Question on Priesthood Training and Clergy


Hello all,

I'm making a film that includes clergymen in the story, and I was wondering: how old must you be to work as a clergyman in a church? Example: does it make sense for some of the clergymen to be about 23 years old and be working as clergy in the church, training under the priest at the church? If they're training would they still wear clergy robes?


In order to be ordained a priest you must be 25. In order to be a deacon you must be 23.
In the U.S. there is typically anywhere from 6-8 years of studying in seminary. It will usually take 8 years if you enter straight out of high school but six if you enter out of college. With that being said you will usually find priests being ordained at 26-28 years old at the earliest. Ordination as a deacon usually takes place the year before being ordained a priest.


Thank you so much, that's very helpful! But I'm also curious about the actual clergymen, not just the priests. If someone is studying in a seminary, would they study under a specific priest at a specific church of their choosing? Would they come to church sermons wearing the clergy robe if they work at the church and are studying there, etc.?

(And by clergymen I mean the deacons who work for the church...for example: can a deacon be studying to eventually become a priest but currently works under a certain priest at a church? And would he wear a clergy robe to the masses?)

(PS: And what if someone is studying to become a deacon or priest but is not there yet...can they still work at the church as clergymen but just be lower-level clergymen, like lower on the hierarchy? Would they still wear the robes?)


It varies, but seminarians (men training for the priesthood) generally live in a community of students. There would be priest on staff, particularly the Rector (priest in charge) and the spiritual director. In some seminaries the training is done in house, but many simply go to an external university.

Typically the will spend the first several years of training at the seminary, before being sent on a parish placement. This is usually a parish of the Bishop's choice, not so much the seminarian's. Here they work under the specific instruction of the Parish Priest. However as they are not yet ordained there ministry is limited, they cannot perform sacraments etc. What they wear varies from diocese to diocese (I simply wore ordinary clothing).

In most diocese, the seminarian then returns to the seminary to complete his training and is then ordained a deacon and subsequently a priest, typically in their late twenties.

Hope this helps


Based on this and your other thread, I think you are not going to get clear answers because you are mixing up some terms.

According to the Catholic understanding, clergymen are deacons, priests, or bishops. Those are the only people in the "clerical state" and are therefore clergymen.

Anyone else is a lay person, a member of the laity. Lay people can be involved in the Church in many ways such as by serving at mass as lectors (readers) alcolytes, altar servers, etc. They may also work professionally as directors of religious education or social outreach for a parish or diocese, and may volunteer for advisory positions such as on the parish finance council. However, none of these people are members of the clergy. They are all lay people.

Men who are training for the priesthood attend seminary. They do not "train under the parish priest" because attending seminary, which lasts usually between six and eight years, is like attending college, though seminarians usually spend their summer breaks working in a parish setting.

To answer your question, no it would not be unusual to have seminarians in their early twenties helping out in a parish if it is the summer. But they are not part of the clergy until they are ordained deacon.


Only the ordained wear vestments, only professed religious wear habits.

Seminarians may wear clerics with permission from bishop, normally though, they need to have completed pre-theology requisites and currently studying theology.

Women do not wear vestments of any kind. But from time to time, those in the choir will wear "robes", but it is not tied to the liturgy or to any Office.

Only an ordained priest or deacon may read the Gospel during mass. So that would not include women. But any trained lector may read from the first or second readings of the mass.

It is inappropriate for a lector to wear something resembling vestments. Similarly, it is equally inappropriate for EXTRA-ORDINARY ministers of the Eucharist to wear anything resembling vestments. However, in some other countries, only professed Nuns are permitted to even become Extra-Ordinary ministers of the Eucharists, and they would indeed wear their habit.

Traditionally, altar servers would wear a Cassock with surplus, as the alb and cincture are reserved for an office. However, that has been terribly abused during the past 40 years.

It is important to get it right.

Pay attention to the colors of the chasible. You won't see a priest wearing green for Christmas or Easter for example. I know red is so dramatic for the effect of tv., but use the colors correctly, its offensive to see the priest delivering the homily in mass wearing only his clerics. It just demonstrates the lack of effort to show respect for the audience.

Hope this helps.

Just curious..what's the story? Got a treatment you wanna share?

Send a private message if you need.


If you are making a film that includes Catholic clergy then maybe you need to invest in an expert to help you rather than asking questions on an anonymous internet forum where you may get contradicting answers.

Contact the chancery of the diocese where you live or where you will be filming and ask them for assistance in getting an expert.


[quote="DasErlibnis, post:6, topic:269622"]
Only the ordained wear vestments, only professed religious wear habits.

Seminarians may wear clerics with permission from bishop, normally though, they need to have completed pre-theology requisites and currently studying theology.


Religious start to wear the habit during the novitiate, this is before they are professed. Religious seminarians, really any male religious, may wear clerics instead of the habit if it is allowed by his superior regardless of where they are in their studies.


it is unlikely a priest would be ordained as young as 23 since he would just have finished his undergraduate work and still have 4-5 years before ordination. 26 is about the youngest a priest would normally be ordained. When he is ordained as a transitional deacon, about a year before that, or to any of the minor orders he is technically a member of the clergy.

In most diocese there is also an age limit for deacons, who are also members of the clergy, here it is between 35 and 55 at time of ordination.


Yes. It is as ByzCath said. The religious I knew were not allowed by their superiors to wear a habit until later. But this is a more accurate statement.


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