How long to become a Franciscan priest?

Hello! Quick question, does anyone happen to know how long it takes, minimum, to become a priest in the Franciscan order (I’m not looking to join, I’m asking for fiction-writing reasons).

Better yet, would anyone know how long it would have taken during the medieval times?

God bless!

Well, it depends on how much education the candidate has at the time he formally sets out to be Franciscan, and a priest. My cousin entered a Franciscan high school seminary in 10th grade, which would be much less common nowadays. Others have a master’s degree before they enter Franciscanism.

Essentially a Franciscan priest, or any priest, needs 4 years of college and 4 years of graduate seminary, or “theologate”. However religious orders invariably require some additional time, perhaps a couple years, for “formation”. The Franciscan is not only preparing for priesthood, but for “religious life”. Brothers also go through preparation for this.

Before the Council of Trent, “seminary” education was less formalized. An individual would mentor under a priest, until the priest and a bishop were satisfied he was mature enough to be ordained. Again, it would depend partly on how mature he was when he started out. For Franciscans, the ordination preparation process was combined with formation into the community. Most male Franciscans did not become priests then.

One other thing,

In most Orders, you are invited to consider the priesthood, IF the Prior has a need for an additional priest in the community.

If there is not, you will not have the ability to pursue any clerical state.

Thank you everyone! As an aside: I misspoke, the story is actually set during the 1600’s, but I’m fairly certain the answers still apply.

Why are you certain the answers would still apply? Setting the story so far back in the past and assuming modern answers could sink your story before it even gets going.

For example it wouldn’t have been uncommon for boys to be sent to monasteries to join an order at a very young age. Training for the priesthood was much less formalized and probably took place solely within the local monastery or a larger nearby monastery.


For monks, it would be monasteries. But for Franciscans - friars - it would be a friary. They are similar, but the monastery would likely have been bigger, definitely a permanent type structure. It would be somewhat enclosed, maybe a campus, though there might have been a lay town nearby.

The friary, unless it was a cloister, would have been more integrated into the life of the town around it. If the story was taking place in the 1600s, this was after Trent, so there would have been some places still transitioning to the seminary model. Alongside the preparation for the priesthood, there would be a parallel formation towards religious life - first tonsure, provisional vows, etc.

My point was that taking answers in regard to religious life in 2017 and pretending they accurately represent religious life in the 1600s would be a huge mistake. It seems akin to me to talk to a rust belt Catholic and then try to argue their experiences would analogous to Hispanic Catholics in southern California. Or talk to a priest ordained in 2015 and take his seminary experiences and equate them to a seminarian from the 1930s, even if from the same diocese. You’re going to get two hugely different stories.


By “I’m pretty sure it still applies,” I meant that range of a few years wasn’t going to be that big of a deal (I was just checking to make sure it wasn’t more than 10 years).

My character is a Franciscan priest who was once a Spanish trader who was a part of the Naban trade in Japan; if the education and ordination process was going to be more than 10 years I was going to have to fiddle with his age a bit and the age of another character with connections to him, but having a range of 6-10 years will work just fine. The exact particulars don’t really matter so much because the majority of his backstory is implied and “off-screen,” so to speak.

This is very true. In fact one doesn’t enter a friary to be a Franciscan priest, or a Benedictine monastery to be a Benedictine priest. One enters to be a Franciscan friar, or a Benedictine monk, period. The needs of the community will determine if a member becomes a priest or not, and the qualities of a particular monk or friar will determine if it is he who is invited by the superior.

Of course as the OP is writing fiction, he can make the community need a priest and his character fill the requirement.

But to be realistic, he needs to present it in the right way, that is on the superior’s initiative.

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