The priest in charge of The Saint Paul Seminary’s new propaedeutic year is a man of many interests. But chief among them is helping guys like himself focus deeply on their humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly – in hopes of properly discerning human and spiritual growth.
His most recent work has put the “father” in Fr. John Floeder, he says.
“My work with these men and to see them, you know, have fun with me and get excited to share the growth that they’re that they’re experiencing, and to trust me with some of their challenges and frustrations and wounds, just calls forth in my own heart a real deep love for them, and a real deep care for them,” Floeder said, “and it’s helped me taste in new ways my own priesthood, my own fatherhood.”
Floeder, a Twin Cities native who was ordained in 2007, is versatile.
He spent two years in Washington, D.C. earning his licentiate in sacred theology. He spent years serving as the seminary’s dean of men and holds the title of director of human formation. He’s been to almost every NHL arena and has a hockey jersey from every venue he’s visited. He’s an avid weightlifter in what little spare time he has. He’s a huge fan of Fr. Jacques Philippe’s writings and Fred Rogers’ – better known as Mr. Rogers – insights on dealing with human emotions and relationships.
It’s a love for life and learning combined with a deep sense of the sacred that made Floeder a logical fit to helm the seminary’s inaugural propaedeutic year. The stage of “pre-seminary” formation recently instituted by the Church has required an entrepreneurial mindset; The Saint Paul Seminary is one of only a handful to institute this new stage, which will soon be required by the Vatican.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Floeder said. “I had my own fears and doubts. But what has indeed happened is the Lord has blessed these men in a rich and deep way beyond what I could have ever hoped for.
“The amount of growth has been off the charts, unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
In contrast to the rigorous theological study of major seminary, propaedeutic aspirants focus primarily on their own human and spiritual formation in the context of communal living. In addition to a daily routine of prayer and regular community service, they receive instruction from seminary professors and catechists centered on what a life of dedication to Jesus truly looks like.
The program has gained national attention from other dioceses and seminaries wishing to institute their own, Floeder said.
It’s a new and evolving endeavor. In future years, Floeder hopes to add even more “apostolic works” in the community. Any changes or tweaks will be centered on the main goal: preparing a man to bring the best version of himself into major seminary and, God willing, his priesthood.
“Becoming a priest is about growing, healing and being configured to the person of Jesus Christ,” Floeder said. “It’s about my own personal growth in the Lord. It’s about becoming who God wants me to be. And it’s from that being that then will flow my service and action as a diocesan priest.”