This article excerpts parts of the findings of a yearlong project by three Roman Catholic seminary library directors on how information literacy fits in the framework of Church documents on formation. It was presented by Jennifer Bartholomew, Sacred Heart Seminary & School of Theology, David Kriegh, St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, and Stephen Sweeney, St. John Vianney Seminary at the ATLA 2018 conference as a panel discussion entitled “I Will Give You Shepherds”.
The team contemplated the following questions: What can the library do? How will our programs and services help to improve future ministry? How can we support students as they acquire information literacy skills and build integrative thinking practices to improve their writing as well as their preaching? How does all of this work? How do we get from a need to train priests to the complex enterprise that is theological education today?
By examining key Church documents, they were able to understand the guiding principles for seminary education and formation and infer how to apply them to policies for library resources and services. The three documents stood out in the analysis: Vatican II conciliar document Optatam Totius - “The Desired Renewal of the Whole Church” (1965), the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis - “The Gift of Priestly Formation” (2016) issued by the Congregation for the Clergy, and the fifth edition of the USCCB’s Program of Priestly Formation (1995) or PPF.
Optatam Totius contained this specific quote, “The norms of Christian education are to be religiously observed and properly complemented by the newer findings of sound psychology and pedagogy” (OT 11). Emphasizing the necessity of suitable administrators and access to information, this anticipates the rising need for information literacy and resources as well as the importance of access to those resources and the need to instruct in the proper use. It also points to the intellectual dimension of formation and provides a good lead-in to lifelong learning.
Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, or “The Gift of Priestly Vocation,” promulgated in December 2016 by the Congregation for the Clergy lays out the four dimensions of priestly formation: human, intellectual, pastoral, and spiritual. A seminary classroom, unlike a traditional university classroom, typically gives consideration to all four, not just the intellectual. In a similar way, the library also should strive to reach beyond the academic in the programs it offers. This guides various activities, such as library resource selection and policies and procedures.
Lastly, the fifth and most recent edition of the *Program of Priestly Formation*or PPF is considered a practical guidebook for many seminaries. It explicitly states, “Excellence in education at the college level demands access to a strong library with print, non-print, and electronic resources that is professionally staffed, as required by accrediting agencies” (para. 184). At St. Patrick’s, we have been exploring different ways of connecting the library with the classroom and institution. Traditionally this has taken the form of the “one-shot” instruction through a class visit to the library.
More recently, we have an embedded librarian in a Pre-Theology course, which helped the library get a better sense of the classroom culture and curriculum and at the same time offer tangible connections to library resources. Also, MA students take a required one-credit course in Theological Research to build on their Academic Writing course from Pre-Theology. Plans include to expand to the STB and MDiv students based on favorable initial feedback.
One promising development at St. Patrick’s, done in consultation with the dean, has been the formation of a Library Collections Committee. This body, which includes a faculty representative from each department, advises the library director in purchasing and single-copy weeding. It has given those involved a much greater appreciation for the library, which means allies in other initiatives, hopefully including a comprehensive information literacy program in the near future.
St. Patrick’s is committed to providing a world-class theological library to support priestly formation with access to appropriate scholarly resources. The Carl Gellert and Celia Berta Gellert Foundation Memorial Library (Gellert Memorial Library) is located on the first floor and basement of the C Wing (East). It houses approximately 150,000 bound volumes plus 5,000 volumes of bound periodicals. There is seating for 70 patrons at tables, carrels, and lounge chairs. The Gellert Memorial Library is devoted to serving seminarians, faculty, staff, and the greater community by providing access to exceptional theological resources.