A seminarian prays vespers in the Blessed Sacrament chapel of Anselm Hall at Mount Angel Seminary.

Propaedeutic Stage

The propaedeutic stage of formation at Mount Angel Seminary began in the summer of 2023. This initial stage of seminary formation starts before the rest of the seminary community returns for the fall semester. It provides new seminarians – at whatever age and from whatever background – with the groundwork they need to engage fully in the following stages of priestly formation: discipleship, configuration, and vocational synthesis. The propaedeutic stage is a year dedicated to laying the foundation for a new way of life by developing a life of prayer, study, fraternity, and human and spiritual formation. In keeping with Mount Angel’s proven experience in priestly formation, the propaedeutic stage is centered on the Eucharist and communion. The men are accompanied by a dedicated team and enriched by the Seminary and Hilltop communities. The prayers and rich ways of the Benedictine monastic community of Mount Angel Abbey enhance and support the seminarians’ formational experience.

Our Team

Fr. Michael Niemczak, STL

Coordinator of Propaedeutic Stage

Fr. William Dillard, DMin

Director of Spiritual Formation

Katie Jo LaRiviere, PhD

Associate Dean for Propaedeutic Stage

Structure of the Propaedeutic Stage

The propaedeutic stage at Mount Angel Seminary is based on the principle of gradualism and unfolds in four movements during a 12-month period, designed to lay the foundation for a new way of life. While in the program, the seminarians live together as their own cohort on a floor in the Anselm residence hall. They follow their horarium as a cohort, including daily Mass and Liturgy of the Hours, a daily holy hour, study time, and meals together. This enables them to build a robust and focused community while still benefitting from the opportunities and interactions of the broader seminary community.

Summer (July-August)

  • The men have the Mount Angel Hilltop campus to themselves for the first two months of the propaedeutic stage, allowing for bonding as a distinct cohort, developing its own personality without the pressure of comparison to seminarians in later stages of formation.
  • A highly structured horarium, with an emphasis on group activities and staying on the Hilltop, allows the place to become home.
    • Weekly outings and formational experiences in the surrounding area promote fraternal bonding and a break from the ordinary daily routine.
    • Participation in the Saint Benedict Festival and the Abbey Bach Festival with Mount Angel’s monastic community is an important way to become familiar with the broader Hilltop community.
  • The initial summer period of the propaedeutic stage has the lightest academic load the men will have in seminary, with a deliberate focus on growth in prayer and spirituality.

Fall Term (August-December)

  • With the arrival of the rest of the seminarians, the propaedeutic cohort learns to be a distinct community within a community.
    • While most liturgies are within the propaedeutic house, the men join with the seminary community in St. Joseph chapel and with the monastic community and guests in the main Abbey church for some liturgies each week.
    • The men are encouraged to build bonds with their diocesan brothers at Mount Angel, but still spend most of their time with their own cohort.
  • The horarium in the fall semester has more flexibility than in the summer, with a few events occurring in small groups or at the men’s individual discretion.
  • There is a slightly heavier academic load in the fall semester, but the focus remains on spiritual and human formation.

Spring Term (January-May)

  • The focus of the spring phase is to move the seminarians from an external to an internal locus of control, accompanying them as they internalize the horarium and begin to integrate into the broader seminary community.
    • The propaedeutic house remains distinct, but with a view toward transition into the successive stages of seminary formation.
  • Much of the horarium remains fixed, but each seminarian is accompanied in building a personal horarium, to which he will be held accountable by his formation director.
  • This semester has the heaviest academic load of the propaedeutic stage, but is still lighter than in any other stage.

Summer (May-June)

In the final summer (May-June) portion of the propaedeutic stage, the men return to their home diocese and have a two-month guided pastoral experience.

Dimensions of Seminary Formation

Propaedeutic Stage

Members of the propaedeutic stage of formation at Mount Angel.


Self-knowledge and awareness are key themes in the area of human formation during the propaedeutic stage. Before he begins the discipleship stage, it is important that the seminarian, with the help of formators, be able to reflect upon his personal history, relational skills, self-discipline, and healthy habits of self-care (PPF6 191).
Prayer and spirituality are a focus of the propaedeutic stage of seminary formation.


Those elements in the spiritual dimension to be achieved prior to beginning the discipleship stage include growth in prayer and the spiritual life, growth in an understanding of the celibate life, growth in the understanding of the priestly vocation, the ability to articulate a relationship with Jesus Christ, and growth in reading and meditating on Sacred Scripture (PPF6 235).
Professor Katie Jo LaRiviere teaches a class at Mount Angel Seminary.


The propaedeutic stage is “an ideal opportunity to acquire an initial and overall familiarity with Christian doctrine by studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” Teaching new seminarians the basics of priestly identity and spirituality is also a chief aim of the intellectual formation of this stage. (PPF6 268).
Learning to be prayerful pastors with the heart of Christ begins in the earliest stages of seminary formation.


Seminarians in the propaedeutic stage should develop “the dynamic of self-giving through experiences in the parish setting and charitable works.” Hands-on experiences that include contact with the poor are appropriate at this stage. Benchmarks in the pastoral dimension include an awareness of the pastoral situation of the local community, as well as an awareness of the multicultural reality of the Church in the United States and the nature of the Universal Church (PPF6 373).

Monks and diocesan seminarians share classes and prayer regularly at Mount Angel.


What bishops and vocation directors are saying . . .

When the sixth edition of the PPF was published, I was very encouraged by its emphasis on the importance of the propaedeutic year. Now that I have seen first-hand how Mount Angel Seminary has put this year into practice, I am even more convinced that this critical year places our seminarians on firm footing for their formative years. Monsignor Betschart and his staff have grasped the essence of what the propaedeutic year is all about and it shows in the men who are about to go into the discipleship stage of their formation. I cannot recommend Mount Angel Seminary highly enough for offering our seminarians this excellent beginning as they follow Christ’s call to the priesthood.

Archbishop John Wester
Archdiocese of Santa Fe

I am happy to endorse the outstanding formation that Mount Angel provides to our seminarians from the Archdiocese of Las Vegas. The propaedeutic year has provided a solid foundation for our students as they prepare to enter their theological, human, pastoral, and spiritual formation at Mount Angel Seminary. For over three decades I have chosen to send students to Mount Angel Seminary because it is a gold standard for seminarian formation in the United States. These years of experience have demonstrated to me that Mount Angel merits the support of Bishops, Vocation Directors, benefactors and friends alike.

Archbishop George Leo Thomas
Archbishop of Las Vegas

Mount Angel Seminary is a blessing and treasure to the Church! It provided me with a rich education and robust formation. I was so grateful that we were able to send Jeremy to Mount Angel for his Propaedeutic Stage. A diocese the size of Great Falls-Billings simply does not have the resources or ability to have our own local Propaedeutic house. Our student is a bit older than the average candidate, but he has fit into the program well and has been blessed by his experience. The formation and spirituality has made a great difference in his preparation and journey toward priesthood. I am grateful to Mount Angel Seminary, the monastic Community for all that they do.

Bishop Jeffrey Fleming
Diocese of Great Falls – Billings

To enjoy the presence of such an excellent seminary in this Region has been a blessing. The quality of formation gives our men there the right balance of all the necessary components to form excellent priests. While the implementation of the Program for Priestly Formation, Sixth Edition, has posed remarkable challenges, the staff and administrators at Mount Angel Seminary developed visionary plans with decisiveness and – I would judge – success. I know that our Diocese looks forward to a continuing partnership with Mount Angel. I highly recommend their academic, pastoral, human and spiritual components of formation, and I appreciate the care they take in communicating with us who send them our men who have been gifted with a call to serve God as priests in eastern Montana.

Rev. Jay H. Peterson
Director of Seminarian Formation
Diocese of Great Falls-Billings

The propaedeutic program at Mount Angel Seminary is an immersion experience for young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood. They are invited to immerse themselves with Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan and begin a lifelong journey of discipleship with the Lord. By learning to be in the company of Christ, they may come to hear with an open heart the will of the Father for them.

Bishop Jaime Soto
Diocese of Sacramento

I just wanted to share a quick note and let you know that Mount Angel has established an outstanding curriculum with this past year’s Propaedeutic Program that one of our seminarians participated in this past year. The Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau and Archbishop Andrew Bellisario has been very pleased with how well the staff has managed the program. The spiritual formation that our seminarian has received has been outstanding and we look forward to sending more vocations to Mount Angel Seminary.”

Fr. Mike Galbraith
Director of Seminarians
Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau

The propaedeutic stage has produced a level of fraternity amongst the men that I have never seen in the seminary. This fraternal support, coupled with preparation through communal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, mandatory study-hall, and intentional mealtimes with the men in the propaedeutic stage, build a solid foundation for the seminarians to build upon during the rest of their years in formation. I would have benefited from this program if it were available when I was in formation.

Fr. Peter Julia
Director of Vocations
Archdiocese of Portland