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.

The Decree on the Training of Priests describes the family as the “first seminary” since there young men learn faith, charity, and piety. Faithful Christian families where children experience God’s love are fertile ground for vocations to the priesthood. Of course parishes, priests and bishops do much to encourage vocations to the priesthood, yet discipleship begins at home.

One Step at a Time

God manifests himself in our daily lives through the most ordinary ways. We often like things to be dramatic, but it is unlikely that God will manifest himself with rolling thunder and a loud voice as He did at the baptism of Jesus. No doubt this can happen, but God usually works slowly but surely through every day events of our lives.

God usually speaks to us in a still, quiet voice, sometimes so quiet we may miss it. The only way that we can tune into that voice is through prayer. God has a plan for your life, you have to be open to listen. All you need to worry about is the next step of your life. Do not worry about ten years down the road. Just ask God what He wants for you in the coming year.

Your path to the priesthood might only become clear after playing high school sports, finishing college or being a catechist at your parish. Maybe God's message for you this year is to join your youth group or get involved in your community through service opportunities. Focus on the next step without obsessing with the big picture of the future. Whatever the future brings, you will have reached it one step at a time, and each day following God’s will.

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?" should contact his Pastor and/or diocesan Vocation Director. This way you can have your questions answered, and perhaps resolve some anxieties or misunderstandings about the priesthood. Also, this way the priest gets to know you and can provide some guidance in your prayer and discernment.


Characteristics of a good candidate for the priesthood include:

A love of Jesus Christ, and a desire that others love Him.

A believing, practicing Catholic, attending Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days

Living a life of virtue and striving against sin

Living and desiring a life of service in the Church and in the community

Living and desiring a life of prayer: attending daily Mass, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, making frequent use of the sacrament of confession, reading the Bible, taking time for personal prayer

A desire to be a priest, even though it involves personal sacrifice

A validation of one's call by other people who suggest that you should consider the priesthood

A virtuous life and a knowledge of what is right and wrong according to the teaching of Jesus and his Church.

A basic human goodness: a relatively generous and unselfish person

A "people person," possessing good social skills and finding enjoyment in being around other people

An average or higher than average intelligence and the capacity to complete eight to ten years of college-level and masters-level coursework in Theology

A good sense of humor!

Physical, emotional, and psychological stability

A "priest's heart" full of kindness and compassion for others

Possess self-discipline and be courteous, punctual, and composed

Stability in lifestyle: i.e., consistency as a student or employee

A healthy psycho-sexual orientation

A gentleman: good manners, correct grammar in communication, a neat appearance and proper hygiene

Able to accept failure

Open to the will of God for one's life

What now?

If you have most of the qualities of a good candidate, you should be actively discerning your vocation by speaking to the diocesan vocations director and attending vocation retreats.

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, 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.

Candidate

A more formal relationship with the Diocese occurs when the man is invited to apply to become a seminarian. This process takes some time as the Vocation Director gets to know the candidate and makes an assessment on his suitability to enter the seminary. The Vocation Director carefully discerns if the man could be called to be a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Savannah.

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 de Paul Regional Seminary
Saint Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary
10701 S Military Trail, Boynton Beach, FL 33436
Phone (561) 732-4424
Fax (561) 737-2205
 

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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