Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

LaBelle, Jeffrey

Second Advisor

Ellwood, Cynthia

Third Advisor

Jessup-Anger, Jody


Since 1992, Catholic seminaries have approached the education of future priests through a lens of four areas of formation: intellectual, human, pastoral, and spiritual. Although human formation is considered foundational in the formation process, it has not been effectively integrated into seminary curriculum. The language of integral personalism was introduced into the formation landscape by Pope John Paul II, but this anthropology has not sufficiently informed seminary pedagogy. There is a still a subordination of the affective sphere in seminaries, particularly in intellectual formation. Medical schools have developed a pedagogical method that inserts real emotion into the educational process. This method, called simulation, enables a student to not only test the relevant knowledge required for practice, but also to experience affectively what it is like to engage in practice. Simulation involves staging scenarios typical for the field and inserting students into those scenarios as if they were real. Unlike a simple role play, simulationgenerates emotion through phenomenal realism: the scenarios portrayed are so realistic that students suspend disbelief and act as they would in an actual encounter. The simulation method and debrief process is unique in promoting the development of affective maturity by enabling students to become aware of, accept, appreciate, and hone their ability to control the strong emotion generated by encounters with others. This qualitative study examines seminarians’ responses to the introduction of simulation into seminary formation. For this study, medical simulation scenarios were translated into pastoral care scenarios. The meaning seminarians made of these simulated encounters was recorded in free-write responses and semi-structured interviews. Data indicate that among first-year theologians, the simulation method cultivated new levels of emotional self-awareness, introduced a new kind of holistic learning grounded in reality, provided a space to work through fear and self-doubt, and enabled a surprising shift in focus from content delivery to a more fully human personal encounter. The results of this study suggest that the simulation method is unique and valuable in the development of an integrated pedagogical model at seminaries to address human formation and affective maturity within the curriculum.

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