The Diocese of Spokane’s new program for priestly formation, Cor Christi, began this year with a group of young men from various dioceses in the West. The program was created in response to Pope Francis’ document released seven years ago calling for revision to the priestly formation process.
The document, entitled “The Gift of Priestly Formation,” reconfigured the process of priestly formation leading to the creation of a new propaedeutic phase. “Propaedeutic” is the Greek term for preparatory.
“The propaedeutic stage is to give a man a real knowledge, give him the foundation, the disposition and the means to discern God’s will,” said Rev. Daniel Barnett, rector of Cor Christi and Bishop White Seminary.
Barnett said Cor Christi, which is Latin for Heart of Christ, functions as the propaedeutic phase at and works with Bishop White Seminary.
Barnett said for the past 60 years, Bishop White Seminary was a four-year college seminary designed to help men discern if they are called to the priesthood. Now, Bishop White Seminary will be a three-year program following the Cor Christi propaedeutic year, which will be designed as preparation for discernment at Bishop White Seminary.
“The question for Cor Christi men is not am I called to be a priest, the question for Cor Christi men is, ‘is God calling me to discern celibacy, priesthood and the dioceses’ and they have a year to answer that,” Barnett said.
According to Barnett, Cor Christi men are engaging in the first year of a nine-year process to becoming a priest. In this first year, the men participate in a media fast six days a week, prayer two hours a day and Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. The men will also throughout the week work in the city with the unhoused, in the Catholic schools as teacher’s aides and with parishes.
“That’s a year in which they are not enrolled full-time in a university and so the Cor Christi men are engaged in a more intense spiritual and pastoral life,” Barnett said. “So we work on the streets, we work in the Catholic schools, there’s a lot more prayer, and there’s still study and classes but they’re taught in-house.”
Cor Christi member Josiah Dauvin said the men follow a prayer routine. In the morning, evening and night they engage in liturgical prayer. They also have three silent prayer sessions throughout the day along with a daily mass. Barnett invited the public to weekly liturgy on Sundays at 6:45 p.m. at Bishop White Seminary.
According to Barnett, one important aspect of Cor Christi is that the men during the year are not GU students. Instead, after the year, the men will have to apply for the next three years at Bishop White Seminary, where they will eventually be graduates of GU at the end of the three years of study.
The men in Cor Christi will come from a variety of dioceses including ones in Orange, Oakland, San Francisco, Reno, Portland, Baker, Boise, Seattle, Spokane and Fairbanks. The men apply to seminary through a common application and then are assigned to a program by their bishop.
Cor Christi member Matthew Wong said he had been feeling the call to join the priesthood for a while before applying to a seminary program. He was sent to Cor Christi by his bishop, a story shared by many men in the program.
“It’s really exciting to be part of this renewal in priestly formation and to be the forefront of it,” Wong said. “It’s been a really good project.”
Wong said over the past few decades discernment has become more difficult as there is more happening in today’s culture. According to Wong, Cor Christi works to help men focus on what it means to be a seminarian through blocking out cultural noise.
Another Cor Christi member, Nicholas Sund, said that he views Cor Christi as a year away from the culture and load of academics to give time for introspection.
“Ultimately you are trying to create an environment that takes away some of the pressure … and it gives you some time to just kind of live and to learn and to really go deep in your faith and your spiritual life and find out who you are,” Sund said.
Cor Christi is housed in Bishop White Seminary but it is planned to move into McGivney Hall this fall. McGivney Hall was a convent in the 1950s, where it later became a modern seminary for older men. In the 1990s, it became the ministry institute, then finally a sabbatical program for priests from the Global South. It was recently bought by Bishop White Seminary and is being renovated to house the Cor Christi program.
Barnett said Cor Christi is housed separately because the Pope’s document calls for a distinction between the new propaedeutic phase and the seminary phase. Barnett said they are still looking for donations for these renovations and that a donation link can be found on the Bishop White Seminary website.
This story was first published on March 26, 2023. It has been revised on April 13, 2023, to better reflect accuracy.