Becoming a Priest: Getting Started

Hey everybody,

 I am 15 years old, and I've been interested in becoming a priest. I pray about almost everyday, and I believe that the more I pray, the more I realize that I should become a priest. I have a few questions:
  1. About how long does it take to become a priest?

  2. What will I be learning at the seminary?

  3. How much does it cost?

Thank You, God Bless

God bless you, KAC. I strongly recommend you talk to your priest, and maybe contact your diocese and ask to talk to a vocation director. You may also want to find a religious community (monastery, friary, etc) and talk to a religious.

What you learn in seminary depends to some extent what seminary you go to and what type of ministry you’ll do. But generally they teach dogmatic theology (faith), moral theology (morals), Scripture, how to preach, and how to be a shepherd, among other things.

Formation time and cost depends on what kind of ministry you’re going to do. Generally speaking, the shortest formation I know of is about 7 years; the longest about 15 years.

Cost also depends on what you’re doing, and is generally comparable to the cost of attending a university. Many dioceses and communities cover the cost of formation as long as you stick with it. Don’t let that be a source of anxiety; if you are called, God will provide.

There are two main kinds of priestly ministry: secular and religious. Secular or diocesan is what your “regular” parish priest is, usually pastoring a parish somewhere. Religious means you also take vows (usually poverty, chastity, and obedience) and live in community. Secular priests make a promise of obedience to the bishop and in the Roman rite live celibate (with a few exceptions), but they don’t take a vow of poverty. (A promise is made to a person before God; a vow is made directly to God.)

Of religious there are two kinds: contemplative and active. Contemplative means more separate from the world, like in a monastery, such as Benedictines, Cistercians, Carthusians, etc. Active means having more contact with the local community, e.g. teaching or working with the poor, such as Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, etc.

It would be a good idea to investigate one or more of these options, speak with a vocation director and see what it’s about.

Here’s a website that also gives more information.

Besides a priest, maybe you could also mention this to your school Guidance Counselor for more additional information.

A Guidance Counselor could answer questions about costs, etc., but I would imagine it varies from place to place. Costs also continue to change from year to year. By the time you are ready, the price will probably be different, anyway.

A guidance counselor would be able to help you find things, like scholarships, that would make all this more affordable.

I want to recommend you go to the website:
This website will send you free in the mail a book and a pamphlet but, this book, To Save a Thousand Souls is like the #1 book on discerning a vocation to diocesan priesthood. It also comes with a pamphlet entitled Is Jesus Calling You to Be a Catholic Priest?

I could not recommend these enough.

Blessings and prayers!


Good for you!

  1. As Ad Orientem said it depends on a lot of things, including your diocese as well as what options you want to pursue. In my diocese the usual track for a diocesan priest is 7-9 years. You’d be ordained a deacon probably 1-2 years before being ordained a priest. You may, if you wish, pursue additional education at that point, i.e., getting a doctorate in something, or a licentiate, in which case you could have some extra options such as teaching at seminary, practicing canon law, etc.

  2. All kinds of things. Two years or so philosophy to start out (including logic, metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, etc.). Depending on where you are, you’ll probably be expected to take a language. In the United States you’d study Spanish if you don’t already know it. In other areas of the world they’ll likely have different language requirements. The Vatican desires that priests know Latin but this is often not even offered in American seminaries anymore. In more traditional orders / dioceses, you might be expected to learn not only Latin but also Greek and Hebrew, which aids in Scripture studies. The background in theology is extensive and includes things like Scripture, Church history, sacramentology, ecclesiology, pastoral psychology, moral theology, etc.

  3. The cost in most seminaries is comparable to an education at a decent university, although as far as I know, western dioceses will foot the bill entirely. They typically ask that you help with fundraising, though, i.e., finding sponsors and donors, providing or arranging for your own transportation, etc. Religious orders may or may not do the same.

I was going to say that!

  1. If you were to go to seminary right out of high school, it would be 8 years of schooling, most likely with a year of pastoral work somewhere in there. If you went to a Catholic liberal arts school and graduated with a degree in Philosophy, it would likely only be 4 years left of school (plus the pastoral year). If you didn’t major in philosophy, it would probably be 5-6 years of schooling, with the extra years covering philosophy in a pre-theologate program. If you went to a non-Catholic school, and graduated with a degree, it might end up being 6 more years no matter what you major in. If you go to college for less than four years, then it will vary, depending on which classes you take before you go off to seminary. In case you haven’t looked it up yet (although you very well may have already), in general, a bachelor’s degree in philosophy is required, or the equivalent (two years of pre-theologate study at seminary), and this will (almost) always be followed by 4 years of theology, often with a pastoral year sometime in there.

  2. I guess I kind answered that above. If you go to seminary right away for undergraduate, you would get a liberal arts degree, majoring in philosophy. Otherwise, you will still study philosophy in pre-theology, and then 4 years of theology, and others I believe have already mentioned areas of study within theology.

  3. I believe all dioceses will foot the cost of the 4 years of theology, but I think it varies with undergraduate (philosophy) study. My diocese (Wichita, KS) would cover everything, but I know others don’t.

Keep up the praying; you’ll be in my prayers!

Thanks for all of your advice guys, it really helped me.

P.S. St. Augustine is the the saint I’m named for :).

Maybe the Augustinians might interest you if Augustine is the saint your named for.

Me too! :slight_smile: My middle name is Augustine, and my birthday is his feast day!

Me too! That’s so funny.:slight_smile:

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