How Strict is Seminary Life?


I have been doing some research and have come across a few questions. How strict is seminary life? Is silence observed? Can a seminarian have access to a laptop, Facebook, email, etc.? These are random questions out of curiosity. They answers to the technology one has no effect on my discernment whatsoever. Just curious.



I believe the first year is spent mostly in silent observation, at least in some of them.

“Facebook?” I should hope not, but that’s just my personal opinion since I can’t stand it. Surely they would use computers in their studies.

I would think the seminary a place to get away from such worldly distractions.


I know seminarians, they go to a good seminary, and they are on facebook. Granted, there are some times of the year where yo never hear from them. But, for the most part they’re able to post semi-regularly. I’d say they use facebook in moderation at seminaries, in general. I don’t know about other seminaries, only firsthand from this one.

Also, no, they don’t observe silence, at least not that I’m aware.

Seminaries do have a kind of daily schedule that seminarians must adhere to. So, outside of classes, there are daily Masses, daily prayers, etc. that they are expected to be at. This particular seminary also sends all of its seminarians to pray outside of the local abortion clinic on a regular basis (like monthly or something like that).

Seminarians also meet with a spiritual director, normally one of the priests who teaches at the seminary, once every week.


(Answering this from a diocesan perspective. Your mileage may vary in religious orders.)

How strict is seminary life?
I wouldn’t call it strict at all. I would instead refer to it as “structured”, in the sense that you have morning prayer, breakfast, daily mass, lunch, evening prayer, and dinner at set times.

Is silence observed?
Back before the days of Vatican II, this would have been a little more common place. If you’re looking into FSSP or a religious order which is more hierarchical or monastic, then yes, you may find this.

Can a seminarian have access to a laptop, Facebook, email, etc.?
Yes, and you will need it. I assure you that no professor in his right mind would want to read 10 page philosophy papers which are handwritten. Facebook is to your discretion. Email is generally provided through the seminary, and you can obviously use your own.

All that being said, my Vincentian priest friend was in the seminary as VII was going on, being part of one of the first classes to learn the new rites instead of the Latin High Mass. In those days, you have very limited contact to the outside world, your mail was read (both incoming and outgoing) before you were able to read/send any, and strict silence outside of class was observed.

Any more questions, ask away.:thumbsup:


Check this out.

Please watch past the 1:05 mark.

The first part is a joke. The next nine minutes tell the real story.


There are going to be tremendous differences in style and discipline between different seminaries and, particularly, between diocesan and religious order seminaries.


If you even have to ask, I’d say it’s not for you. It requires complete dedication. I’m sure that different seminaries have different rules, but that’s not the point.


I do not think they are that strict, and they are not much for forsaking the desires of the world. For example, St. Mary’s Seminary, in Baltimore, is known as the “Pink Palace.” Surely you are aware what the refers, but in case anyone is not, it means it is overrun by homosexuals. In case you think I am making this up, Google “pink palace” and watch what comes up.


There is such a word as “detraction” look this up, for yourself. Have you been to St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, ? don’t believe all that you hear, I listened to a lot of anti catholic remarks when I went to Anglican school, and before I was a Catholic, which I then later found out to be lies.

Woe to the scandal monger.


A seminary is less like a law school or a medical school and more like a military or naval academy, for it is not simply there for the purposes of intellectual training. Its primary purpose is to discipline the will and to acquire the habits becoming a priest. Thus, you are there to be separate from the world, under a discipline which leaves nothing to fancy. What you are doing at every moment of the day is laid down by the rule: class, study, pious exercises, and so forth. This is so to order your soul to habits of regularity, self-control, and self-sacrifice.

That said, the rule of no seminary I know is very burdensome. As personal computers are rather necessary in this day for many things a seminarian must do–writing, research, banking and bill-paying, some communications like e-mail–use of a computer will surely not be frowned upon, and you will certainly have the time to use it to productive ends. Whether your own or the seminary’s is up to the rule. Facebook, however, might be a step to far, and might violate that principle of separation from the world. The only way to know is to look at the rules of any particular seminary. In any case, consider that all you’ll be missing are funny pictures of pets anyway.

God bless.


When seminaries were established following the Council of Trent the only model the Church had to work from was monasteries and monastic life. This basically resulted in seminaries being built in the middle of nowhere (away from civilisation and the evils of the world) and seminary life being very strictly regimented. All well and good except the problem with this was however that, following ordination, priests were of course required to live in and minister to people in the world and were required to structure and regulate their own time. it also makes pastoral formation quite difficult - unless of course you want to take the term “pastoral” literally…

Fortunately, and indeed, wisely; seminary life is vastly different. Yes, laptops (like the one I’m typing on now) are allowed - as is Facebook (in fact some seminaries and even bishops have their own Facebook pages), cars, gym memberships, and yes even alcohol. Some might see this as degeneration and liberalism but I would regard it as due recognition of the maturity which is expected of today’s seminarians, most of whom will have been to university and many will have worked for a time prior to entering the seminary.

So do I, as a seminarian, exercise silence - no; I am not a monastic. I do however have a daily schedule consisting mostly of academic classes but also, more importantly, of morning and evening prayer and mass in common. Aside from those times when I’m expected to be somewhere, I’m left to regulate my own time - which I will obviously have to do when, God willing, I am ordained. I don’t have a curfew but that doesn’t mean that going out to parties four or five times a week is okay. I’m expected to live a life in keeping with my role and responsibilities as a seminarian. Doing that is essentially left up to me but if I was, for example, going out to parties four or five times a week, I could expect the seminary staff to raise this with me as a concern.

Ultimately, the problem with over-regulating people’s lives is that it tends to be all too effective - they become dependent on it and struggle to cope without it - especially if the change is sudden. If seminarians are expected to be mature, responsible men suitable for ordination then it follows that they should be treated in this way. Granted, there will always be some who will struggle to use this freedom responsibly but this is not a reason to remove that same level of freedom from those that do.


Nothing in the slightest comes up for me using DuckDuckGo. You are aware that Google bubbles you in, right?:shrug:



With all due respect, I think you are wrong. A person who is contemplating entering into a seminary is on the edge of a major, often irrevocable, decision in his life, and I think he is entitled to know what he is getting into.

If you have to ask, it is not for you? Is inquiry and investigation frowned upon in seminaries?


Regarding Internet usage, there is a Seminarian on the net who had done a blog about his path from being a young widower who received the call. I haven’t kept up on it, but he may now be close to ordination. I’d think that blog, if a person could find it, might be a good one to read.

Something that a potential seminarian might also check out is the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast. It started off being done by a Priest and a Seminarian, and then it was done by two Seminarians, one of whom was ordained while they were doing it. They aren’t presently updating it, but it was great while they were, and it really gave you a flavor of their personalities.


If anything, inquiry and investigation is actively encouraged. Many seminaries have inquiry or "come and see’ weekends which allow prospective applicant to well, come and see! :smiley:

I’d strongly encourage anyone seriously considering applying to go to one of these weekends in order to see what the seminary life - as well as the seminary itself - is like and whether they feel like it’s somewhere they want to be. Ideally, they’ll feel like it’s the right place for them but even if they feel like they’re in completely the wrong place, it’s far better to find that out before starting rather than two days in!


I’ll answer your questions with how my seminary works, but I just want to preface any answers by saying that it really depends on the seminary. It often depends on who’s running the Seminary (Is it diocesan? Sulpician? Benedictine?) because their pedagogy will dictate the particulars. So, now for my answers.

By the way, my seminary is St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, Canada. It is run by the Sulpicians (Society of St. Sulpice, Canadian province).

Depends on what you mean by “observed”.

Is it silent all the time? No, of course not. There’s a bunch of young men going to school together and discerning together. We discuss classes, papers, assignments, the weather, politics (local and international depending on what’s going on), sports, movies, etc.

We do have a strict silence observed at night though (starting at 10pm), and retreats and recollections are done in silence (except for communal prayer and Mass of course).

Yep. I’m typing this on my laptop in my room. The way the formation team communicates with people (outside of weekly meetings) is normally via email. Our educational institutions communicate with us usually (almost exclusively sometimes) via email or online. Facebook? Yes, most seminarians use Facebook (and several of the formation team members).

Now, we do have at my seminary something called the propaedeutic year, which has a stricter schedule and rules. It’s a spiritually focused year, so there is a media fast during the week (no internet, tv, ect). There is a silent day every week, including silent meals. You can’t leave the grounds on weekdays (except for outside placements) and have a curfew on weekends. That’s only for 1 year though.

I want to second this answer. Treating diocesan seminarians like monks is not going to work out very well for them because they are not going to live like monks. Diocesan priests (here in Western Canada at least) usually live alone. They have to be able to organize their life on their own (besides Mass schedules). They have to manage money on their own.


My years in seminary were not that strict, aside from required activities. Of course, this was the years before widespread internet connectivity. We didn’t have internet at all. lol

There was a marginal dress code, common prayer and Mass each day that had to be attended, as well as a few other meetings during the week. We were taking 17 hours a semester, so we really didn’t have much time to do more than read and study anyway.


Just to clarify, I did attend a Catholic seminary from 1992-96. I have since become a Unitarian Universalist. :slight_smile:


The only silence we observed was a three day silent retreat during Holy Week.

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