"Spiritual formation is directed at nourishing and sustaining communion with God and with our brothers and sisters, in the friendship of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and with an attitude of docility to the Holy Spirit." (The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, 101)
While in formation, the seminarian seeks to develop habits and behaviour that reflect the Church's expectations of her ministers. The structures of prayer and discipline provided at St. Charles are not only meant to foster the seminarian's friendship with Christ but also to assist him in his own efforts of 'self-formation' for priestly ministry. The daily communal celebration of the Eucharist, daily celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours in community and in private, Eucharistic Adoration and Daily Meditation, Retreats, Recollection Days and Spiritual Intensives and the seminarian's personal devotions stand at the heart of the life here. Each seminarian also chooses a Spiritual Director from a list of priests approved by the Archbishop, to accompany him on his journey and to assist him in his growth in holiness and discernment of God's will.
"Human formation, being the foundation of all priestly formation, promotes the integral growth of the person and allows the integration of all its dimensions." (The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, 94)
The formation programme at St. Charles is designed to help the seminarian become a man of sound and authentic character, able to commit himself to the Church and a life of ministry. It is here that he, with the help of his formators, equips himself with the necessary qualities and virtues for a life of celibate chastity, simplicity and obedience. Seminarians especially benefit from consultation with Prof. Martin Philpott throughout their time here. First Year Seminarians undertake a one-year course on Human Formation with Prof. Philpott, and then a series of workshops in successive years. In particular, each year they attend a series of workshops run by the WA Professional Standards Office and the Archdiocese of Perth's Safeguarding Project. A sense of healthy recreation in the seminarian both individually and in community, a spirit of fraternal solidarity and charity, authentic and lifelong friendships, and a spirit of self-sacrifice are all crucial to human formation and values that the seminary seeks to foster among the seminarians.
"Intellectual formation is aimed at achieving for seminarians a solid competence in philosophy and theology, along with a more general educational preparation, enough to allow them to proclaim the Gospel message to the people of our own day in a way that is credible and can be understood." (The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, 116)
While the first semester at St. Charles is generally one of introductory units taught in-house, the seminarian begins to undergo a more rigorous and demanding intellectual formation at the University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, in his second semester. Each seminarian will have obtained, by the end of his time here, a Bachelor's Degree in Theology with a Philosophy Major from the University. The seminary, however, also has its own visiting lecturers for courses run in-house from time to time. It is the aim of the seminary to foster educational excellence and provide to the Church in Western Australia men truly competent in the intellectual aspects of the Christian faith.
"Priestly formation must be permeated by a pastoral spirit. It will make them able to demonstrate that same compassion, generosity, love for all, especially for the poor, and zeal for the Kingdom that characterised the public ministry of the Son of God." (The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, 119)
As required of any Catholic seminary, the whole of the formation at St. Charles ultimately has a pastoral character - everything is oriented towards priestly ministry. On a more practical level, the seminary community regularly makes weekend visits to parishes in the Archdiocese to deepen in the seminarians their awareness of the pastoral settings in which they are called to live and minister. Pastoral assignments are made by the Rector for the development of the seminarian's skills for ministry. By welcoming guests and visitors periodically, the seminary develops in the seminarians the values of hospitality and community-building.