Frequently Asked Questions

A vocation is a call from God to do something specifically for God and for His kingdom. The primary vocation of every person is to be holy! It is the divine calling to love and serve God, to obey His commandments, and to cooperate with Christ in the work of redemption by loving and serving others. But we are all called to a secondary vocation as well, a "state in life" in which we are to be holy.
Many people are called to the vocation of marriage, but it is an error to automatically assume that this is your vocation. One may also be called to the vocation of the priesthood, to the religious life as a sister or brother, or to the diaconate. Finally, some are called by Christ to the single state. Remember: It is normal to desire marriage and family. Just because you have this desire does not exclude the possibility that you have a vocation to the priesthood.

A religious vow is a solemn promise made freely by an individual to give his or her Life to God. Many religious communities make vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Some communities have other vows as well.

Religious life as sister or brother?

The ministry of the deacon in the Roman Catholic Church is described as one of service in three areas: the Word, the Liturgy and Charity.
  • The deacon's ministry of the Word includes proclaiming the Gospel at the Eucharist, preaching and teaching.
  • His ministry of Liturgy is at the Altar, and includes various parts of the Mass proper to the deacon. At Mass, the deacon is the ordinary minister of the proclamation of the Gospel (in fact, a priest, bishop, or even the Pope should not proclaim the Gospel if a deacon is present) and of Holy Communion (primarily, of the Precious Blood). Deacons typically have the faculty to preach the homily at Mass, at a frequency determined by the pastor.
  • The ministry of charity involves service to the poor and marginalized and working with parishioners to help them become more involved in such ministry.

Deacons are clerics, they can administer the sacrament of Baptism and serve as the church's witness at the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, which the bride and groom administer to each other. Deacons may preside at various services such as a wake service, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and they may give blessings. They cannot hear confession and give absolution, anoint the sick, or celebrate Mass.

For more information: Visit the Office of Permanent Diaconate website.

You must pray every single day, asking God to reveal His plan for you. Do not ask yourself, "What do I want to do when I grow up?" This is the wrong question! Rather, you should be thinking and asking: "Jesus, what do You want me to do?" And listen for the answer! The primary area of revelation is the heart. Listen with your heart!

The discernment process in the priesthood must also include the Church. The local bishop is the one who ultimately decides who is and who is not called. He is assisted in this by the vocation office and the seminary. This whole process is called "discerning one's vocation."

If you do not follow the vocation for which God made you, you can attain a certain degree of happiness in this world, and still attain salvation (go to heaven), but you can never be as happy as you might have been, had you followed your proper vocation. This is why it is so important that you discern correctly. Of course, there are trials and tribulations in every vocation. To become a priest does not take away all suffering. But there is great joy in laying down one’s life for Jesus!
Possibly, but not necessarily. A man must pray a great deal, listening with both heart and soul to know what God wants him to do. But if you feel some attraction at this point, just continue to pray, go to Mass, and live a Christian life. If you are living a Christian life, Jesus will let you know when the time comes. Also, go talk with your parish priest or with the vocation director. Try to come to the diocesan-sponsored retreats and discernment nights. The vocation director can help you determine if God is calling you to the priesthood.
Holiness (to be like Jesus) is a lifetime endeavor for every person in every vocation. Don't worry if you don't see yourself as very holy right now. God will form you slowly, day by day and week by week, so that you will be ready to be His instrument when the time comes. But for now, use the sacrament of Penance at least once a month. Repent of your sins, receive the sacraments, and pray every day. You will be surprised at how Christ-like you can become!
Celibacy, in the religious context, is the means by which a man consecrates himself totally to God for the service of humanity. By celibacy a Christian sets aside the responsibilities and intimate relationships of family life in order to take on the responsibilities of serving the wider family of man. By a personal relationship with God in prayer, by the friendships and associations with married and single men and women, he grows in his love of humanity and becomes capable of serving God's people more effectively. To be authentic, it must be inspired by a love for Jesus who is the man for others.
Catholic priests in the Roman Rite do not get married so as to dedicate themselves completely to Jesus and to His people. Priests generate "spiritual children" by bringing many souls to Christ and helping them to grow in holiness so that they can one day live forever in Heaven. The sacrifice of celibacy (not getting married) is a sign to the world that only Jesus can give us the happiness that we all so crave. Giving up something as important as marriage and family is a powerful sign to the world that Jesus Christ is real! He is worth living for and sacrificing for. No, it is not easy, but neither is marriage. The fact is, every vocation requires great personal sacrifice. And there is great joy in sacrifice when it is done for Jesus and for others! As one priest said: "It is true that no one will ever call me ‘daddy’. But thousands call me ‘Father’."
It is possible that this law of the Church will one day be changed. If the Holy Spirit wants this change, He will effect it through the Pope and bishops of the world. However, it would be a grave mistake to go to the seminary "expecting" this change. That would be setting oneself up for a big disappointment, should it not happen.
Perhaps more men would choose the priesthood, but the question is, "Would this be what is best for the Church?" As said above, celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is a powerful sign that Jesus is real! And that He is worth living for, sacrificing for, and dying for. Besides, in the world as a whole, vocations to the priesthood and religious life have dramatically increased in the last thirty years. In Africa, they increased by 394%; in S. E. Asia, by 152%; in Central America, by 165%; and in South America, by 253%! It is only in the U. S. and in Western Europe that they dropped by 60% and 13%, respectively. The problem is not the requirement of celibacy … there is something else going on in our nation and in Western Europe.
What is your vision of seminary?

Is it a large remote castle, sitting on a hilltop? A mysterious place where men to go, not to return until they come back as priests? I must admit that even as I headed off to major seminary in 1993 I had no idea what to expect. Among my misconceptions: that seminary would be a quiet, somber place, and that I would be the best basketball player there.

What I found was a vibrant community of young men who had come from all walks of life. Some were just out of college but many were coming from other professions: teachers, coaches, military, and farmers. They were gifted musicians, athletes, and scholars.

What struck me first was the sense of fraternity. We were 160 men discerning if God was calling us to the priesthood. There was an atmosphere of trust, respect and support. One hundred sixty men who had laid aside their school and jobs to come listen to God. This proposition attracts a certain quality of men and made seminary an attractive home to me.

We prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There was Adoration, Theology classes, and confession. And there was intramural football, hiking, and pancake breakfasts.

I found seminary to be a place of peace. The most peaceful place to be is in the center of God's will and here were 160 men gathered seeking God's perfect will surrounded by a devoted faculty and staff of priests, religious sisters and lay people there to support and form us.

Seminary is not a place of "no return." It is about formation, and the opportunity to see if God is calling a man to the priesthood. A sign of a healthy seminary is that some men leave there is no shame in that. These are men who have set aside a time in their life for discernment, and sometimes they don't hear the call to the priesthood. But this year in seminary makes these men better Catholics. They have spent a year in prayer, attending daily mass, frequenting confession and studying Theology and they have grown.

A large gothic castle on a hill? Hardly. The seminary is a place of life! It is a place of education and formation and for young men to say, "Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?" - Fr. Tim McKeown

In no way. In fact, most vocation directors agree that the only way to really know that you have a vocation to the priesthood is to go to the seminary and try. It will become more and more clear to you once you are in an environment where everyone is trying to discern that same question. Many men go to the seminary, stay a year or two, and then leave. They are much better Catholics afterwards for the experience.

There are four main areas of study and development in preparing for the priesthood:

  • human,
  • spiritual,
  • pastoral, the ability to minister (to serve and work with people)
  • and academics

Spirituality, the study of prayer and the development of one's relationship with God, is covered mostly on an individual basis, with each man meeting with a priest-advisor. Ability to minister is developed in supervised programs. If a man goes to a college seminary, he has the same classes as a regular liberal arts college with the addition of classes on philosophy, the Church and God. After college, he enters theology, where his time is spent studying the Bible, the teachings of the Church, and the skills he will need to be a priest.

It is very important for a priest both to have a well-balanced liberal arts education as well as a deep grasp of theology and the spiritual life. Priests must be at least as well educated as the people they serve; otherwise, they will not be respected when they speak of spiritual things. Every soul is precious to God and, therefore, to the priest. A priest is called to help the most educated as well as the least educated to find Jesus and to attain salvation. Generally it takes four years after college or eight years after high school to become a diocesan priest, the same for many professions.

Candidates sponsored by the Diocese of Savannah are currently at:

The Mount St. Mary Seminary
Mount St. Mary's Seminary

16000 Old Emmitsburg Road; Emmitsburg, MD 21727-7797
Phone (301) 447-5295; Fax ( 301) 447-5636
 

Pontifical North American College
Pontifical North American College

00120 Vatican City State, Europe
Phone 011-39-06-684-931-69-447
Fax 011-39-06-686-7561

St. Vincent Seminary
St. Vincent Seminary

300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA 15650-2690
Phone(724)532-6600

 

A priest brings people to Jesus, and Jesus to people. A priest does this primarily by preaching the Word and offering the Sacrifice of the Mass. His daily life involves administering the sacraments—Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance and Reconciliation, the Anointing of the Sick, and Matrimony (Holy Orders is reserved for bishops to administer)—and caring for the people in their daily needs.
No, it is definitely not easy! A man who wants to become a priest must go to college for four years, with at least two years of philosophy. After graduating from college, he must go to a seminary for another four years to earn a master’s degree in divinity. Most men go to school eight to ten years after high school, before they are ordained a priest! But do not let this discourage you. God always gives us the grace to do what He asks us to do.
Most priests are extremely happy in their vocations! The life of a priest is a very rewarding life, both in this world and in the next. The media often gives an incorrect impression of priests… that they are largely unhappy, frustrated, and angry. This is simply not true.
Loneliness is a part of every vocation, at one time or another. It is part of the human condition. Married people get very lonely at times, even though they are surrounded by their spouses and children. Priests are always surrounded by people. This is one of the joys of being a priest. We are involved with people at the most profound moments of their lives: birth, Baptism, Confirmation, First Communion, Marriage, and death. We don’t have enough time to experience loneliness often! But when we do experience loneliness, Jesus can fill that void, as He does for people in every vocation.
A priest can do anything he wants for recreation, as long as it is consistent with the Christian life. Many priests play golf, basketball, softball, scuba dive, and engage in other sports. Others enjoy movies, plays, and reading. Some like to hunt, fish, and every other imaginable entertainment!
Priests do not get paid in the sense that people in the business world are paid. Because a priest does not have a family and because he lives a simple life, he does not need a lot of money. However, priests do receive enough money to buy their necessities, to buy and maintain an automobile, to take a vacation, and to do normal recreational activities. Also, priests are given free room and board by the church for which they work, so their expenses are minimal.
There is never a dull moment in the priesthood! It is a great challenge but it is also extremely rewarding. When a priest goes to bed each night, he can say, "Lord, today I spent myself for You." What a wonderful thought with which to end one’s day! The priesthood is both interesting and fulfilling because people are so interesting. But these people need more priests very badly.

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