The journey to seminary has two distinct stages. The first, the application stage, is based in Scotland; the second, the propaedeutic stage, takes place at the Royal Scots College in Salamanca, Spain.New applicants take part in three weekend retreats between September and November. During these weekends, applicants are joined by the representatives from the Priests for Scotland commission and other Vocations Directors. The weekends in Scotland introduce applicants to the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer. There is a focus on applicants getting to know each other in an informal environment. During the sessions, applicants and priests take time to talk about life experiences in and out of the Catholic Church. The visiting priests deliver talks about topics including parish life, prayer life and methods of discernment. The second weekend retreat also includes a formal interview with a panel; the interview forms part of the process of application.
The weekend retreats take place in retreat centres around Scotland, including Dundee and Edinburgh.
In the New Year, the process moves to the Royal Scots College in the historic Spanish city of Salamanca, Spain. The six-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, where all but a few of the classes are held. An exception is an introductory Spanish course, which takes place at the Pontifical University in the city. Subjects covered include Spirituality, an Introduction to Scripture, Church History, Evangelisation and Catholic Social Teaching. Courses also focus on 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
One of the first students to complete this application process, David Topping, reflected on his time in Spain as “…one of the best of my life…” David added that the process helped prepare him for life in Rome and gave him a great opportunity to see and explore the remarkable history of a beautiful part of Spain.