Priesthood for Late (40+) Vocations


#1

Fellow Catholics:

I thought this would be a good place where laity can share their experience with priests who were “late” or “delayed” vocations. I’m speaking more about those who were ordained after age 40.

Quite frankly, the ones that I have met, my experiences have been positive. My mother’s parish had a “later vocation” priest (he has since passed away) and he was a good administrator, prayerful, and went out of his way to visit the sick in nursing homes. His life skills from his previous career as an accountant for an oil and gas company were an asset. My mother really misses him.

I know another priest in my diocese who was widowed. He has 7 grown children from his successful marriage. He had been a permanent deacon, and a few years after his wife passed (his youngest child was already on his own), he entered seminary and was ordained at 64. He had also served 20 years in the Army Reserve, and he can relate well to men, and to his parishioners. He is also pro-life.

I also have a friend who was ordained a priest last year at the age of 44. He had been a seminarian when he was younger, but left (he was in his late 20’s then) because he was unsure about his vocation. After spending 13 years as an engineer (he had an engineering degree completed before entering seminary), and doing quite a bit of teaching and youth ministry at a parish, he re-entered seminary in 2010 and was ordained last year. He is a good priest, and he is in a pretty good diocese. His bishop made him a pastor right out the gate, so I know his bishop has quite a bit of faith in his abilities. Yes, with this white collar, comes great responsibility."

Therefore, I think the life experiences that these men have bring a unique perspective to their calling. Any thoughts?


#2

There have been a couple of ordinations of older men in my diocese in the last five or so years. Both men are very down to earth and seem to put things in the proper perspective (towards heaven).

Our pastor was dean at the seminary and he said that the faculty was worried about such hardened men entering the seminary. They were concerned that they would be rigid and hard to form for the priesthood. He said that it ended up being quite the opposite, for these older men had been humbled by life and were ready to accept that they didn’t know everything, unlike many young seminarians. While all the older men were ordained, less than half of the young men admitted to seminary were.

Christus resurrexit!


#3

The bottom line is we need more priests, and there doesn’t seem to any reason why one would need to be really young to have a calling.


#4

Amen!~


#5

My parish priest, now in his early fifties, was ordained only a few years ago, at about 44 or 45. He had quite a tough time getting accepted by the higher-ups in his congregation, who thought that a man of his age and with his background – he was an accountant and office manager – would be too difficult for them to mold into their pattern. They prefer younger and more malleable candidates, just as Augustine said (#2 on this thread).


#6

a while ago we had a late ordination priest come to our country parish. He was a widower, and I think retired or of retirement age, and we were his first parish. A large part of the congregation could not cope with his adult children and grandchildren coming to Mass, and staying at the Presbytery, and they made life very difficult for him, with anonymous hate letters whenever he tried to improve the parish in any way. He lasted a year, and went to an administrative role in the city.


#7

…and we men at Pope St. John National Seminary appreciate your support and prayers. We have over 60 men studying now, 11 of those will be ordained this summer as priests.


#8

Chrisleighlowe:

Thanks for your input. I do pray for vocations, and I know a little bit about St. John National Seminary in Boston (I think before John XXIII was canonized, the seminary was called Blessed John XXIII). I’ve met a few priests who studied there, and one current seminarian is from my home diocese. He is one of the eleven who will be ordained this summer (he’s also a widower).

Recently, I saw an interview with a faculty member, and he commented on how solid and sure the men are about their vocation. a good bishop from the Armed Forces (now deceased) once mentioned to us on a retreat that God calls men to the priesthood at different times.

There is also a seminary in Wisconsin, the Sacred Heart School of Theology, that has many “late vocation” seminarians. Holy Apostles in Cromwell, Connecticut also has a few too.

Chrisleighlowe, I am praying for your vocation, and I am definitely one lay person who appreciates the life experiences that enrich the “late vocation” priest.


#9

I think the Church needs late vocations. We are fortunate to have these emerging priests in a time of need. Although some may feel it’s too progressive, the ranks have slowly reduced to critical levels. The only other answer is to ordain women, and/or permit married clergy. But that surely won’t be happening any time soon. I suppose among the three alternatives, late vocations could be considered a path of least resistance. In the U.S. many people would accept women, and married priests, but the Church hierarchy is not so minded.


#10

I would like to figure out what the “average age” across the country this year was for priestly ordinations. Two were ordained for my diocese - one is 36 and the other was in his early 60’s. The priest is his early 60’s is a widower with three grown children, a convert, and an alumnus of Blessed John XXIII Seminary. I’m glad I got to meet him 15 days ago at his ordination. I knew the younger guy (36) too, since he helped out at a parish close to where I live. Both will make good priests.

The Austin Diocese ordained six men to the priesthood 8 days ago. Two were in their 40’s, and one is a former Marine. The former Marine sounds like he would be a good candidate to be a Navy Chaplain. One of the newer priests from Austin I am familiar with because his brother and I went to college together.

Last year, I went to the ordination for the Diocese of Fort Worth, since an old friend of mine that I did some youth ministry with was ordained. He was 44 (and had worked as an engineer for many years), and he was ordained with another priest who was in his mid-30’s. My friend’s bishop has alot of faith in him, since his bishop made him a pastor on his first assignment.

The last few years, I believe the “average age” for ordination is in the early to mid 30’s. Part of it is the preparation it takes to become a priest - it’s much different than enrolling in graduate school. The time is 5 or 6 years (not two years), and candidates must endure background and psychological checks, as well as some interviews. Sometimes it is hard to hear the call, and certain situations are examined on a “case-by-case” basis. Just because a Catholic man is a widower or is over 40 years of age doesn’t mean he will automatically be accepted to a diocese.

That said, I always welcome “late vocations”. These men have real-life experience that is very helpful in being a pastor. Many have worked with people, many have been buried in meetings, many have had to do their own bookkeeping, and many have supervised others. God calls us at different times.


#11

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