Being a Seminarian

Training occurs in stages. The first stage is Accompaniment. The purpose is to clarify together, or ‘discern,’ what God might be ‘saying’ to this young man.

Stages of Training


This is the stage before moving into the seminary.

The prospective seminarian has a series of interviews with a priest near to where he is currently living. He continues at his job or studies. He does not need to come to Auckland. Accompaniment normally lasts a year. The purpose is to clarify together, or ‘discern,’ what God might be ‘saying’ to this young man. Fr Pat Brophy coordinates this accompaniment stage with several other priests around NZ.

First Stage: Marist Seminary

The new seminarian moves in to Marist Seminary. He goes to classes Mon-Fri at Te Kupenga – Catholic Theological College which is nearby. Meals, study, Mass, prayer, exercise, and socialising are all part of the seminary day and community life. It is a full time program. From this first stage he lives as a member of the religious order. Therefore he does not use his own savings. Instead he depends on the Marist community, which covers his costs. The studies at this stage, are geared towards a Bachelor of Theology with a philosophy major. He lives at Marist Seminary for 2.5 years. However, during this period, a year away at Novitiate is inserted. This comes at the end of the second year.

Second Stage: Novitiate

This stage is a spiritual year. It is held in the Philippines. There is a strong emphasis on community living. There are some classes but no exams. There are several retreats during the year. The focus is on becoming a man of God and a Marist. There is a good deal of silence, outside work and times for prayer. The students doing their novitiate come together from all over the world. They get to know each other well. English is the language used.

Third Stage: Marist Seminary

Back at Marist Seminary in Auckland, the NZ seminarian finishes his philosophy major and possibly a Bachelor of Theology. He completes his 2.5 years of studies in New Zealand.

Fourth Stage: Rome

The seminarian goes to Rome for four years to complete his theology studies and pastoral learning (i.e. the more practical skills). The Society of Mary has a seminary there for Marist students from many different countries. Family are most welcome to visit him in Rome.

Fifth Stage: Pastoral Work – New Zealand

The student returns to New Zealand and joins a working Marist community (school, youth work, parish, mission etc). He is a full-time worker putting his new skills and studies into practice. When he is ready, he takes perpetual vows and is made a deacon.

Ordination as a Priest

After about a year as a deacon, he is ordained a priest. This ends his time in training. The priestly ordination Mass normally takes place in his home parish.

Community Life

Living in a group is key to being a Marist.

It’s one of our rules.

Every Marist belongs to a team at home, at work and in prayer. This brings a certain balance and humour to his life.

The others support him and he supports them.

This lifestyle requires generosity. It means putting the Gospel into practice on a daily basis. Sometimes it is difficult, but it is well worth the effort.

Meals are social times. We also share the cleaning and maintenance of our house.

In chapel every day, we pray and sing together. We pool our finances – those we earn and our expenses.

We enjoy hospitality and celebrate often.

Balance in community life, also means that each Marist has his own space – his own room, personal time, his own friends and interests as well.


A Student Life

The seminarian is a student studying to become a priest. During the week, study is his main work. Spiritually speaking, study is his apostolate. Classes are held at Te Kupenga – Catholic Theological College. It is five minutes’ walk from Marist Seminary. Te Kupenga offers a Bachelor of Theology and a Graduate Diploma of Theology.


The programme of studies for seminarians is set down by the Vatican. It is called the Ratio Studiorum. The goal of the studies is to deepen our understanding of what we Catholics believe. In other words, to study the reasons behind our beliefs. The classes build on the community experience in the seminary – the regular prayer, meditation on the scriptures, participation in the Sacred Liturgy and service.

At the core of this understanding is a love and desire for God, and for the things of God.

More detail regarding courses is available at Te Kupenga’s website.

Contact with Professors

On the lecturing staff, Marist fathers are responsible for the following areas: systematic theology (Fr Merv Duffy sm), scripture (Fr Kevin Waldie sm), philosophy (Fr John Owens sm), human development and pastoral (Fr Tim Costello sm). There is plenty of opportunity for informal contact with the professors outside of the class time.

The final three years of study are done in Rome. The student studies for an STB degree (Sacrae Theologiae Baccalaureatus).

Liturgy & Prayer

One of the joys of seminary community life is praying together, and singing the Liturgy. Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is shaped around the three Liturgies of the Hours (first vespers, lauds and second vespers). These are sung.

Each day of the week, is marked by periods of prayer – particularly daily Mass and the Divine Office in choir. The singing is mostly unaccompanied in the tradition of Gregorian chant. The repertoire is in English, Latin and Maori.

We begin each day in quiet personal prayer together. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays there is early morning adoration of the Eucharist. Each month, there is a retreat day, and individual spiritual direction. There are many other opportunities for personal prayer and reading.

A Day in the Life

Monday – Friday

Meditation in the Chapel (Most days with Eucharistic adoration. Now and then with faith sharing.)

Morning Prayer (Divine Office) and Community Mass


9.00am- 5.30pm
We have 12 hours of lectures a week at Te Kupenga – Catholic Theological College. It is a normal university workload. The rest of the time is spent on assignments or study, keeping up with designated jobs around the house, formation meetings, liturgy preparation, keeping fit or going to the gym, sometimes praying the Rosary together, and generally keeping the house running. We also spend 3 hours a week on a pastoral assignment. Examples of pastoral assignments are: working with children who have learning difficulties, helping at a soup kitchen or drop in centre, working in a first communion or confirmation program in a parish, or at a Catholic school, etc. These are training opportunities for the student, but also a small contribution to the church’s mission.

Evening Prayer (Divine Office)


7.00 – late.
This time is given over to study, watching TV, spiritual reading, a community meeting, a Marist life meeting, and whatever else you might be interested in. There is also the chance to meet for supper at 9.30pm if you want.

On Fridays, the Mass is at midday with all students and staff at Te Kupenga – Catholic Theological College. The evening is free. It is a good time to go out.


Saturday is a free day until 6.30pm. In line with the Church’s tradition, we begin Sunday at that time with Evening Prayer.

Sunday – the Lord’s Day

This is the ‘feast day’ of each week. It’s built around the three Divine Offices which are sung (Saturday Evening, Sunday Morning and Sunday Evening). After Evening Prayer on Saturday, there is dinner and a social evening among the students. Sunday Morning Prayer is after breakfast. For Mass, we attend a local parish. We generally go to Sacred Heart in Ponsonby, St Ben’s, or to St Patrick’s Cathedral. The midday meal is festive, the afternoon free, and Evening Prayer finishes the day at 6pm.