Formation Process

alt The Initial Formation program for Maryknoll priest and brother candidates includes academic requirements but also skills for pastoral ministry and maturing in one’s personal desire to reach out to others in cross-cultural mission apostolates. Undergraduate and graduate academic work is measured by required credits – for priesthood candidates to earn a Masters in Divinity at Catholic Theological Union (CTU); for brotherhood candidates to earn 24 credits in theology and to develop individual aptitudes for contributing to mission work.

Founded in 1968, the Catholic Theological Union is the largest Roman Catholic graduate school of theology and ministry in the United States. Students, seminarians and Brother candidates from 24 different congregations and religious societies receive their formal education and training for ministry and mission at this school.

Pastoral care at hospitals and homeless shelters is integrated with work in the classroom. With supervision, a candidate learns to grow in a way that will serve him for a lifetime of ongoing education. He will learn to listen, to access spiritual needs, and to offer a healing presence – towards himself first and then towards others in ministry. The personal foundation for all aspects of his formation is a constant conscious friendship with Christ which is fostered in a community of Maryknollers who live and grow in maturity together.


First Year

Upon admission into the Initial Formation program the first year candidates participate in a “spiritual” or “novitiate” year. They gain familiarity with the literature of spirituality; they participate actively in pastoral ministry; they consult regularly with a spiritual director; they join other novices in the Chicago vicinity one day a week for topics of interest; and they follow a special schedule of prayer and Maryknoll history sessions with their formation director. Each year a candidate’s progress is monitored by mentors on a Review Board who recommend him to the Superior General for the next step on his path to becoming a temporary member, and finally a permanent member, of Maryknoll.

Second Year

Graduate students begin their theology curriculum at CTU.  Undergraduates and those without prerequisite credits in philosophy will focus on the requirements needed to begin their graduate theology.  Brother candidates pursue the education that suits their interest and aptitudes for contributing to mission work. All continue to learn by community living, pastoral ministry, and reflection on topics of interest.

Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry coaching soccer to kids in Cambodia Third year

During the third year in Chicago, there is a focus on more in-depth theology at CTU in the Masters of Divinity degree program for priesthood candidates. The brotherhood candidates continue with course work suited to their development as discerned together with his formation director. A candidate may make a request to the Superior General of Maryknoll to make a temporary (one year) Oath to Maryknoll at the end of this year. A Review Board contributes its recommendations also for the Superior General to consider.

Forth & Fifth Years

Midway through the theological curriculum at CTU or other formation course work Maryknoll candidates spend two years in the Overseas Training Program (OTP). In this program they live and minister in East Africa, Cambodia, Bolivia or another site where Maryknollers are active in mission work. The program involves language learning, pastoral ministry with other priests and brothers, and a program of supervised learning.

Sixth Year

Back from overseas, and in Chicago again, candidates return to the formation community and their theological or other curriculum of studies, but with added awareness of themselves as growing persons and ministers. In this year a candidate can request to take the major steps of Permanent Oath to Maryknoll, to diaconate ordination, or to ordination to the priesthood. The Superior General looks for Review Board support in these major steps.

Seventh Year

During the seventh year, priesthood candidates complete their Masters of Divinity program at CTU and are eligible for ordination and a mission assignment.

Br. Frank Tenhoopen teaching children who have been rescued from sex trafficking in Kenya FOR BROTHER CANDIDATES

Brother candidates follow a more flexible course of education requiring a minimum of 24 credits in religion or theology but also the option of the graduate MDiv degree. The training for a brother candidate is designed to develop his interests, talents and language skills for insertion into mission apostolates. Normally a brotherhood candidate is in training for six years prior to his mission assignment.