Becoming a priest
How does someone become a priest?
First he must spend time in prayer and grow in relationship with God, and then he must contact the Vocations Director who will meet with him. After that initial contact, an assessment will be made and the Vocations Director will likely invite the candidate to participate in the Diocesan Vocations Accompaniment Programme for a period of time.
The diocese is committed to supporting you as you discern the call to priesthood. We will provide you with a priest-mentor and spiritual director who you are encouraged to meet with regularly. Just as Jesus walked with his disciples to guide them, so these men will walk with you on your vocational journey.
What is a mentor?
Basically… a support. The mentor will be a priest who is there to accompany you as you discern. Meeting with him will be informal and friendly, whether it be chatting over a coffee or grabbing a burger! Mentors are there as a source of encouragement: to answer your questions, listen to your story and give you sound advice. How often you meet will depend on where you are along the road to making a decision. Your mentor will be involved in the conversation about your suitability for priesthood, should you decide to apply for seminary.
What is a spiritual director?
Your spiritual director is there to accompany you too, but in a more in-depth way. A spiritual director helps you discern your mission and how to grow in holiness, no matter what decision you make. Anything you share with your spiritual director is completely confidential. Your spiritual director has no role in deciding your suitability for priesthood. Listening to you and guiding you in prayer, he will help you see more clearly the presence of God in your life, so that you can hear what God asks of you. Again, how often you meet your spiritual director will depend, but generally, it would be good to meet every 4 to 6 weeks.
Please know that these supports are free to you. Down and Connor wishes to invest in your vocational journey. All that we ask is that you give it your all!
Together with the Vocations Director and his team, you will find out if you have a vocation and then when time comes, if it is God’s will, you may be called to Holy Orders. This ultimate decision is gradual and done in the seminary.
“Commit yourself way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”
Where does formation for diocesan priesthood take place?
If this progresses well, the application process for the diocese takes place.
If the man is accepted as a candidate for the priesthood, he will undergo a psychological evaluation and be interviewed by the diocese formally. Once he has been accepted he will be invited to participate in a preparatory year in Spain, at Valladolid. This will give the candidate time and space to discern their vocation more intensely and help the transition from work or study into formation for priesthood.
Once the preparatory year is completed successfully, the candidate will begin formal studies for priesthood in either Maynooth or Rome, or a combination of the two.
Every seminarian must have a Bachelor’s degree and study two years of philosophy. If you have graduated with a Bachelor’s degree then you just study philosophy in a program called Pre-Theology. If you need to complete your Bachelor’s degree then you attend a seminary and earn an undergraduate degree in philosophy. After the philosophy requirement is complete you go on to study theology at graduate level. This is a three or four year program and usually in the middle you spend one year as a pastoral intern working in a parish. All told, it takes around seven years to become a priest.
If you are a mature candidate, allowance can be made for previous studies and life experience, and an expedited course of studies and formation can be considered in consultation with the diocese and seminary authorities.
Is all this education necessary?
Priests are given the responsibility of caring for souls, which has eternal consequences for both the priest and the parishioner. A doctor studies to care for your body and goes through a similar amount of time to become a doctor. Is it not fitting that a priest should have at least as much training? Also, the seminary is not just a school, but a place where one is formed to have a heart like that of our Lord.
What are the qualities the diocese looks for in a candidate?
A man who loves God and the Church, goes to Mass regularly, spends time in prayer and wishes to grow in holiness. He should be physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy. He should be willing to grow, learn, and to be formed. Formation, the process of becoming a priest, is basically learning to ‘decrease so that He may increase’.
If I decided to go to seminary to ‘give it a try’ am I committed for life?
No, you are not committed until you are ordained. In the seminary you get a taste of priestly life and are in an environment which is conducive to discerning. Men who enter the seminary and then leave have not wasted their time. Rather they are able to be better Catholic men, husbands, and fathers. You have nothing to lose and much to gain.
“In all things God works for the good of those who love him.”