Becoming a Priest

Becoming a priest involves several steps. While these vary slightly from diocese to diocese in length of time and format, the following outline is offered as a general view of formation programs:

Beginning in the Home

The home, the "domestic Church," is the centerpiece of family life and the wellspring of vocations. As families teach their sons and daughters how to pray and the importance of charity to God and to neighbor, they become the local church in which children begin to walk with Christ. This fulfills the obligations laid on the hearts of every parent to train their children to enter Heaven someday.

As we review the vocation situation in this country, it sometimes appears as though the Lord is not calling enough of His children to become priests and vowed religious. The reality is that Jesus is calling men and women into His service, but not enough people are listening to the call. The vocations are out there: families must teach their children to listen and respond to that call. The Church needs your sons and daughters to carry the work that has been passed on to us, so that a new generation of believers may learn to walk in the light of Christ. If we do not send our children, if we do not encourage our children, if we do not set the example for our children, the light will extinguish.

May God bless our children and our families as they walk more closely with the Risen Savior, and learn to respond to His call.

One Step at a Time

We like things to be dramatic. People will travel thousands of miles to see something miraculous. We often think the call to the priesthood needs to be dramatic. One thinks there needs to be a dramatic sign in the heavens or that a prophet needs to tell you that, yes, you have been chosen by God. There is no doubt that this can happen.

The Bible and the lives of the saints are full of such experiences. Think of how Mary felt at the Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her. He had to say, "Do not be afraid." However, God usually speaks to us in a still, quiet voice. It is so quiet that we might even miss it. The only way that we can tune into that voice is through prayer. God has a plan for your life! He has a plan for your high school and college career. He is calling you to marriage, priesthood, religious life or the single life. He wants to guide you with his plan.

Are you listening? All you need to worry about is the next step of your life. Don't worry about ten years down the road. Just ask God what He wants to do in your life in the coming year.

Your path to the priesthood might only become clear after playing high school sports, finishing college or being a CCD teacher. Maybe God's message for you this year is to join your CYO group. I challenge you in the coming week to take some quiet time before God and listen to what His plan is. Just worry about the next step.

"God, what do you want me to do?" If God is calling you to the priesthood those little steps will lead to the miracle of Holy Orders.  - Fr. Tim McKeown

First Contact

A man who is interested in the priesthood but still searching for the answer to the question "What does God want of me?" could join a program of "contact" with the diocese. Usually through his pastor or by contacting the Vocations Director. This is usually a very flexible program whereby the man meets with a priest and or a group of others interested in the priesthood on a regular basis and shares in experiences of prayer and community.

Characteristics of a good candidate for the priesthood:

If you definitely have most of the qualities of a good candidate! You should be actively discerning your vocation by speaking to a vocation director and attending vocation retreats. Contact the Vocations Director.

If you have many of the qualities of a good candidate. Continue seeking God's will in daily prayer and take steps to find a spiritual director. You could be called to be a priest!

If you have a few of the qualities of a good candidate then continue praying that God strengthens your vocation to holiness. Regardless of your "secondary" vocation, be encouraged that God has great plans for your life! Continue thinking about the priesthood.

  • Love Jesus Christ and desire others to love Him.
  • Be a believing, practicing Catholic. Go to Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days.
  • Live a life of virtue and striving against sin.
  • Live and desire a life of service in my Church and community.
  • Live and desire a life of prayer. Attend daily Mass or make visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Frequently make use of the Sacrament of Confession. Read the Bible and take time for personal prayer.
  • Desire to be a priest. Be attracted to the priesthood, even though it involves personal sacrifice.
  • Have one's call validated by other people who suggest that you should consider the priesthood.
  • Live a life of virtue. Know what is right and wrong according to the teaching of Jesus and his Church.
  • Have a basic human goodness. Be a relatively generous and unselfish person.
  • Be a "people person", i.e., have good social skills and like to be around people.
  • Have at least average intelligence to complete eight to ten years of college-level and masters-level coursework in Theology.
  • Have a good sense of humor!
  • Be physically, emotionally, and psychologically stable.
  • Have a "priest's heart" full of kindness and compassion for others.
  • Possess self-discipline. Be courteous, punctual, and composed.
  • Display stability in life-style, i.e., consistency as a student or employee.
  • Have a healthy psycho-sexual orientation.
  • Be a gentleman, i.e., have good manners, correct grammar in communication, a neat appearance and proper hygiene.
  • Able to accept failure.
  • Be open to the will of God for his life.


A more formal relationship with the diocese occurs when the man becomes a candidate. At this time he begins the process of interviews and meetings with the members of the diocesan vocations team under the direction of the Vocations Director.

Seminary Education

The candidate, sponsored by a diocese, now enters a seminary to begin his priestly formation and theological studies. At this point he is called a seminarian. A man who thinks God might be calling him to be a priest should go to the seminary. The seminary is the best place to truly discern God's will for your vocation. But even a decision to go to the seminary is not a final decision to become a priest! That's why there are six years of seminary formation!

Many people still think that seminaries are like monasteries: large, cold edifices where people walk around in silence. Actually, seminaries today are very much like universities. The aim of the seminary is the formation of body, mind, and soul. To this end, seminarians take classes in Catholic theology, Sacred Scripture, Church history, pastoral counseling, and other subjects. There are also opportunities for sports and recreation.

Most importantly, the seminarian is expected to pray. He is taught how to pray liturgically and privately. In short, he is taught how to accomplish his life's work: to become like Jesus!

Seminarians 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

Transitional Diaconate

About six months to a year before ordination to the priesthood, the seminarian is ordained to the Transitional Diaconate (so named because the seminarian is in transition to the priesthood, and to differentiate from the Permanent Diaconate). The man makes promises of celibacy and obedience to his Bishop.

Ordination to Priesthood

After much work, and a lot of prayers, the man is ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ by receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

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