Questions about requirements for prospective priests


#1

I will preface this post by saying that I am only just about to be confirmed in the church on Pentecost, a little more than a week away. I also want to note that my whole life has been about discernment of my calling, and I know that I feel called to be a priest. I have been an interfaith minister, with almost no formal training but a lot of personal study and “on the job” training for about a decade prior to being called to the Roman Catholic church. I cannot express enough the strength of my calling to the church, but I know that it will probably be a few years before I can even be considered for seminary. Nonetheless, I want to make sure that I have everything in order before even approaching the time when I can be considered.

  1. What are the celibacy requirements before entering seminary? I have been celibate, with a few self stimulation slip ups, for over twelve years, and I know that I am called to lifelong celibacy; however, there was a time when I was sexually active before this last twelve years. I have not sired any children. Does a priest have to have been celibate from birth, or am I alright as far as that goes?

  2. I am 42. I specifically feel called to the Franciscan order. Are there prior educational requirements? I have 60 units of accredited college credits, but no degree. The secretary at my parish was saying that they used to have seminary there at the Mission, and that they required candidates to have a secular college degree first. If that is required, I am heartbroken. I cannot get a secular college degree because of issues with advanced math classes (algebra and above. ) I think that I could theoretically get an associate degree because I have the units and have met all of the requirements except for a couple. All of the protestant seminaries require a bachelor’s degree from another school before entering, and that is the only reason I have not previously gone to seminary. Do I need a college degree first?

  3. Will my age, the osteoarthritis in my back, and the seizures I have (not life threatening, rare, but can’t be controlled with medication) be too much of an impediment?

If any of these things will stop me from answering the strong call I feel for this vocation, are there other vocational options for me? I am too old for most monasteries. I’m not sure about the diaconate, mainly because I don’t know much about it. I plan on immersing myself in as much lay ministry as possible after my confirmation (I’m already in the choir, and I have already talked to various people in the parish about other ways I can serve right away.) If lay ministry is the only way I can serve, I will still do whatever service I can. It’s not about me and what I want, rather it is all about where and how God wants me to serve.

I do not yet have a spiritual director, mainly because I don’t know who to ask and I only know a dozen or so Catholics right now (mostly in my parish. ) I am making it a priority to seek one, and I am sure that God will lead me to the right person. I continue to keep it in prayer.

Thank you for your time and effort in reading this post and for any help you can provide for my questions. God bless.


#2

1). You are required to vow chastity once you are in the order; prior chastity is not required. Men have entered the clerical life after being widowered. (BTW, “celibacy” != “chastity.” Celibacy is the state of being unmarried. If you had not maintained celibacy, you would not be a candidate for the Roman Catholic priesthood.)

2). A prior degree is not always required; if accepted, you would in any case enter a higher-education course of study with the order. Some may have higher requirements.

3). I can’t say about your bodily conditions. ISTM that a physical examination would be part of the discernment process, only then would you be physically accepted or not.

God Bless and ICXC NIKA.


#3

A couple quick comments.

As a general rule, most seminaries and religious orders will require you to wait at least 5 years after conversion before they would let you enter formation. In addition, many religious orders have an upper age (generally mid-thirties to mid-forties) for men entering into formation.

In the US it is almost universal that men have a bachelors degree before entering seminary. The one exception I know of is the FSSP seminary and that is because they are not a degree granting institution. Most priests in diocesan seminaries obtain a Masters in Theology/Divinity as part of their seminary education. Even some religious orders ask that a man have some college education before entering postulancy. The reason for that is because of the requirements around theological study. I am in the middle of the interview phase for the permanent diaconate and it is highly recommended that we have degrees as there is extensive graduate level theology that we need to go through.

I know that most seminaries require a statement of health as part of the application process. We had to submit a similar thing for the permanent diaconate program as well as submit to a mental health evaluation. One doesn’t have to be a perfect specimen, but you do have to be healthy enough to carry out the ministry that is assigned by your superiors.

The above are just general guidelines and exceptions can be made in individual circumstances. If you are interested in becoming a Franciscan Friar and eventually being ordained as a priest then contact the vocations director for the Franciscan providence where you live. He may tell you that you need to wait, but if you explain some of the stuff you mentioned he can give you a realistic idea if your circumstances would immediately disqualify you.


#4

The best place to get answers to all your questions will be from the vocation director of the Franciscans.

Here’s contact info for the OFMs in California: sbfranciscans.org/join/contact-vocations

Capuchins in California: olacapuchins.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295087&type=d&pREC_ID=680931


#5

Eddie: Thank you for the information and the clarification of terms. Yes, I have been both chaste and celibate and always will be.

Usige: Thank you for the information. I knew that it would be at least a few years. It just gives me time to help my best friend get his life in order, and to get my ducks in a row to better my chances of entering seminary. I will keep studying the church. I took a test about vocation calling through vocations placement and scored extremely high as being called to a vocation. When I tried to contact monasteries about a retreat (just to get a taste for monastic life, not to join one right away) I was told that I would have to be Catholic for three years before having a retreat, so I figured that priesthood would require at least that long. I just like to be prepared. I got high grades in college, and I believe that I could do well in theology courses. I’m not exactly a theology novice, but there is a lot I have to learn before I could be a good Catholic priest: rubrics of the mass, Catholic interpretation of church history, more about different saints, etc. Whatever God has planned for me I will do. Fwiw, I aced both the classroom and the laboratory portion of my astronomy class, which involved a lot of algebra, but I just can’t seem to do it in a plain algebra class. I was even the president of the local astronomical society for a couple of years.

Suscipe: thank you for the valuable links. I will check them out.

Everyone: If I have to have a bachelor’s degree, it eliminates me from the pool. I can’t do more secular college. If I did, I would be far too in debt to qualify for the priesthood. I am poor. If that is a requirement, it might explain some of the drop in vocations. College is extremely expensive, and I don’t see how more than the general education requirements for an Associate Degree could prepare one for seminary. I aced many of my classes, including the beginning Bible class and the World Religions class as well as English 101c (critical analysis.) It would be a big shame if secular educational requirements alone would disqualify me. I don’t need to do Algebra, statistics nor geometry to be a good priest.

Other than the Franciscans, the other order which appeals to me are the Carmelites. I am heavily drawn to the Franciscan order though.

If for some reason I can not be accepted to seminary, what are my other options? I have known since I was a small child that I am dedicated in every aspect of my life to serving God, and I cannot see myself in any career which is not about serving God. As I said, prior to being called to the church I was an interfaith minister for over a decade. Now I find myself between careers, but with the full knowledge and a strong heart to serve God in every way. Right now I am saving money to try to buy a small farm, and I will enjoy farming, but the main goal with that is to have something stable for my best friend for when he finds a good wife. If I were a farmer for the rest of my life I would feel like I am running away from the calling deep in my heart and soul.

I am looking into being an emhc, of whom my diocese desperately needs more, and other ministry and service opportunities. What other ways can I serve while I wait? I will be talking to a couple of the priests in my parish about these things as well, and I would love to hear your ideas too. I miss being an interfaith minister, but God has made it clear that the Roman Catholic church is home. It was a struggle to adjust to not being a minister, but it is worth it if God has other ways he wishes for me to serve Him. My life is His, and what God wants is of ultimate importance. I trust that His church will help guide me in this new life, whatever it holds for me.


#6

One thing to consider is that you can join a religious order without becoming ordained. Since you’re attracted to the Franciscans, you could be a Franciscan brother and take part in their different ministries. You might explore the web pages for the Franciscans (or others) to get an idea of what they do, what the requirements are, etc.


#7

I have looked into that quite a bit, but good suggestion. The monasteries all said that they require one to be Catholic for a few years before even looking into joining. I understand the good reasons for that policy, even if it inconveniences me. Even the secular Franciscan order in my parish requires you to be a member of the church for at least a year before going through their process of formation. My best friend is also joining the church at the same time I am, and he is particularly interested in the Secular Franciscan order (third order Franciscan) because he hopes to find a wife someday soon. I love the Secular Franciscan order, so I will possibly join them as well; however, I would still desire to be a priest, join a monastery or find some other way to serve God full time in a religious vocation. We have been invited to attend their monthly meetings as a guest (we didn’t go this month because they were having their annual evaluation from the district. ) One of my catechism teachers is the director for the group at my parish.


#8

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.