For new applicants three weekend retreats take place between September and November. During these weekends, applicants are joined by the Priests for Scotland director and other vocations directors. The weekends focus on applicants getting to know each other in an informal environment. As the time in Scotland is one for getting to know each other, the informal sessions take time to talk about the life experiences of the applicants both in and out of the Catholic Church. The weekends also feature talks from the priests which could vary about working in a parish to prayer life and methods of discernment. The second weekend also includes a formal interview with a panel which forms part of the process of application.
The weekends are also an opportunity to introduce the applicants to morning and evening prayer as well as coming together for the celebration of Mass.
These weekends go between retreat centres in Scotland, including Dundee and Edinburgh.
In the New Year the process moves to Spain and the Royal Scots College in the historic Spanish city of Salamanca. The 6 month period provides applicants with an introduction to living in the community setting of seminary. This includes set times to pray the Divine Office of the Church, celebrating Mass and eating meals together.
The life of a seminarian is also an intellectual one, with a time of study filling the timetable of the college. All the classes are held in the college, with the exception of a course in Spanish at the Pontifical University in the city. Subjects covered include, Spirituality, an Introduction to Scripture, Church History, Evangelisation and Catholic Social Teaching. Course also include more practical elements like human formation and public speaking. These courses area presented by a group of priests, religious or specialised teachers who will visit the college for the duration of their courses.
The timetable during the formal part of the program includes:
0800 Morning Prayer followed by Breakfast
2010 Evening Prayer
2130 Night Prayer
During the weekends, Saturday would be a free day with the chance to explore the city or relax. Sunday follows a more formal timetable.
1000 Morning Prayer
1130 Mass in the local parish church
1900 Evening Prayer
David Topping was one of the first students to complete this form of application process and he reflects on the time as “…one of the best of my life…” Now in his first year of studies at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome (2017) David adds that the process really helped prepare him for entering the seminary in Rome and gave him a great opportunity to see and explore the remarkable history of a beautiful part of Spain.