by Joanna Moorhead
WOMEN and laypeople have an important role to play in the training of priests, according to a document published this week which lays down guidelines for the running of English seminaries into the 2Ist centurs .
The document, A Charter for Priestly Formation, also says seminaries should increase their links with the outside world, and that student priests ought to spend at least a year working in a parish during their training.
Twenty years' consultation with bishops, priests and laypeople have led to the publication of the charter, which is seen as bringing seminary training up to date with many of the changes in society and in the church over recent decades. As well as acknowledging the role of women and laypeople, the document recognises that account must be taken of the increasingly-warm ecumenical environment, and of the multifaith nature of Britain today.
The charter lays down principles for priestly formation, which it lists as the fact that training should take place in close contact with the church community; that it should enable the priest to preach the kingdom of God and to lead the celebration of the sacraments and to lead the community; and that it should concentrate on the personal development of each priest's growth to maturity. There are currently 300 students at the seven seminaries serving England and Wales.