Vocations - Frequently Asked Questions
- Who is a diocesan priest?
- Who can be a priest?
- What does a priest do all day?
- Why be a priest?
- Why celibacy?
- How long does it take?
- What do you study?
- Can a student transfer into the seminary from another college?
- Am I committing myself to being a priest by entering seminary?
Call him a parish priest. “Diocesan” comes from a Greek word meaning “to keep house” and parish means “a dwelling beside or near.” A diocesan priest is the priest involved in the day-to-day lives of people. He “lives near them” in every way and helps the local bishop to “keep house” in the family of God, either as an Associate Pastor or as a Pastor (and sometimes in ministries like teaching, serving as a campus minister or as a chaplin in a hospital or prison). A parish priest in the Diocese of Gary is committed to the family of God living in the Lake, LaPorte, Porter and Starke counties in Northwest Indiana.
A single Catholic man who believes God is calling him to the life of the priesthood. A person thinking of the priesthood needs to be a generous person with a sincere love for God. He should enjoy working with a variety of people and be committed to making the world a better place through priestly ministry. He should be a happy and well balanced person who loves life and is willing to dive head first into all of life’s experiences. Ultimately, an openness to the Father's will and the workings of the Holy Spirit are required of those who enter the seminary to discern a vocation to the priesthood.
Diocesan priests are the closest collaborators of the Bishop of the Diocese in his ministry of shepherding the people. In a special way, the priest participates in the ministry of Jesus Christ as priest, prophet and leader. On a day-to-day basis, his ministry is realized in a variety of ways. He may spend much of his time in preparation for and in the celebration of the liturgy and sacraments. (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Baptism, Funerals, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick) Because a priest treasures his close personal relationship with Jesus, his personal prayer life is an important part of his day.
Spending time with the youth of the parish, proclaiming God’s word, visiting the sick in hospitals as well as the homebound, sharing in the moments of pain and joy in his people’s lives’ and collaborating with various parish and neighborhood organizations are all a part of a priest’s daily life. The diocesan priest must also be available to people when they have special needs. He often is involved in individual counseling. God uses a priest’s gifts and talents in ways he never imagined for the benefit of God’s people.
The life of a diocesan priest is lived out in the context of a particular community of faith (parish) and he is involved in providing leadership and direction to that community.
Like anyone else, a priest must also find some time for exercise, rest and relaxation — time for the sports and hobbies which he enjoys.
Everyone looks for meaning and fulfillment in life. For a Christian, life’s meaning is related to serving God. Many people live out this vocation of service to God and find meaning and joy in the vocation of marriage. Some men discern the Lord calling them to a different kind of service and lifestyle in the Church. They are called to the priesthood and find deep meaning and fulfillment in that vocation. Instead of marriage vows, they make the promises of obedience and celibacy. Their parish becomes their family and they serve the Christian community as leaders in prayer and service as the “Father” of the parish family.
Mat 19:12 “...some, have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”
By promising himself to a celibate life, a priest opens himself up to many loving relationships within the many parish communities he serves. His fellow priests are his brothers and his parish his family. He becomes “Father” to the parish, providing guidance and nurturing to many people.
The length of priestly formation depends upon the individual, his background, and when he starts seminary preparation. If he is a college graduate, with no previous seminary experience, it will probably take six years. A high school graduate will have four years of college and four years of theology studies.
As a college student, a seminarian takes a curriculum of courses that provide a solid liberal arts education with a B.A. in philosophy. The course work is also designed to prepare him for Theology studies. In Theology, the course work ranges from Church History to Biomedical Ethics. It includes courses in liturgy, sacraments, scripture, homiletics, morality and many other topics a priest in today’s world needs to know and understand. But this is just a part of what seminary is about. Additionally, the seminary provides an environment for spiritual and personal growth. The goal of the seminary is to help form you into the best person you can be.
It is very common for an individual to come to us with some amount of college experience. Many of the credits earned in another course of study will transfer into the seminary. Seminaries are fully accredited institutions. If a student leaves the seminary, the academic credits earned will transfer to another college or university.
A seminarian is not committed to being a priest, but is exploring the possibility of priesthood as a life choice. Priests and religious in the seminary formation program work with men to discern their experience of happiness living the life of a priest. While a man grow through experience and prayer, study, ministry, fraternity, celibacy and community life, spiritual director and a mentor from the seminary faculty assist him . A regular evaluation of his progress helps him make a decision to continue at the seminary and to take the steps involved in seminary formation. The process of discernment is designed to allow both the individual and the Church to make an informed decision as to whether a person is called to the priesthood. Those who leave the seminary have lost nothing except for their uncertainty about being a priest. In the process, they will have gained a better sense of their own self. Many of those who leave the seminary go on to serve the Church in other capacities, often becoming lay leaders in their parishes.