From Trent to Today: Revisiting the Decree on Seminaries and its Impacts on Priestly Formation in our Contemporary Age

  • Clifford E. Ayegwalo, OMV
  • Francis E. Ikhianosime
Keywords: Council of Trent, Decree on Seminary Priestly Formation, Reformation


The decree establishing seminary for training future priests is the most innovative decree of the Council of Trent. With this innovation, the Church showed its bent to get internally reformed and respond to the needs of the time. The decree became necessary following Luther’s protest, mainly caused by the immoral, intellectual decadence of the priesthood in the centuries before Trent. There was a need to reform the priesthood in general and its training. This reform was predicated upon the general pastoral outline of the council of Trent reform, cura animarum, ‘care of souls’. The conciliar fathers, attentive to the Church’s previous attempt at educating priests and taking the template of a few reforming schools, decreed that every diocese should have a special institute to train young men for the priesthood. This decree, canon 18, was enacted in Trent during the 23rd session of the council. The effect of this decree on the life of the Church since its enactment is unquantifiable. The essay intends to study the issues leading to the decree, a critical review of the decree and the first reaction of the ecclesial community to this decree. There is also a brief historical analysis of how the formation of priests in the Church has changed and responded to different epochal challenges since the enactment of this canon. This essay concludes with an evaluation of the contemporary disposition of the Church to respond to the signs of time in the training of future priests.