Sundays will be spent as time for bonding with the family. During these days also, scheduled activities regarding human and spiritual formation will be held such as dialogue with the Prefect of Discipline/ Spiritual Director/ Guidance Counsellor. Prayers and the Holy Eucharist are not postponed on Saturdays and Sundays rather it is greatly encouraged that the entire family prays and attends the mass together.
1. Formation at home relies on the responsibility of the parents as co-formators. They must realize they are hand-in-hand with the seminary in the growth and development of their son/s formation. Covering up of their son/s failure to comply with the schedule and requirements will not help but rather block the development of their son/s formation. (Challenge: Will this be only considered as a burden for the parents?)
2. The parents must understand that it is their responsibility as well to provide the needs of their son/s especially the things necessary to make this seminary formation at home possible such as a gadget for online communication and of course an internet connection. This also includes providing an environment suitable for the seminarians to do the prescribed activities such as a private place and atmosphere for prayer and personal dialogue. (Challenge: Will they have enough financial means to meet the requirements of the online program? Availability of gadgets and internet connection)
3. The OSJMS Formators will make as much as possible for this program to be helpful for seminarians and not a huge burden for the parents. We must understand that this is only temporary applicable until the vaccine is discovered and available and/or the cases of Covid-19 patients in the country are zero or closer to none. If that happens, the seminarians will be asked to return to the usual seminary formation. (Challenge: Will the Formators be able to prepare the parents for this program? The need of orientation and proper communication with the parents.)
4. The seminary formation at home will also consider changes in the list of fees that the parents have to provide for their son/s. The Board and Lodging Fee is perhaps the one that will be greatly affected by this setup. This will also be helpful for parents to have the means to provide other needs of their son/s especially for the online activities. (Challenge: Will the parents be able to understand that their son/s will receive the same quality formation and education even though they are at home? Can we give them the assurance of such?)
5. During online activities, it is important that the parents also monitor their children. Using split screen or opening other windows outside of the required activity is strictly prohibited in order to keep their focus. (Challenge: Online classes are done using gadgets such as mobile phones, computers, and tablets. Some students will find it difficult to have focus during long span of classes. Some may even come up with ways to have their online classes and at the same time do other things. Using split screen mode is one of the known ways of distraction in online classes. Will the parents be able to guide their son/s during their classes to avoid such misbehavior and lack of focus?)
II. Online Flexible Learning System
(Education Plan in Response to the Challenges of COVID-19)