I am wondering what the best Catholic Seminary is? I am considering enrolling in a Seminary program on my own as I discern what the Lord’s will is for my life, and I am willing to pay for it myself. So what would be the best place to apply?
I have heard Catholic University in D.C. is great. I know Dr. Scott Hahn is at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. But whats the best place?
That’s not really the way it works. Individuals don’t enter seminary programs on their own; rather, dioceses and religious orders send men to programs of formation which lead to ordination. After all, no priest is a “free agent”; all are ordained as part of a hierarchy, in service to their bishop or superior in a religious order.
CUA and Franciscan are universities, not seminaries. Perhaps you’re thinking about entering into an academic program? One may certainly begin study of philosophy or theology, without being in discernment for a vocation. (In fact, intellectual formation is only one facet of the program of formation leading to ordination.)
I would recommend that you contact the vocations department of your diocese, or of a religious community that you might be interested in discerning. They’ll help you begin the process of discerning a vocation.
In addition to what the previous posters have said, I’ll add that most seminarians don’t choose where they go to seminary. It’s just the first of many decisions that are made by your bishop or religious superior.
Certain Catholic universities (like Franciscan) have a pre-theology program, but that’s different from seminary. It’s like the bachelor’s degree you can earn before doing the graduate level work of seminary.
So, if you’re looking to pay your own way and discern without being connected to a diocese, you can certainly look at places like Franciscan University to earn a degree in theology while you continue to pray about it. However, I would encourage you to speak to a vocations director sooner rather than later in your discernment process. That’s going to help you see the path before you much more clearly than going it alone.
I might deviate a bit from the above posters. I am a graduate of St.Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. It is a part of the Benedictine community along with the seminary and monastery. I know of college students who have graduated the college and then, feeling a calling to the monastic life, entered the seminary to become Benedictine monks.
St. Vincent Archabbey is (I believe) the largest Benedictine monastery in the US and maybe the second largest in the world. (I know it was the first in the US) College graduates who enter the monastery to become either brothers or ordained priests are accepted by the monastery itself. I don’t believe they need the approval of the local bishop, either of Greensburg, PA or the candidate’s local ordinary. I’m not totally sure and maybe there is some approval needed from a source outside the monastic community.
The Benedictine monks of St. Vincent are pastors at local parishes, I know the priests of the monastery head the Catholic presence at Penn State University, they run a military high school in Savannah, Georgia, as well as a college in China and a monastery in Brazil. The Benedictine motto is “to work is to pray”. They are not cloistered.
I’m not a salesman for SVC but I think entering a monastic community is a bit different from entering a diocesan priesthood vocation.
I have already spoken with the director of Vocations. Because I am a new convert I am not allowed to enter Seminary yet - at least, not under the sponsorship of the Diocese. But whether or not I become a Priest, I still want to get the same Priestly education.
As I understand it, a theology degree from a Catholic university would be accepted by a Catholic seminary, and if I did become a Priest (or a Deacon), I could simply transfer over my theology degree from the Catholic university and skip that portion of Seminary entirely (or almost entirely). But if I did not become a Priest or a Deacon, I would still want to be a Catholic scholar and minister of some sort, either as a parish professional, youth/men’s minister, private high school teacher, or university professor.
And so regardless of where I eventually end up, it seems most logical to me that I just get a jump start on the whole process.
Ah, I see. In that case, it seems you are mostly looking for a good place to study theology.
I think it would still be wise to have another conversation with the director of vocations where you (at least right now) would imagine entering seminary. You can ask him for recommendations on a good place to go where your classes would have the best chance of transferring over. One conversation now may help to save time and money later on down the road.
Some seminaries do also provide classes and degrees for non-seminarians. But then, there are also many Catholic universities that are not seminaries, but still offer theology degrees. I would start with the vocations director and see where they send seminarians for minor and major seminary, and then also ask about transferring credits from other places. Take the list of schools you get and look into the details of the programs to see which most corresponds to where you see yourself fitting in to the work of the Church—whether you become a priest or not.
However, BOTH Franciscan University of Steubenville & Catholic University of America do have Houses of Formation on campus for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
So if you joined the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception you might study at one or both of those schools.
In my personal opinion, one of the best seminaries is St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in suburban Philadelphia. The following dioceses & religious orders send all or some of their seminaries to St. Charles: scs.edu/partner-dioceses
I also hear great things about Holy Apostles College & Seminary.
There are also other good seminaries out there. But the truth is, you typically can’t pick your seminary. That’s up to your bishop or religious order.
Holy Apostles has great theology and Philosophy degree options, plus an Associates in Theology
** Catholic Distance University has a BA in Theology completion program. Meaning you could take most (if not all) of your general courses at a community college and take your Theology course work online at CDU. CDU also has an Associates Degree in Catholic Studies
*** Domuni is affiliated with Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome (Angelicum) for their canonical Bachelors degree in Religious Studies, meaning (I believe) you could get a degree from Angelicum in Rome if you chose that degree.
**** Maryvale Institute in the UK has a Ecclesiastical Bachelor of Divinity degree which takes 5 years (part time) But if you only complete two years, you are eligible for a Certificate
In regards to using a Degree in Theology to “shorten” [my word not yours] your training for the diaconate, it would not necessarily be credited. We have a program that has taken men with doctorates in theology, but it has not shortened their training. It is called formation for a reason. We are forming the candidates into a ministry of service. We are also forming a support group for those men (and women when we include the wives). It is indeed helpful for these candidates to have advanced degrees, but it does not speed up the process.
Choose your studies because they are of interest to you. You will find that most beneficial.
Being new to the faith, you might want to give it some time before you go “all in.” There are a number of different Catholic universities to which you can go to get a degree in Theology, but that’s not the point. Even if you get that degree, your seminary studies will take you at least another 4-5 years. Undergrad seminary is where you study a lot of philosophy, so if that is truly what you want your course to be, get your degree in that. If you go to one of the Uni’s you mentioned, you’ll also get a solid dose of theology as well.
Take your time to really pray about what God’s will is for you. Rushing into something like this makes it your decision, trying to fit God into your life. Be open to Him and what He has in store for you. I understand you are new, and have a lot of enthusiasm for the faith, most folks do, but sometimes you have to take a minute and stop your head from spinning.
Seminary formation and Diaconate formation are 2 very different things. Learn about those processes and how you feel they will work in your life. Understand that these are very important decisions to be made, and not to be taken lightly or on a whim. Pray lots, and then pray some more. That is how you’ll find your way to God’s will.
You might know this already since you are in contact with a vocation director, but generally you study philosophy first then move on to theology after attaining a BA in philosophy or something close. The degree priests are expected to get before they are ordained is a masters of divinity.
If you just want to get a head start on studies before entering any official formation, I recommend you check out the USCCB’s Program for Priestly Formation and form your curriculum around that as best you can.
This is a good point. Most seminarians who enter the seminary after completing a Bachelors don’t receive a degree in Philosophy. They will do their pre-theology and then go into the work for their Master’s degree in Divinity while some will also receive a 2nd Master’s in Theology.
So a Bachelors in Philosophy might be the best way to go.
HOWEVER, if you do go for a Bachelors in Philosophy make sure to get it from one of the schools on the lists I provided in a previous post. You will want a Philosophy degree that is in keeping with Catholic Tradition, not a secular or atheist version of Philosophy taught at other schools.
This is also true if you enter seminary with some college under your belt. But I do agree that is one is going to pursue a philosophy degree to then study at seminary, it should be gotten from a sound Catholic university.
While, the Catholic University of America is an actual University, consisting of many colleges, one of those Colleges is, in fact a seminary. The Theological College is not just a seminary but it is, in fact, the National Seminary. It is the only seminary under the direct guidance and authority of the United States Conference of Bishops. I went to CUA for some of my undergraduate studies and had some friends in the Theological College. While I do not believe that the Theological College accepts those not officially in formation through a diocese, you can go through the exact same degree programs as the studies are actually done through the University’s School of Theology. They do accept layity into the degree programs and you will be having your classes with the seminarians. The School of Theology is a Pontifical Faculty, meaning that the Vatican has declared all its teachings free of error and in conformity with the Catholic Faith and is, like the Theological College, is under the direct guidance and authority of the United States Conference of Bishops.
Theology courses may help you down the line, but you must remember that there is a rule (I cannot remember if it is a USCCB statute or canon law) stating that a seminarian must spend at least two years in formal formation before moving on to Theological studies. Either way, you will spend at least two years in philosophical studies within a diocesean (or religious) formation program before you move on to Theological studies.
Hello Brother Ben,
To be clear, the Theological College is affiliated with Catholic University of America, but is not owned by Catholic University. While it’s branded as part of Catholic University and uses the class rooms there, etc.; it’s actually an independent institution with an agreement with Catholic University.
The Theological College actually belongs to and is ran by the Society of Saint-Sulpice (a religious order).
Catholic University of America has several houses of formation and similar agreements with local seminaries.
For example: the new Saint John Paul II Seminary in DC has their seminaries take classes at Catholic University as does St. Joseph’s Seminary (Josephites).
Actually, TC doesn’t “use the classrooms” of CUA. Their seminarians study at CUA, of course, but TC doesn’t hold activities there. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of TC being called “part of CUA”. :shrug:
Catholic University of America has several houses of formation and similar agreements with local seminaries.
I’m picking nits, but CUA doesn’t “have” houses of formation; rather, various orders and seminaries send their seminarians there for academic studies. IIRC, there are Ukrainian and Maronite Catholic seminarians, as well as Paulist and Franciscan seminarians who do their academic work there. I’m forgetting, some, though, I’m sure.