The Pontifical North American College

About ICTE

“Come Away by Yourselves and Rest a While” (Mark 6:31)
Priestly Renewal in Rome

Permanent formation is a requirement of the priest’s own faithfulness to his ministry, to his very being. It is love for Jesus Christ and fidelity to oneself. But it is also an act of love for the People of God, at whose service the priest is placed.
(Saint John Paul II, Post Synodal Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 70)

We invite you to come to Rome and walk in the footsteps of some 3,000 priests who have attended the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College since its beginning in 1971. The Institute is an extraordinary opportunity for English-speaking priests to study, pray and become zealous disciples of the Lord in a newer and deeper way. A wonderful insight into the opportunities of the program and its lasting benefits can be viewed on our video Good Priests … Better Priests (click here).

I. Structure

The following programs will be offered in 2015–2016 (click here for “Dates“):

  1. Spring 2015 semester: a single three month sabbatical;
  2. Fall 2015 semester: three modules (Module 1 – four weeks; Module 2 – three weeks; Module 3 – four weeks). Participants may opt for one Module or a maximum of any two Modules. For full details of structure, see further details below (Section IV);
  3. Spring 2016 semester: a single three month sabbatical.

For the single three month sabbatical (Spring 2015 and Spring 2016), subject-areas covered include the following:

  • Sacred Scripture
  • Eucharist and Sacred Orders
  • Christology and Ecclesiology
  • Church History
  • Liturgy and the New Missal
  • Fundamental and Moral Theology
  • Biomedical ethics
  • Canon Law
  • Preaching
  • Church Fathers
  • Women Doctors/Mystics of the Church
  • Ecumenism
  • Culture and Unbelief

For the module offering (Fall 2015), three modules are proposed (Module 1 – four weeks; Module 2 – three weeks; Module 3 – four weeks). Priests may opt for any single module (hence, a four or three week stay) or any two modules (hence, a seven or eight week stay). In Modules 1 & 3, after a short orientation to Rome and the great opportunities offered at the Pontifical North American College, five days will be dedicated to a preached retreat for the participating priests. Each retreat will have a different focus to deepen the spiritual and prayer life of the priest. The remaining three weeks in Modules 1 & 3 and all three weeks in Module 2 will be dedicated to continuing education on a specific theme, combining classroom instruction and on site outings pertinent to the subject of each module. A very attractive feature of the program will be the opportunity for visits and dialogue with offices of the Vatican Curia and other ecclesial and international organizations based in Rome that will sharpen knowledge and skills in the areas being taught.

The following Modules will be offered in Fall 2015. Please check this website for updates on the specifics of each Module.


Tuesday, September 8 – Saturday, October 3 (5 day priest retreat and three weeks continuing education)

The objective of this module, offered by qualified and experienced Catholic art historians, is to help participants “learn” the treasures that make up the Eternal City of Rome and the Franciscan city of Assisi (named as a UNESCO world heritage site in the year 2000) by developing the ability to approach art and architecture through an intellectual, emotional and visually informed perspective. Through this perspective, participating priests will experience the pedagogical and salvific power of great art as a means to express the love of Christ as well as deep theological themes. This course demonstrates the development of art in Rome and Assisi from the pre-Christian era through modern history, showing the Church’s role in building and saving Western Culture. Experiencing the most profound and beautiful truths of the faith through a sensory experience nurtures an evangelical spirit. The mission of this course is to enable priests to come to know and appreciate art and architecture, more profoundly, not only as an invaluable part of their Catholic patrimony, but as an indispensable element of ministry: a means of transcending and transforming hearts through beauty.


Tuesday, October 6 – Saturday, October 24 (three weeks continuing education)

Every priest appreciates the importance of the homily and preaching for those entrusted to his care. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis highlights their importance in the Church’s evangelizing mission and calls for their “serious consideration” (n. 135) by all those entrusted with the task of preaching.

Drawing on long time experts in the field, this module will explore the unique and life-giving importance of preaching within the context of the New Evangelization. It will do this in three steps involving theory and practice:

  • An initial focus on the theology of preaching. What does preaching entail? How does it differ from catechesis? What elements are needed for effective preaching of the Good News in the opportunities and challenges of today’s culture??
  • An in depth consideration of tools that enhance preaching skills, most especially Sacred Scripture through the use of lectio divina and different means to deepen knowledge of the Bible. Other indispensable resources will also be considered, including the Church Fathers, Saints, the writings and texts of the Popes, homiletic aids, etc.?
  • A third moment will be a hands on consideration of the season of Advent and Year “A” in the Lectionary, which will prepare priests for the upcoming year in the Church’s calendar.


Tuesday, October 26 – Saturday, November 21 (5 day priest retreat and three weeks continuing education)

The Second Vatican Council declared that the Church is “missionary by her very nature” (Decree Ad Gentes on the Missionary Activity of the Church, n. 2) and the first duty of every priest is to evangelize, that is, proclaim the Good News of God’s saving love and mercy for humanity. Since then, successive Pontiffs have urged the Church at all levels to develop methods and skills in evangelization that responds to the challenges and opportunities of society today.

This module will be led by experts and witnesses of the Church’s evangelization efforts. Moreover, it will provide the unique opportunity to engage in discussion and dialogue with offices of the Roman Curia and witness concrete outreaches in Rome that will broaden and enrich understanding of the New Evangelization. The following areas will receive specific focus:

  • The Scriptural foundations of evangelization, particularly in the writings of Saint Paul. This first section will offer the very attractive feature of travel to Malta, following a short Scripture Study Tour “In the Footsteps of Saint Paul”;
  • The historical and current expressions of evangelization – in parishes, Dioceses, religious orders, new communities, etc;

Challenges and opportunities provided by today’s culture, including how we are called to engage our culture, reach out to the young, married couples, families and the unchurched, and foster proper collaboration between clergy and laity.

For the three month sabbatical and modules, all will include:

  • A day for arrival;
  • Airport pick up and drop off;
  • Full board and lodging within walking distance of St. Peter’s Basilica;
  • Orientation to Rome, Italy, the Pontifical North American College;
  • Mass at one of the Major Papal Basilicas;
  • A priest retreat (in the Fall 2015 semester, the retreat in Modules 1 & 3 will have a different focus, for example, the art of prayer, praying with the Scriptures, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saints & Mystics);
  • The possibility for communal/individual prayer (Daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, Holy Hour, Sacrament of Penance, Spiritual Direction);
  • Classes taught by expert instructors from Rome and beyond (approximately 15 hours per week);
  • Wednesday General Audience with the Holy Father;
  • Some free travel weekends (Friday evening to Sunday evening);
  • Organized and optional visits to places of interest in and around Rome;
  • Closing Mass and banquet;
  • A departure day.

For Application process, see Section V.


“The program offers a rare opportunity to strike a balance in the busy priest’s life. Its blending of four essential elements – social, spiritual, fraternal and academic – serve as a rare opportunity. The benefits of the program last a lifetime and enrich our ministry immeasurably. When finished, one can only offer gratitude.”
(Reverend Martin Boylan, Diocese of Scranton)

II. Background History

The Institute was founded in response to the call of the Second Vatican Council for the renewal of priests. Fourteen of the sixteen Conciliar documents can be quoted as indicating that continuing education and renewal are important for priests and their ministry. In addition, our program follows suggestions for the ongoing education and renewal of priests found especially in Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (“I Will Give You Shepherds”) and in “The Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests,” issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy. The Bishops of the United States of America have contributed to this development through their own “Program of Priestly Formation” and the “Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests.” Over the years, the success of our program has come from responding to the current needs of priests as they engage in ever changing opportunities and challenges; in this way, it has helped them in the renewal of their vocation and priesthood, revitalizing and equipping them for more effective pastoral ministry.


“The time that I have spent in this program has rekindled in me the joy of the priesthood. So many opportunities for prayer, renewal and the blessing of priestly fraternity. This sabbatical is a grace that renews and encourages one to continue to serve the Lord joyfully. Every day was a gift to be treasured.”
(Reverend Robert Rocheleau, Diocese of London in Canada)

III. Goals

Ongoing Human Formation: The unique possibility for priests to spend time together in a strictly priestly environment fosters fraternity and the opportunity to explore personal and pastoral features of the priesthood in light of the renewal experience. Moreover, engaging in the cultural and artistic heritage of the Church and Rome, as well as through other moments for travel in Italy and beyond, contributes to a life time of appreciation for Europe’s rich Christian and cultural traditions.

Ongoing Spiritual Formation: All our programs provide opportunities for priests to make their annual retreat. There are moments offered for coming together in prayer in the daily celebration of the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours, as well as participating in the Holy Hour, Rosary, and Sacrament of Reconciliation. Spiritual Direction is available to each individual. Participants enjoy also the privilege of concelebrating liturgies at the Basilica of Saint Peter, other Papal Basilicas and various ancient churches. For many priests, the possibility of attending Papal liturgies and other spiritual events at the Vatican and in Rome is among the highlights of our program. In the Spring 2015 semester, a nine-day semester break permits personal travel or the option of a study pilgrimage to the Holy Land or other fascinating places connected to Sacred Scripture. In the Spring semester, participants benefit from the option of praying at the Station Churches during Lent and remaining in Rome during Holy Week.

Ongoing Intellectual Formation: Presenters for the Institute are top-notch Roman-based university professors, as well as from the USA and Europe, whose expertise has brought them to the “universal classroom” of Rome. The professors typically enjoy working with Institute priests because of the give-and-take with experienced pastors and those active in the various ministries of the Church.

Ongoing Pastoral Formation: The priests of the Institute are diocesan and religious priests who come principally from the United States, but other English-speaking countries, too, which helps each to understand the greater horizon and local circumstances of the worldwide Church in its various places. In this, there is a significant new level of formation in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Most evenings and weekends are free, which offers the opportunity to be exposed to a wide range of pastoral and cultural activities.


“The sabbatical was everything that I wanted and needed – and even more. It was refreshing and I feel energized for whatever years I have left in ministry. It certainly is ‘making good priests better’.”
(Reverend Thomas Conway, Diocese of Biloxi)

IV. Location

Priests participating in the Institute reside at the newly refurbished Casa O’Toole on the campus of the Pontifical North American College on the beautiful Janiculum Hill (Via del Gianicolo, 14), overlooking the Vatican and much of Rome. Located next door to the seminary, Casa O’Toole has its own classroom, lounge and chapel and dining room. Each residence is fully furnished with private bathroom, heat and air conditioning. While having its own dining services, the residents of Casa O’Toole eat lunch with the seminarians in the seminary refectory. Class presentations take place in the Institute’s classroom. Priests will have use of the College’s library, computer lab, weight room / tennis courts / sports field, sundries shop, snack bar, dry cleaning, Fed Ex, and money-exchange services. WiFi is available throughout the house. Our experience is that priests are rejuvenated in their ministry by praying, living and interacting with each other, as well as some 250 seminarians from 100 dioceses, all at the Pontifical North American College.

See here for “Program Facilities.”


“… a memorable sabbatical under the shadow of St. Peter’s.”
(Reverend Edmund Nantes, OP, Seminary Rector in Indonesia)

V. Costs

SPRING 2015  (3 MONTH SESSION) $10,250
SPRING 2016  (3 MONTH SESSION) $11,000
FALL 2015 – MODULE 1* (4 wks) $5,600
FALL 2015 – MODULE 2 (3 wks) $3,800
FALL 2015 – MODULE 3** (4 wks) $6,100
Full Fee Discounted
F15 MODULES 1 & 2 (7 wks) $9,400 $9,200
F15 MODULES 1 & 3 (8 wks) $11,700 $11,500
F15 MODULES 2 & 3 (7 wks) $9,900 $9,600

* Price includes transportation to and from Assisi, full board and lodging in single rooms with private bathroom, and also guided tours in and around Assisi by experts in Christian Art & Architecture.

** Price includes a pilgrimage to Malta, with full board and lodging in single rooms with private bathroom, and also guided tours by a noted Scripture scholar “In the Footsteps of St. Paul.”

VI. Application Process

The application for all programs consists of:

  1. Application form with passport-size photo (N.B. the form is different for the single three month sabbatical and modules – please select the appropriate one);
  2. Recommendation of Bishop / Superior with background certification;
  3. Medical report.

Acceptance is made on a first come, first served basis after all documents have been received in our Rome office from one year to two months prior to the session (the sooner, the better as the program in both semesters can fill up quickly). We advise prospective Institute participants to first FAX or email all the papers to our office. Then MAIL us the originals (including a passport-sized photo). If you are interested, we advise you to apply immediately, realizing that details are subject to change.

See here for “Application Information.”

Fuller details are found on the website, which should be monitored for updates on program details. For any inquiry, including current costs, please contact the ICTE Office at the North American College (

Program Director:
Rev. James M. Sullivan, OP

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  1. […] Vatican from his room! For the next three months he will be on sabbatical. Father will be attending The Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College and he will be there until […]