Becoming a Catholic priest is a serious decision. If you hear God's call and believe that a life of celibacy and devotion is the right choice for you, you may have found your true calling. In addition to God, priests are also committed to serving those in need.
Method 1 of 2: Joining the Clergy in Youth
Step 1. Complete the basic prerequisites
In the Roman Catholic Church, priests must be single men. Some Eastern Catholic Churches also ordain married men.
Seminars are divided into smaller seminaries, which welcome young people just out of high school, and larger seminaries, for those who are already in a more advanced stage of life
Step 2. Get involved in your parish activities
Before thinking about going to college or seminary, offer to help with your parish activities. The longer your track record as a good practicing Catholic, the easier it will be for you to enter the priesthood.
- Get to know your favorite priest better. Tell him that you are interested in going to seminary and ask if you can help him with Masses, when he visits sick parishioners, or with parish activities.
- Offer to help with the songs and readings and altar activities. You will then learn more about the scriptures and hymnals, which will make preparing for the priesthood much easier.
Step 3. Take stock of your faith
Becoming a priest is not a decision you should take lightly. The preparation can take years, and the priesthood is not for weak, doubting men. If you can imagine yourself doing anything else in life, religion may not be your true calling. Follow the guidelines below to make your decision in the best way possible:
- Pray and ask God to help you make the right choice.
- Go to Mass regularly and get involved with the local clergy.
- Ask a guidance counselor or a church figure you trust for advice.
Step 4. Go to college (recommended)
A higher education diploma usually facilitates entry into the seminary, in addition to taking away some years of study time for future priests. The ideal is to invest in a Philosophy or Theology course. However, a degree in any area is enough to demonstrate intelligence and dedication.
During college, get involved in parish activities near campus. Participate in retreats, help other students and develop a good relationship with the parish or diocese
Step 5. Join the seminar
Enroll in seminars through your diocese or religious order. Give preference to institutions that grant the title of Master of Divinity, if possible, and, if you choose to complete higher education before investing in the priesthood, look for a course in Philosophy or Theology recognized by the MEC. Find out from your parish how to take your first steps.
- Each seminar has its own selection process. You may need letters of recommendation, proof of your involvement in the Church, a certain college achievement ratio, and a statement of interest, among other documents.
- You may also have to answer questions about your physical and mental health, your compliance with Catholic tradition, and your knowledge of Church doctrine.
Step 6. Dedicate yourself to the seminar
In seminary, you will spend years studying philosophy, Latin, Greek, Gregorian chant, moral and dogmatic theology, exegesis, canon law, and church history. And this is just the beginning! Course lengths vary based on the seminarian's previous education and the amount of time he can devote to studies, but most future priests take four years of undergraduate theology and zero to four years of Basic Philosophy or Spiritual Education.
Participation in retreats, conferences and workshops is also common during training. You will be guided to devote time to meditation, the cloister, and work on your public speaking skills
Step 7. Be ordained a deacon
After completing seminary, you will be called by the bishop to receive sacred ordination and enter the ministry. Thereafter, you will serve as a deacon for at least six months.
- Don't despair for fear of not being ordered. If there is a problem preventing your ordination, you will likely find out during the seminar.
- In general, Catholic seminaries in Brazil and Portugal are funded by the Church. However, if you studied at a paid seminar in another country and were not chosen to be a priest, or if you dropped out of the course too early, you may be able to get a refund. This, however, varies from institution to institution and depends on the financial situation of the former seminarian.
Step 8. Enter the priesthood
Depending on your country's tradition, you can either become a priest after a relatively short period of time or remain a deacon for the rest of your life. There are different ways to exercise the priesthood. You will learn about them all during your time at the seminar.
- Diocesan priests serve the Church in a particular geographic region. The category includes parish priests, chaplains and religious teachers, among others. Diocesan priests take vows of celibacy and obedience.
- Religious priests are part of the global community of an order or congregation, like the Benedictines or the Franciscans. Priests take formal vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, in addition to other specific obligations of each order.
Method 2 of 2: Becoming a Priest at an Older Age
Step 1. Find out what your community's prerequisites are
The Catholic Church does not set a maximum age for ordination. However, some dioceses and religious communities do not accept applicants above a certain age group. The limit usually varies between 40 and 55 years.
You must be male and single. Widows are also accepted, but only after a year or two of the wife's death. Those who are divorced must file a request for annulment. Some Eastern Churches have different norms and ordain married men. In some rare cases, it is possible for a married man ordained in another Christian community to convert and become a Catholic priest
Step 2. Take advantage of your life experience
Parishioners may feel more comfortable with an older priest who shares the same experience as them. The priesthood is always lacking in people rich in emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral intelligence. If you demonstrate knowledge of at least one or two of these areas, you will be much more likely to be accepted into seminary and eventually ordained.
Your education and work experience can be of great help, as can your personal background. Teaching, offering emotional and spiritual support to those in need, and participating in community activities are some things that can help you prepare for seminary
Step 3. Join the seminar
Seminars provide quality education at the university level, which can be daunting for someone who has been out of school for many years. Talk to your religious mentors to find seminars that accept older students. You can also look for a seminar that specializes in counseling, teaching, or some other area that encompasses your past experiences.
You can even enter seminary without a graduate degree, but that's often difficult for older people. Also, your studies will last eight years instead of four
Step 4. Get ordered
After finishing seminary, a bishop will ordain you to the ministry. You will spend at least six months as a deacon and then become a diocesan priest in a particular parish or other geographic division. Another option is to take vows and become a member of a congregation.
- The terms "vocation" and "discernment" are essential to this process. In Catholic parlance, the "vocation" is the divine call. Everyone receives a call to holiness, but the paths to God vary from person to person. Some have a vocation to religious life or the priesthood, while others have a vocation to marriage or to being single. On the other hand, "discernment" is the constant process of understanding the divine will through prayers and religious guidance. To be discerning, it takes a lot of patience.
- You may find that you are destined for the priesthood soon after you are converted. These things happen, but ideally, you should talk to a trusted figure in the church to better understand your potential vocation.
- It is not necessary to be 100% sure of one's vocation to enter the seminary or novitiate.
- Due to recent scandals, the seminars have carried out rigorous investigations into newcomers' past lives, with a focus on crimes of a sexual nature. Get ready to have your criminal record pulled.