College then Seminary or Directly to Seminary? And other questions


#1

I need advice about this. I am aware that I could go to college and get a degree and then join the seminary; I also know that depending on what degree I get in college I could have my years in the seminary reduced. I’m not really interested in having my years reduced because I would enjoy going for the full 8 years just fine but I am still curious about what degrees the seminaries usually will take. My questions are as follows:

  1. Which degrees might grant this reduction? Would I be required to take the reduction in years or could I choose to receive the full time? I am really interested in the Classics because I love reading mythology and have enjoyed taking Latin in high school so I want to further my understanding of the ancient world and take Greek as well. Thoughts?

  2. Are there any priests who went the “college then seminary” route who can comment on the challenges you faced? If you could do it again, would you choose to go to college or just go straight to seminary?

  3. I know this is stuff I could ask a vocations director, but it’s been nagging me for a while, so: Does seminary cost anything or is it paid for by the diocese?

  4. How do I choose which diocese I will serve? or is it not my choice at all? Just whichever one I apply to seminary from?

  5. How are parish assignments done? On a similar note, how are bishops chosen?

  6. Are there any academic credentials necessary to join certain seminaries? I am the current valedictorian and have a high SAT score, but are other requirements I will need to join a seminary?

Thanks for answering these more “practical” priesthood questions. I have been praying frequently and on the weekends and school breaks I pray two rosaries a day. I really want to serve God as a priest.


#2

You mention diocesan priesthood, so I'm answering based on diocesan formation...

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:1, topic:304490"]
I also know that depending on what degree I get in college I could have my years in the seminary reduced.

[/quote]

Not really. If you go into seminary right out of high school, you'll be in minor seminary for four years (getting a BA in philosophy, most likely) and then major seminary for four years (getting a degree in theology -- mDiv, MA, or STB, most likely). On the other hand, if you go into seminary after getting a bachelor's degree, you'll probably spend two years in pre-theology (studying philosophy) and then major seminary for four years. There's the outside chance that, if you go to college on your own and get a bachelor's in philosophy, you might only be in minor seminary a year or one-and-a-half years. However, that's up to your diocese -- some are willing to do it, and others will have you go through the full two year pre-theology program (the academic work you'd do might vary from the standard two-year philosophy program, but the time spent in discernment and formation would be the same).

1) Which degrees might grant this reduction?

There's not really a "reduction", per se. Talk to the vocations director in the diocese, though, for more info.

2) Are there any priests who went the "college then seminary" route who can comment on the challenges you faced? If you could do it again, would you choose to go to college or just go straight to seminary?

I can't answer this from personal experience. One thought, though: a person's undergraduate years are filled with formative experiences -- human formation in particular. There's a lot of "growing up" that happens while in undergrad. If you feel strongly either way -- that you want to do this formation while in an intense seminary formation program (or that you'd rather do it on your own, and then enter seminary later) -- then that might influence your decision on when you might want to apply.

3) I know this is stuff I could ask a vocations director, but it's been nagging me for a while, so: Does seminary cost anything or is it paid for by the diocese?

You need to ask a vocations director -- it varies by diocese. Some pay for the undergrad education. Others pay for undergrad if you go through to ordination (but if you do your undergrad work as a seminarian and then drop out, then you assume the financial obligation of the undergrad tuition).

4) How do I choose which diocese I will serve? Just whichever one I apply to seminary from?

No. You would typically choose your diocese first. For a guy just out of high school, this would typically be his home diocese. However, if there's another diocese to which you feel an affinity (maybe you have family living in that diocese, and you've spent significant time there, or you moved while growing up and would like to serve in the diocese in which you were born or spent part of your childhood), then you could always contact that diocese's vocations office.

You typically won't apply to a particular seminary on your own, per se. Generally, you'll apply to the formation program in your diocese. Typically, a diocese has a seminary (or a number of seminaries) that it uses for formation of its seminarians. It's not that you apply to a seminary and then to a diocese, but the other way around: typically, you enter the formation program for a diocese, and they send you to seminary.

5) How are parish assignments done?

You promise obedience to your bishop. He assigns you to a parish. ;)

On a similar note, how are bishops chosen?

Ambitious, aren't you? ;) It's a completely different process: candidates are chosen by the nuncio (if memory serves). Confidential questionnaires are sent to clergy in the diocese, asking about the character of the man in question. The nuncio puts together a terna (a list of three names of candidates) and sends them to the pope. The pope picks from that list (or suggests a different name, or asks for additional names). The pope makes a selection, the nuncio calls the man and asks if he accepts.

6) Are there any academic credentials necessary to join certain seminaries? I am the current valedictorian and have a high SAT score, but are other requirements I will need to join a seminary?

There are certainly academic qualifications to enter academic programs.

As I mentioned above, you'd first apply to your diocesan formation program; once accepted, your diocese would direct you to apply to the seminary that they wish you to attend.

Other requirements? You're a male; baptised; confirmed. You're not married. There are a variety of other considerations that your vocations director would be sure to want to talk to you about (have you fathered any children to whom you have an obligation? do you have outstanding debt? do you have problems with drugs or alcohol?). The diocese might ask you to go to your doctor and have a physical. There will likely be a psychological screening. Probably, there will be interview(s) with personnel on the formation admission board.

Talk to a vocations director. He'll set you in the right direction...!


#3

Sorry, I'll edit to specify diocesan. I'll also make sure everyone knows I am baptized and confirmed. Thanks for the answers.

edit: Looks like I'm too late to edit. I'm new to this forum :P Oh well, hopefully the readers scroll down to see this post.

What can you tell me about being both a teacher and a priest? Are there any paths to this while still being diocesan? Or are religious the only that have this available? Do priests that teach at schools sometimes get to celebrate mass?


#4

May the SACRED HEART BLESS YOU FOR THIS HOLY DESIRE!!

May HE make you a Priest and Saint for Our Church!! :thumbsup::thumbsup:

Just some words of encouragement, sorry it wasn’t more helpful


#5

It's okay, friend. I admire your zeal. May the Sacred Heart be with you always.


#6

Well, you could go to a college that has a seminary affiliated with it. As an example, I'll give my alma mater, the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

St. Thomas has two seminaries on its campus, the upper and lower seminaries. The lower seminary, St. John Vianney Seminary, normally has students that are taking their undergraduate classes at St. Thomas. The upper seminary, St. Paul Seminary, has students that are in their upper seminary studies (basically graduate and above).

At St. Thomas to speed up the process of seminary studies (as you have said), most seminarians take two majors: Catholic Studies and Philosophy (although it's not required, some take other majors/minors/etc). I believe the studies for the students at St. John Vianney Seminary and St. Paul Seminary are still around the normal length (6-8 years) for seminary studies, but as a non-seminarian (and not being qualified to be one as I am a woman :p) I'm not really sure.

Hope this helps in some way. :)


#7

From what I understand up here in Quebec, generally the diocese where one does their seminary is the one they serve unless they are also part of a religious order. I know my friend wanted to serve in Montreal therefore he went to seminary here. It would have been more complicated if he wanted to serve here and go to seminary somewhere else. Most of the priests I know, got a degree in something else before they became priests. It has helped them become better all rounded people.

College then seminary might be worth while looking into. Before you make any decision speak with a spiritual director and the person in charge of vocations.


#8

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:1, topic:304490"]
I need advice about this. I am aware that I could go to college and get a degree and then join the seminary; I also know that depending on what degree I get in college I could have my years in the seminary reduced. I'm not really interested in having my years reduced because I would enjoy going for the full 8 years just fine but I am still curious about what degrees the seminaries usually will take. My questions are as follows:

1) Which degrees might grant this reduction? Would I be required to take the reduction in years or could I choose to receive the full time? I am really interested in the Classics because I love reading mythology and have enjoyed taking Latin in high school so I want to further my understanding of the ancient world and take Greek as well. Thoughts?

2) Are there any priests who went the "college then seminary" route who can comment on the challenges you faced? If you could do it again, would you choose to go to college or just go straight to seminary?

3) I know this is stuff I could ask a vocations director, but it's been nagging me for a while, so: Does seminary cost anything or is it paid for by the diocese?

4) How do I choose which diocese I will serve? or is it not my choice at all? Just whichever one I apply to seminary from?

5) How are parish assignments done? On a similar note, how are bishops chosen?

6) Are there any academic credentials necessary to join certain seminaries? I am the current valedictorian and have a high SAT score, but are other requirements I will need to join a seminary?

Thanks for answering these more "practical" priesthood questions. I have been praying frequently and on the weekends and school breaks I pray two rosaries a day. I really want to serve God as a priest.

[/quote]

You generally need 2 years of undergrad philosophy, 4 years of theology and a pastoral component (this makes an M.Div).

So degrees which include philosophy may count towards your philosophy requirement.

If you want to be a diocesan priest then I think you can apply to different dioceses (not sure about this). Certain dioceses tend to favour certain seminaries.

On ordination the Bishop will assign you to a parish - based on the need of the diocese and the various parishes, and also your own need for mentorship.

You should maybe check out religious life too.:thumbsup:


#9

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:1, topic:304490"]
I need advice about this. I am aware that I could go to college and get a degree and then join the seminary; I also know that depending on what degree I get in college I could have my years in the seminary reduced. I'm not really interested in having my years reduced because I would enjoy going for the full 8 years just fine but I am still curious about what degrees the seminaries usually will take. My questions are as follows:

1) Which degrees might grant this reduction? Would I be required to take the reduction in years or could I choose to receive the full time? I am really interested in the Classics because I love reading mythology and have enjoyed taking Latin in high school so I want to further my understanding of the ancient world and take Greek as well. Thoughts?

2) Are there any priests who went the "college then seminary" route who can comment on the challenges you faced? If you could do it again, would you choose to go to college or just go straight to seminary?

3) I know this is stuff I could ask a vocations director, but it's been nagging me for a while, so: Does seminary cost anything or is it paid for by the diocese?

4) How do I choose which diocese I will serve? or is it not my choice at all? Just whichever one I apply to seminary from?

5) How are parish assignments done? On a similar note, how are bishops chosen?

6) Are there any academic credentials necessary to join certain seminaries? I am the current valedictorian and have a high SAT score, but are other requirements I will need to join a seminary?

Thanks for answering these more "practical" priesthood questions. I have been praying frequently and on the weekends and school breaks I pray two rosaries a day. I really want to serve God as a priest.

[/quote]

  1. Philosophy and theology. In my experience, and in the experience of others I have known, getting an STB and MDiv (they are awarded simultaneously at several institutions; in any case, that can be reduced to "first professional degree for Catholic ministry" or something similar) requires 6 years of study; 3 years undergraduate to get a bachelor's degree in philosophy or theology, and 3 years postgraduate at the seminary in theology, etc.

  2. Some seminaries also have an undergraduate "pre-theology" school attached to them, such as the Josephinum in Columbus, OH. I already had undergraduate degrees in several fields, ranging from electronic engineering to philosophy, so I am unfit to answer the question for the average college student who is discerning a call to the priesthood. Note that I am not yet a priest and may never be, if that is the will of God for my life. Discernment continues up until the moment of ordination.

  3. Yes, ask a vocations director, most certainly. I would also speak to your confessor or spiritual father as well. It depends, but in the Catholic Church, I believe it is most often paid for if the student can not afford it and the student intends to become a priest, and the different superiors agree that the student is likely called. I believe the original goal (again, quoting the Josephinum's charter, here), is that "none should be turned away who are called to minister unto the Church of God because of financial need" (paraphrase).

  4. I can't answer this fully. In religious orders (OP, OFM, SJ, etc.) - the members thereof being "priests regular" or "clerk regular" ("canons regular" for those following the rule of Augustine, I believe, which includes the Dominicans)- that are not cloistered, one has no say in the matter and serves where one is told to serve, whether it be as a teacher of high-school theology, as a missionary to the heart of French Indochina, or as anything else. For a priest who is not a member of a religious order - the typical parish priest, who is called a "priest secular" or "clerk secular" (who nonetheless may be members of societies of priests, such as the FSSP, which are not religious orders), I am uncertain how or where one is called to serve. It may be that they attempt to have you serve in the parish from whence you came; it may be the opposite.

Note, that, according to all of the information I have received, one can not "choose" a seminary - there is only one seminary, depending on where you live, that is open to you, if you do not wish to join a religious order, and depending on which rite you belong to. Say, a man from Massachusetts can not choose to attend Sacred Heart in Detroit, insofar as I know; he would attend the seminary of his diocese, and, if his diocese does not have one, he would attend the Josephinum or another seminary that handles those situations. However, I am not certain of this.

  1. By order of one's superiors, I assume. However, refer to answer to the above question. Bishops are chosen by appointment.

  2. To join a seminary, it is generally required to have a bachelor's degree in philosophy or theology, but dispensations can be given in certain circumstances. I do not know how common these dispensations are.


#10

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:3, topic:304490"]
What can you tell me about being both a teacher and a priest? Are there any paths to this while still being diocesan? Or are religious the only that have this available? Do priests that teach at schools sometimes get to celebrate mass?

[/quote]

Hmm... I'm not certain whether you're asking me "can a diocesan priest be a full-time teacher?" or "does a diocesan priest have opportunities to teach?", so let me answer both questions... ;)

Can a diocesan priest also be a full-time teacher? Well, it can happen, but keep in mind two things: first, men discerning a vocation to the diocesan priesthood should really be discerning a vocation as a parish priest -- in other words, although there are a variety of roles that diocesan priests fill (canon lawyers, administrators, chaplains, etc), the most common role of a diocesan priest is in a parish. If you're not willing to be assigned to a parish, then chances are, your discernment isn't really geared toward the diocesan priesthood. Second, as I mentioned before, diocesan priests take a promise of obedience to their bishop (and his successors). This means that, although there might be opportunities to mention one's preferences, nonetheless there's the expectation that if the bishop asks you to take an assignment in a parish, you're gonna take it! So, if the bishop assigns you to teach, you teach. And if he assigns you to be a pastor, you go to the parish!

There are some diocesan priests who never become pastors, of course. However, the majority of diocesan priests are parish priests. (In years gone by, when there were plenty of diocesan priests, it might have been more common to have been assigned to a school; that's generally not the situation these days, though.) In my diocese, I think we have somewhere around 300 priests. I don't know all of them, of course, but I can think of a few who have roles in the chancery, and a couple in the seminary, and a few in the canon law office, and a couple who have full-time roles as chaplains; but I can't think of a single one whose primary role is a teacher in a school.

Even those diocesan priests who are assigned to schools are usually assigned to residence at a parish. So yeah, in the situation you're envisioning, a diocesan priest assigned to teach would probably have a parish at which he'd perform sacramental ministry.

On the other hand, you might be asking, "do diocesan priests -- assigned to full-time duties like pastor or administrator -- also have the opportunity to teach?". I would say that the answer to this is definitely 'yes'! A priest in a parish might lead a class meant to instruct and train catechists; he might give a lecture in his parish or in the greater context of the diocese; he might teach a CCD class or an RCIA class from time to time. Even when he preaches at Mass, the priest is performing a task that has a catechetical component. So, yeah -- I would say that a diocesan priest often teaches, in his role as a parish priest!


#11

Novus,

Regarding teaching, there was one other thing I thought of, this morning: although I can't think of a priest in my diocese who teaches full-time, I do know of a few who were teachers before they became priests! So, it seems that there is some sort of relationship there, between the desire to teach and the openness to the call to the priesthood! ;)


#12

That helps a lot, Gorgias. I volunteer as a tutor at my school and think that besides helping in the Church's work on earth, there is really nothing more important than teaching (and I was referring to education of kids) because I think the impact of a good teacher on a student at the proper moment can really change his life for the better.


#13

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:1, topic:304490"]
1) Which degrees might grant this reduction? Would I be required to take the reduction in years or could I choose to receive the full time? I am really interested in the Classics because I love reading mythology and have enjoyed taking Latin in high school so I want to further my understanding of the ancient world and take Greek as well. Thoughts?

[/quote]

In Canada (where I can speak to), all seminarians require a bachelors degree and 24 credits (which is 8 specific classes) of philosophy, which can be included in the degree. I believe the US program requires 30 credits (10 courses) philosophy and 12 credits (4 courses) undergraduate theology.

30 credits is generally enough to qualify for a major, so a BA in Philosophy and minoring in something is the usual route for seminarians.

At my seminary, if you enter holding the undergraduate prerequisites, it's a 5 year program (1 year spiritual year, 3 years theology, 1 pastoral year). Entering out of high school adds 3-4 years to that.

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:1, topic:304490"]
2) Are there any priests who went the "college then seminary" route who can comment on the challenges you faced? If you could do it again, would you choose to go to college or just go straight to seminary?

[/quote]

This I can speak to. My bachelor's degree is in engineering, and so in my first year (which is where I am right now) I have to take the required philosophy (8 courses). So I'll have 6 years in total.

Is there challenges? I wouldn't say so. Having done an entire degree already, taking a bunch of largely 200-level undergraduate courses seems really easy actually.

Now, would I do it differently? No, I don't think I would. I'm quite glad I did the engineering degree.

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:1, topic:304490"]
3) I know this is stuff I could ask a vocations director, but it's been nagging me for a while, so: Does seminary cost anything or is it paid for by the diocese?

[/quote]

Completely depends on the diocese. Some will pay for undergraduate tuition, some will require you to pay for it. Generally room and board and the Graduate work in theology is payed for (although how it's "payed for" can also differ between diocese).

You'll have to ask the vocation director of the diocese you are thinking of applying to what their policy is.

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:1, topic:304490"]
4) How do I choose which diocese I will serve? or is it not my choice at all? Just whichever one I apply to seminary from?

[/quote]

You are free to apply to any diocese that you choose, just be aware that they will most definitely ask you why you want to apply to that diocese. Applications are no guarantee of acceptance though.

It's most common for people to apply for the diocese that they have grown up in (well, however common it is for people to live in one place all their lives that is). It's not uncommon to see people apply to a diocese they went to university in either (that's what I ended up doing).

As for which seminary (because this question sometimes comes up), your bishop (of whatever diocese you are accepted as a seminarian) will tell you which seminary you will be attending (in some cases you may get a choice between 2, but it's best to be prepared for the case where you are just sent to a particular one).

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:1, topic:304490"]
5) How are parish assignments done? On a similar note, how are bishops chosen?

[/quote]

The Bishop assigns you to a parish, and you go. It is really that simple. :shrug:

When a man is ordained a deacon, they make a promise of obedience to their bishop and his successors. That obedience means that when your bishop tells you to go to X parish, you go.

Bishops are chosen by the Pope with assistance from the Papal Nuncio and the Congregation for Bishops.

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:3, topic:304490"]
What can you tell me about being both a teacher and a priest? Are there any paths to this while still being diocesan? Or are religious the only that have this available? Do priests that teach at schools sometimes get to celebrate mass?

[/quote]

It is possible for a diocesan priest to do so, but that would be something to talk to the vocation director about.

There are not a lot of teacher-priests anymore (priest shortage and all that). The Jesuits generally stick to universities. The Basilians are another congregation of priests that have education as one of their charisms (they are in the US and Canada); they generally work in universities and high schools.


#14

[quote="NovusAugustus, post:3, topic:304490"]
What can you tell me about being both a teacher and a priest? Are there any paths to this while still being diocesan? Or are religious the only that have this available? Do priests that teach at schools sometimes get to celebrate mass?

[/quote]

I think there are diocesan priest teaching at the local seminary, but I may be mistaken.


#15

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