Can a widower become a priest?

Some friends of mine and I were talking the other day and the question came up if a man, after his wife dies become a priest after being married? Add to that, what if he had children with the wife that passed away?

Just curious…

YBIC - John

I certainly hope so. I’m in my last year of study at Pope St John XXIII National Seminary. Two of my classmates are also widowers with kids and grand kids.

Yes, assuming that he is not too old. The age would depend on decision of the bishop and the individual’s circumstances. Generally 45-50 would be a cut-off. If the guy is 50 and has no college education, then it’s going to be quite hard to find any place to accept him. If he is 55 and completed all or most of seminary, they may be more inclined to consider him. If he is a deacon at 60, then even then they might consider it.

There are no set rules for this. It all depends on the man and the diocese he is interested in. Nevertheless, in short, you can be a widower and become a priest in the Latin Rite. This is keeping in mind that eastern rites have married priests and there are exceptions for married former protestant ministers within the Latin Rite.

If he has children, then they need to be self-sufficient adults. Again, this is not an absolute rule, but it would be very unlikely for an exception to be made. An exception might and I stress might be made if he had a mentally or physically challenged adult child.

In terms of having one or more young children there is pretty much no way he could enter seminary until they are fully grown. It might, might be possible if he had money to support them until adulthood and lived near a seminary and both the seminary and bishop were okay with him going to seminary during the day and returning home at night.

In these cases, it would be very unlikely, but it is always possible.
In short:
Widower: Fine, assuming no children or self-sufficient adult children. Age and education would be factors.
Widower with young children: Extremely unlikely but not impossible.

Regarding your statement about a Deacon becoming a priest above: I was told that a Permanent Deacon is just that–a Permanent Deacon for the rest of his life and admitting one to the priesthood is very rare. Was I incorrectly informed? Just curious.

No. It’s rare, but not impossible, and would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

There is only one order of Deacon. The appellation “Permanent” is more administrative than theological. I know of a couple of widowed deacons who went on to the priesthood. It is rare, and there is always the issue that the Diaconate be seen as a unique ministry and calling in its own and not a “junior priesthood.” I would think that it the rare - and admirable - man who, at the likely age when one’s children are grown and his wife passes away, tackles the academics and gives the rest of his life to the priesthood.

If the children are of adult age, and the man has no outstanding debt or responsibility, he can become a priest. Women in such a state can also enter religious life.

actually, there are two orders of deacons…those who are permanent deacons and those who continue on to become priests…just saw this is a pamphlet at our church last week…

Generally yes, it would be rare, but it does happen. Permanent deacons are just a name we give for those that are not planning on becoming priests. The ordination is the same for those going into seminary and those that are planning on remaining deacons.There is no theological difference.

So let us suppose that two men are going to be ordained as deacons, one will eventually become a priest, the other will become a deacon who is married. They will make the same promises at ordination except that the married man will not make a promise of celibacy/chastity. Other than that, everything is the same.

If the married man’s wife dies and he does not have any children to support, it would not be unusual for him to consider going into priesthood. It would be up to him and his bishop to decide to do such a thing and the bishop would need to consider how much time he had left to be engaged in ministry. Even if he was near retirement age, it would not be strange for the bishop to still ordain him as a priest so that he could serve as a retired priest.

ifiddles - As an ordained Roman Catholic Deacon I can assure you that there is only ONE order of deacons in the Church. There is one Sacrament of Holy Orders. Within that sacrament there are three levels. They are deacons, priests and bishops. Period! The terms “transitional” and “permanent” are simply descriptive, shorthand terms to easily describe a man who will continue for further studies in seminary to potentially one day be ordained a priest (transitional), contrasted with a man who will always remain a deacon (permanent). What I have described is theory. Whether or not some priests and bishops in practice treat the ordained men in the two categories as though there were in fact FOUR levels of Holy Orders (with permanent Deacons at the very bottom of course) is quite another matter! ;). :smiley:


Yes, we had one in Denver. I don’t remember his name but he was a widower, with grown children, and was ordained a priest - and he was teased by the other priests that he “got all seven of the Sacraments.”

Years ago there was an older priest in our Diocese who was laicized, got married, raised a family, and then his wife died. He then was “reinstated” by the Bishop and received all his faculties and functioned as a priest again. He was at my parish and I got to know him fairly well. He got sick and died, however, after a few years.

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