Optatam Totius 12 gives the “bishops” the choice of determining additional training beyond seminaries. Since they are identified in the plural, it may be that national conferences or regional or provincial groups would make these determinations. Here’s the text:
In order that the spiritual training rest upon a more solid basis and that the students embrace their vocation with a fully deliberate choice, it will be the prerogative of the bishops to establish a fitting period of time for a more intense introduction to the spiritual life.
Note the first listed priority is the priestly spiritual life.
It will also be their charge to determine the opportuneness of providing for a certain interruption in the studies or of establishing a suitable introduction to pastoral work, in order that they may more satisfactorily test the fitness of candidates for the priesthood.
Note that this period would “interrupt” studies to give a candidate a taste of the life of a priest. Note that this is also seen partially as a testing period. A test is valid if people who are unsuited are given the option of withdrawing to pursue the lay apostolate or religious life. I’d question how appropriate it is for transitional deacons to be assigned to parishes to the exclusion of giving seminarians a year or two of pastoral experience.
In my current parish, we’ve been assigned “summer seminarians.” Most often they’re enrolled in CPE, and rarely have been involved in parish ministry. I’d call the practice into question. It seems that after a year or two of major seminary, a candidate might be well-prepared for a full-time parish position for a year while taking a few credit hours of graduate-level theology. Maybe spread out a semester and a half to two semesters across two summers and the intervening year.
In accordance with the conditions of individual regions it will also be the bishops’ responsibility to make a decision about extending the age beyond that demanded at present by common law for the reception of sacred orders, and of deliberating whether it be opportune to rule that students, at the end of their course in theology, exercise the order of deacon for a fitting period of time before being promoted to the priesthood.
Transitional deacons, yes. What period of time would seem to be fitting? If the ministry of deacon has any meaning, I’d say a year, minimum.
What would the whole course of graduate study look like? Two years in seminary, followed by one year in a parish. Then one full year of seminary, followed by diaconate ordination. Conclude with one to two years of diaconate ministry, then ordination.
Any better ideas out there?