Optatam Totius 5 begins by stating that good people and good leadership are even more important than “wise laws”:
Since the training of students depends both on wise laws and, most of all, on qualified educators, the administrators and teachers of seminaries are to be selected from the best men, and are to be carefully prepared in sound doctrine, suitable pastoral experience and special spiritual and pedagogical training. Institutes, therefore, should be set up to attain this end. Or at least courses are to be arranged with a proper program, and the meetings of seminary directors are to take place at specified times.
Forming those who form–a good start. Several years back, I knew a pastor who was assigned to teach at a seminary for a year. The guy had some problems, and it was seen as more of a cooling off period rather than an assignment with a particular intent to impart pastoral wisdom from soneone working in the trenches. I think there would be some wisdom in assigning the best of a diocese’s pastors to teach at a seminary for a semester or two.
Administrators, however, and teachers must be keenly aware of how much the success of the students’ formation depends on their manner of thinking and acting.
Teaching by personal example. I’d argue that assigning seminarians to parishes for at least two years might be a productive way of getting them formed in the full array of what lies ahead of them in parishes.
Under the rector’s leadership they are to form a very closely knit community both in spirit and in activity and they are to constitute among themselves and with the students that kind of family that will answer to the Lord’s prayer “That they be one” (cf. John 17:11) and that will develop in the students a deep joy in their own vocation.
It’s hard to argue against this ideal, but for many priests, the closely knit community is never lived as profoundly or as keenly as during seminary. This is a good experience, to be sure, but does it reflect what lies ahead in the parish?
The bishop, on the other hand, should, with a constant and loving solicitude, encourage those who labor in the seminary and prove himself a true father in Christ to the students themselves. Finally, all priests are to look on the seminary as the heart of the diocese and are to offer willingly their own helpful service.