Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Stoking the Fire Mini-Sabbatical

2015 Stoking the Fire group photo

If you're between parish assignments, this may be the perfect time to refresh your spirit and refocus your priorities. Consider taking just four weeks to relax and recharge your spiritual life.

The Stoking the Fire mini-sabbatical offers a quiet place and a focused program to prepare you for the next challenges of ministry. Join fellow priests in this unique sabbatical experience on the Saint Meinrad campus from July 6 - August 1, 2015.

You'll enjoy a balanced mix of activities, recreation, reflection and relaxation, with programs devoted to your physical as well as spiritual health.

The Reality for Many Priests After Years of Ministry

The Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests (1994) notes the following 

"[Priests] need encouragement, genuine appreciation, a new deepening in all aspects of formation with the purpose of examining their actions, and a re-awakening of the motivation underlying the sacred ministry.

They also need to reflect on: pastoral methods in light of essentials, the communion among priests of the presbyterate, friendship with the Bishop, surmounting any sense of exhaustion, frustration and solitude and, finally, rediscovering the font of priestly spirituality" (no. 94).

Designed for Priests at Mid-Life or Later, or in Transition

The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Diocesan Priests (USCCB, 2001) addresses four areas that impact a priest at mid-life or beyond:

  1. Physical: Body changes make it clear that [priests] are no longer young. Such a realization can strike with great force. It is a time when illness or disability can readily become part of life's journey.
  2. Psychological: A sense of limitation and mortality, if not denied but faced directly and honestly, will inevitably lead to certain psychological processes. For example, one grieves the loss of what could have been and even what was. One re-evaluates personal commitments and investments and strives for greater authenticity. Finally, disconnections triggered by the aging process resurface concerns about intimacy and connection.
  3. Ministerial and Pastoral: At midlife priests stand in a distinct ministerial situation. They may come to recognize what they have left undone and what may, for the rest of their lives, be "undoable." In effect, as they come to terms with the limits of their lives, they also do so with the limits of their ministry.
  4. Spiritual: Issues raised by the season of midlife resonate with faith concerns: limitation and mortality with the promise of eternal life, grief with detachment, authenticity with surrender and commitment. Midlife for priests is also a season of epiphany. If one has remained on the course of an intentional spiritual journey, one stops and takes stock of what has been. Inevitably, the workings of grace become manifest.

The Setting

Located among the peaceful rolling hills of southern Indiana, Saint Meinrad Archabbey is a community of Benedictine monks that has remained faithful to its commitment to daily Mass and prayer since its founding in 1854. The seminary has been educating men for priesthood nearly as long. View a slideshow of our facilities.

Our Design

"Stoking the Fire" begins with an introspective look at the sabbaticants' personality makeup and continues throughout the four weeks in an intentional, integrated format:

  • (Re)discovery of preferences for thinking and acting (Myers-Briggs Type Index)
  • Intensive journaling to retrace struggles, blessings and motivations throughout life and ministry
  • Availability of counselors and spiritual directors
  • Health screening and meeting with health professional to review results. Food and exercise choices discussed.
  • Priestly leadership
  • The priest within the context of his presbyterate or religious community
  • Creation of a personal growth plan moving forward from the mini-sabbatical
  • Facilitated conversations on the life and ministry of priests
  • Weekend outings to nearby destinations of historical note
  • Closing liturgy and celebration tangibly mark the transition back into ministry

Amenities and Activities

  • Private room and bath facilities
  • Wi-Fi Internet access
  • Workout facilities
  • Library and video borrowing privileges
  • Satellite TV and DVD player 
  • Nearby sports and leisure activities 
  • Opportunities for communal prayer with monastic community 
  • Daily Mass, reflection and prayer with fellow priests
  • Counselors, confessors, spiritual directors
  • Local outings and dining

Schedule: July 6 - August 1, 2015

Week 1: July 6-11, 2015 - Understanding Self and Each Other

  • Forming a prayerful community among participants transcending culture and personality
  • (Re)discovering personality, listening to each other, tracing life stories
  • Dialoguing with God through Scripture in theological reflection 

Week 2: July 12-18, 2015 - Growing Toward a More Holistic Health

  • Attending to one's physical health:
    - Blood panel results and personal consultation
    - Implications of our diet choices
    - Managing stress and nurturing healthy relationships
    - Creating achievable commitments to greater wellness in light of one's personality type and life history
  • Weekend outing: Historic French Lick and West Baden, Indiana

Week 3: July 19-25, 2015 - Deepening Priestly Identity

  • Reflecting on the call to simplicity and servant leadership
  • Promoting the dignity of the royal priesthood of the baptized
  • Enriching the understanding of a priest in relation to his bishop/superior
  • Weekend outing: Historic New Harmony, Indiana

Week 4: July 26-August 1, 2015 - Transitioning Back into Ministry

  • Formulating a personal mission statement and growth plan:
    - in light of past and present priestly experience
    - with new insights into dimension of priestly life
    - in response to current and future ministry assignments


  • The application deadline for the 2015 sabbatical has passed. Join us in 2016 from July 10 - August 5.

2015 Dates

  • July 6 - August 1, 2015

2015 Costs 

  • $4,150 covers room, board and program fees. 
  • Financial aid is available.
  • A blood draw is conducted by Saint Meinrad's Health Service department. Fees associated with the blood panel tests will be submitted to the sabbaticant's insurance. Sabbaticants are responsible for any insurance co-payments associated with the blood laboratory work.
  • Optional airport transfers ($50 round-trip) are not included in the price of the sabbatical.
  • Overnight accommodations and meals prior to July 6 and after August 1, if available, are additional to the cost of the sabbatical. Call to check for availability.
  • $50 refundable application fee required with application. If accepted into the sabbatical program, the fee will be applied to the final balance.
  • $250 nonrefundable deposit due upon acceptance into the sabbatical program.
  • For financial aid applicants awarded the Patricia Kirchdorfer Missionary Scholarship, a  $500 deposit is due upon acceptance into the sabbatical program. The deposit will be fully refunded at the beginning of the sabbatical upon the applicant's arrival. 

The Institute for Priests and Presbyterates is able to offer workshops and programs at a lower cost due to the generosity of many benefactors. The actual cost per participant for the Stoking the Fire mini-sabbatical is considerably higher than the amount charged. Limited financial aid is available for those needing assistance.

The Patricia Kirchdorfer Missionary Scholarship Fund

This scholarship fund is established by the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates' founding director, Rev. J. Ronald Knott, in honor of his friend Patricia Kirchdorfer. The fund is designated primarily for U.S. priests working in foreign missions to more easily afford attendance at the Institute's Stoking the Fire mini-sabbatical. Secondarily, the scholarship fund is intended to assist international priests serving in U.S. mission dioceses (as defined by Catholic Extension).

The $4,150 cost of the Stoking the Fire mini-sabbatical will be fully covered for the successful applicants to the Patricia Kirchdorfer Scholarship Fund. Two Kirchdorfer scholarships will be awarded for 2015. Scholarship recipients are financially responsible for their travel costs to Saint Meinrad, airport transfers (if requested), any health insurance co-payments associated with the blood draws, and any room and board fees prior to July 6 and/or after August 1 (if applicable).

A $500 refundable deposit is required to secure registration for the applicants awarded the Patricia Kirchdorfer Missionary Scholarship. This deposit will be fully refunded upon arrival at the mini-sabbatical.

Applicants who do not meet the Kirchdorfer Scholarship criteria or who are not selected to receive the Kirchdorfer Scholarship are still eligible to apply for other financial aid funds.

Comments from previous Stoking the Fire sabbaticants:

  • Saint Meinrad is more than an institution; it is a home for me. Here I felt welcomed and cared for. The hospitality of Saint Meinrad is praiseworthy. There is a joy and smile on the face of every staff serving the institution.
  • Four incredible weeks. One of the best experiences of my life. Thanks to all. It has really changed me.

On human formation:

  • I discovered the essential need to remain physically healthy. There was enough time for rest and relaxation. I also found the session on simplicity helpful. I see the need for decluttering.

  • I enjoyed spending time with other sabbaticants - getting to know each other, appreciating the different personalities, expanding my horizons.

On spiritual formation:

  • I was able to reflect on my spiritual journey. The various theological reflections were helpful. The personal growth plan facilitator made me think and reflect more on my spiritual growth. Meeting with the spiritual director was also very good.
  • The depth of the sabbatical facilitator's spirituality and leadership; the presence of a Benedictine monk in the group; the opportunities to pray daily and celebrate Mass with the monks - these were all tremendous.

On intellectual formation:

  • It provided an opportunity to read more and learn. I also learned by listening to others' stories and through the various conferences.
  • It triggered my intellectual appetite. Remaining active is so important in intellectual formation.  

On pastoral formation:

  • It opened up more ways of ministering. It showed us the need to empower others. It made me realize that I have to listen more.
  • I understand more the need for effective pastors in communion with their presbyterate and in relationships with people in listening and adapting to situations.