What do seminaries look for when accepting seminarians?


#1

Do they need really good grades? ACT scores? How spiritual you are?


#2

The first thing would be sponsorship of a diocese or religious community.


#3

I’m much interested in this as well, as I intend, if I am allowed and God so wills it, to enter the seminary, and if not, the monastic life, and if it is permitted, both.


#4

First off, I'm responding from the position of the Latin Church. I don't know what the difference is in formation in the Eastern Churches. At Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, we are blessed with 9 seminarians from the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle. Their norms for formation are slightly different, although I believe the seminary looks at the same guidelines for admission.

Second: from the Program for Priestly Formation (PPF), which is the guideline for all priestly formation in the US within the Latin Church, paragraph 42 says "Seminaries as well as dioceses must have clear written statements of admission policies..." You can read all of what they say on admissions on paragraphs 42-67. Here's a link to the document in PDF: old.usccb.org/vocations/ProgramforPriestlyFormation.pdf

Para 44: "Applicants must give evidence of an overall personal balance, good moral character, a love for the truth, and proper motivation. This includes the requisite human, moral, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and psychological qualities for priestly ministry."

The following paragraphs more or less explain that statement.
Applicants should be:
Balanced: proper underlying formation in human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral areas. Applicants are not expected to be ready for the priesthood, and will grow in all these areas, but if some area is seriously lax or missing, that may be cause for concern.
Good moral character: should be living, to the best of his ability, a life of Christian virtue.
A love for truth: intellectual formation is a very big and visible part of formation. Applicants should desire to know the truth of God's revelation, and wish to share it.
Proper motivation: applicants should not be coerced by family or friends, by fear (including but not limited to issues of sexuality), and should wish to serve, and not to be served.
Human, moral, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and psychological qualities: be a good man, fully rounded; a man virtue; a man of prayer; must be a relatively healthy man (i.e. priestly ministry isn't going to physically kill him or make him sick, nor will he make other sick), he must also be physiologically complete; he must be healthy psychologically, which includes psycho-sexually.

I have to point out, these are norms for admission. Some are flexible to a degree. Some are not. For instance, a man who is weaker academically is not necessarily going to be denied, nor will a man who is somewhat new to a life of prayer. It depends on the needs of the bishop, which these days are very great. However, some basis in each area is looked for.

The best way to find out specifics is to speak to your vocation director. He'll probably talk to you and get to know you first, and if he seems to notice some of these qualities, he'll invite you to start the application process. That process is very long, and will look at all of the above areas.

One last note from me: humility before God is absolutely necessary. If God reveals to you that you are or are not called to the priesthood, are you willing to set aside your own desires and follow Him? If he reveals to your Bishop that a specific task is yours to take up, are you going to obey your Bishop? You may not be able to say 100% yes right now, but if you don't have that desire to be able to say 'yes' now, you should pray about that.

Remember, if God wants something to happen, nothing can stand in his way. St. John Vianney almost flunked out of seminary. St. Pio was almost too sickly to finish. They are great saints of recent memory. Personal weaknesses are not a reason God might be calling you. God chooses the weak to shame the strong, so that no man may boast. Pray always!

You're in my prayers, and I offer you to Mary on this great Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception.


#5

Well AndrewRaz already brought the big guns to the party, so I’d look at that if I were you.

Having been a diocesan seminarian (undergraduate), I can tell you that all of the things that you’ve mentioned above are balanced somewhat. They’ll want to meet you. They’ll want your parish priest to give you a recommendation so that they know you’re involved in the church. They’re going to put you through psychological testing, most likely the MMPI unless that has changed since I was in the seminary. Probably the Rorschach test (inkblots). When looking at the inkblots, never say “I see Satan eating the entire world!” :eek:

I know that they will ordain someone who is not an A student, but will not likely ordain a D student unless their name is St. Joseph Cupertino and the student can also fly.

I take it from your post that you are NOT an A student with perfect ACTs, and yet you are interested in discerning a priestly vocation.

Go ahead and give them a call (parish, order, et.al.). As long as you have your parish priest in your corner and you’re not absolutely failing all of your classes, you’ve got a shot.

If you’re an A student, call the Jesuits. :smiley: They like that.


#6

Come to think of it, if you do see Satan eating the entire world when looking at the inkblots, go ahead and be honest. They’d want to know that.


#7

Excellent point. I used to love these stories. Don’t forget Cupertino.


#8

Nom, I have to confess, I don’t know many of the saint’s legends, St. John Cupertino among them. I know that he gets a lot of prayers from us around this time of the semester (the week of finals starts for me in 4 hours!).
But thanks to you, I just looked him up. So thank you very much.

I can’t stress enough that God clears obstacles for those whom he has prepared a path. If He wants to set someone on the path that leads through seminary, He will clear the way. If somewhere else, He will clear that way before them. He will make things possible for you that you never thought possible. If, by the grace of God, I can study philosophy, so can you. Trust in Him. And of course, don’t delay. If you feel that call, I always recommend talking to your vocation director. The application process is part of the discernment itself.
God be with you. :slight_smile:


#9

I aimed for the Jesuits, as a scholarly order, for a long time, before I heard some things about the over-liberalism of the order. Now I’m split between the Jesuits and Dominicans.

ACT: 35
SAT: 1600

My fear is that with a history of drug addiction (although I’ve been clean for almost three years, since before I converted; beyond that, I have never committed any form of crime or procured abortion or done anything else listed in the canons), epilepsy, non-virginity (although I have personally “vowed” celibacy and have remained so for several years) and possible high functioning autism, that such is enough to get me disqualified right off the bat, depending on how “mental illness” or “immoral past” is identified in the canons (i.e. does it include everyone who is not a virgin, even if they only had sex with one individual very few times in a betrothal-like situation recognized by another religion and culture? or who has any form of mental disorder, even something like anxiety or panic attacks, or does it mean those who have a mental disorder that can be dangerous or skew perception, such as schizophrenia or manic depression?).

I can’t help of thinking of some of the great Saints, such as Augustine and Ignatius Loyola, who lived dissolute or otherwise immoral lifestyles before their conversion: where is the Church headed, if it no longer allows for the consideration of reforming in sin and repentance, and such blocks one from a vocation? As I’ve heard said, the Church Militant is an organization of sinners, not of Saints.


#10

[quote="khalid, post:9, topic:264828"]
i aimed for the jesuits, as a scholarly order, for a long time, before i heard some things about the over-liberalism of the order. Now i'm split between the jesuits and dominicans.

[/quote]

Yeah, that "over-liberalism" thing is still part of their charism whether they admit it or not. If you're not liberal, you'll stick out, despite these scores:

act: 35
sat: 1600

[quote="khalid, post:9, topic:264828"]
my fear is that with a history of drug addiction (although i've been clean for almost three years, since before i converted; beyond that,

[/quote]

I smoked pot in my past and was accepted to the seminary (because I had been clean for years).

[quote="khalid, post:9, topic:264828"]
i have never committed any form of crime or procured abortion or done anything else listed in the canons), epilepsy, non-virginity (although i have personally "vowed" celibacy and have remained so for several years) and possible high functioning autism, that such is enough to get me disqualified right off the bat, depending on how "mental illness" or "immoral past" is identified in the canons

[/quote]

Mental illness will be indentified by the MMPI, and even then if the order or diocesan seminary are convinced that you have a vocation, they can work with it. I, too, was not a virgin, and neither were a number of my classmates when I entered the seminary. The high functioning autism would be looked at closely I'm sure, but that's all part of the interview process.

quote="khalid, post:9, topic:264828".

[/quote]

I've known priests on meds for depression, not sure about schizophrenia. That's all the more reason for you to contact a vocation office and get the ball rolling; if you don't have a vocation, or if you have a condition that is an impediment to ordination, you need to know soon so that you can get on with your own discernment. You are a young man who has clearly done A LOT of meaningful and detailed soul-searching. I'm impressed.

[quote="khalid, post:9, topic:264828"]
i can't help of thinking of some of the great saints, such as augustine and ignatius loyola, who lived dissolute or otherwise immoral lifestyles before their conversion: Where is the church headed, if it no longer allows for the consideration of reforming in sin and repentance, and such blocks one from a vocation? As i've heard said, the church militant is an organization of sinners, not of saints.

[/quote]

Absolutely. As for the OP, seminaries look at everything they can get their hands on. From what you've shared so far, you're not out of the ballpark, so you need to go to the ball park and see when try-outs are.

Peace Khalid.


#11

Bad mouthing religious communities is not acceptable behavior here at CAF.

Please read this sticky post: Orthodox Orders REMINDER

Post reported.


#12

Hey ByzCath, I haven’t been on here for a while, but I remember you. I’ve been a fan.

I understand what you’re saying but I’m not bad-mouthing the Jesuits. I was Loyola educated. For Eucharist they used to consecrete a very sweet bread not at all in line with what’s accepted. They are famous for being liberal, and one cannot be cited for libel if it’s true. Of course I’ve known some very orthodox Jesuits, really two if I’m being honest with myself, but overall the community I was in contact with at Loyola, 1994-98, were a scandal to me.

If I’m reported and get banned for saying this, so be it. I remember still when going to a talk by Ted Ross, SJ Fr Jerry Boland of Chicago (diocesan) introduced him, saying “We all know he’s a Jesuit, but he’s still done a lot of good! Please welcome Fr. Ted Ross”

It’s a joke based on a personal history. I meant no offense. I’m sorry I offended you. That’s all I have to defend myself with. Peace be with you.


#13

Having read this sticky post, of course, by this definition of “Orthodox” the Jesuits are obviously orthodox. But I never said they weren’t orthodox, even though there has long been a connotation of “orthodox” as a synonym of “conservative” and as an antonym of “liberal.”

And I’ve only just noticed that Khalid mentioned Jesuits AND Dominicans. I was ONLY referring to the Jesuits as liberal. I still don’t see that I was bad-mouthing them. If anything, by implication, I’m suggesting that diocesan seminaries have lower standards than the orders. If I get in trouble, it should be for that.

Having been through the system, I have a sense of humor about these things that I agree I should keep in check from now on. Insiders commonly scandalize the seekers. I’m guilty of that, too.

I think this is just a misunderstanding.:blush:


#14

Calling a group liberal isn’t calling it heretical. There are both liberals and conservatives within the Church, and as long as neither is taken to an extreme - that is SSPX for conservatives, or the American Catholic Council for liberals - both are orthodox in the strict sense of the word. I personally admire the Jesuits for the extremely high level of scholarship (beyond any of the other orders that I know of) they produce in the modern day, but do not believe I could function smoothly (as Marcus Aurelius said, “Today I shall meet people who are ungrateful, malicious, treacherous…all this has afflicted them through the lack of knowledge of true good and true evil, but I have seen the nature of good is what is right, and the nature of evil is what is wrong, and I have reflected that the nature of the offender is akin to myself…a sharing of the same mind, the same fragment of divinity…nor can I be angry with my kinsman, or hate him, as we were born for cooperation, like feet, hands, eyelids, like the upper and lower mandible…”*) in anything more liberal than a moderate-to-conservative order, and would be most comfortable in something as conservative as the FSSP.

*Edit: no, I’m not calling liberalism evil (reading my post, I realize it can be misconstrued) but am focusing on the part of “same mind…same divinity…meant to work together”, and me within a liberal order feels like it would be as two lower mandibles or two left feet. Most of the quote is needed to give it context, not to mention it’s one of my favorite quotes of Stoic philosophy.

However, God doesn’t always call us to be comfortable, or to not challenge our assumptions (I should know, as I was a Mohammedan, and the cardinal sins in Muhammad’s religion are to associate plurality with Allah, to question tradition, or to consider other religions): if I was called to be a conservative traditionalist amongst a bunch of other like-minded conservative traditionalists, I would be an Eastern Orthodox (as I was, which is why I am canonically Melkite).

Mental illness will be indentified by the MMPI, and even then if the order or diocesan seminary are convinced that you have a vocation, they can work with it. I, too, was not a virgin… The high functioning autism would be looked at closely I’m sure, but that’s all part of the interview process…I’ve known priests on meds for depression, not sure about schizophrenia.

The MMPI? One doctor I saw (as part of my addiction recovery, I had to see a psychologist) suggested that I may be a high functioning autistic, so I mentioned it. I assume the testing would sort it out, just as I assume the doctor suggested it because I am hyper-intelligent, hyper-focused, become obsessed with learning, and am by nature introverted/anxious, which by the grace of God I have continued to overcome. I certainly don’t feel autistic, but I’m pretty sure that people who hear their dog telling them that the television is controlling their mind through space aliens don’t think themselves crazy, either. Maybe an excess of scrupulosity on my part, or the aforementioned anxiety.

If they have priests on antidepressants, I’m pretty sure I can pass muster, as I don’t have any “actual” mental illness, so to speak, except for epilepsy (…it would be embarrassing/sacrilegious to have a fit while saying a Mass). My question was answered: does even the slightest mental illness, such as anxiety or ADHD (or even depression, which seems more severe), disqualify one? The answer was no. I used manic depression or psychosis or split personalities, etc. as an illustration of “true” mental illness, that is, insanity, which obviously would disqualify one from the priesthood. My question likewise, “Does lack of virginity disqualify one?” was answered, and the answer again was no. I had an intuition that mere lack of virginity (as opposed to continued dissolute living) or past problems with drugs (as opposed to active addiction), etc. - that is, past sin as opposed to present and continued sin - would not disqualify one, but I assumed it would in any case, along with my maxim, “expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed”.

Absolutely. As for the OP, seminaries look at everything they can get their hands on. From what you’ve shared so far, you’re not out of the ballpark, so you need to go to the ball park and see when try-outs are.

There’s also the issue of my canonical status as a Melkite (due to my heritage and reception by confession of faith into the “Orthodox in communion with Rome” instead of the Latin rite), although I attend the Roman rite and am staunchly Western and Thomist/Scholastic, that is to say, philosophico-theological and minimally mystical, in my view of religion and theology, which is heavily frowned upon in the East (including amongst the Melkites, from my limited experience).

Are there different seminaries for Byzantine as opposed to Latin Catholics? I’m assuming there are, and I would want to continue my training after the Western fashion (and not in the tradition of theoria, hesychasm and essence-energies distinction), and to be ordained (if I am ordained, and do not find that I am called to the religious life or to marriage instead: I may be called to religious life, I am relatively certain that I am not called to married life - in the Byzantine rite, one can get the best of both worlds, a priestly and matrimonial vocation!) in the Latin rite. I have no idea how to go about getting my canonical Byzantine/Latin status/transfer (and from there, possible formation in the Latin rite) straightened out, and neither has the priest I’ve talked to - maybe I need to speak with a canonist? This last issue - my status amongst the rites - is that which is currently the greatest impediment, at least in my own mind.

If you’re not liberal, you’ll stick out, despite these scores:

I missed a question in English on the ACT.


#15

[quote="Khalid, post:9, topic:264828"]
Now I'm split between the Jesuits and Dominicans.

[/quote]

A lay person can study at some seminaries too, as lay student. I'm just mentioning that to make explicit that scholarly vocations don't necessarily have to be religious or priestly.

[quote="Khalid, post:9, topic:264828"]
I can't help of thinking of some of the great Saints, such as Augustine and Ignatius Loyola, who lived dissolute or otherwise immoral lifestyles before their conversion: where is the Church headed, if it no longer allows for the consideration of reforming in sin and repentance, and such blocks one from a vocation? As I've heard said, the Church Militant is an organization of sinners, not of Saints.

[/quote]

Good thing the Church does allow for consideration of reforming. The unfortunate reality is that a lot of people who have felt the call have felt it in the midst of a life of sin, when searching for meaning and something that transcends it all. But the worst of that should be worked out before entering seminary, rather than during. A sinful past won't necessarily exclude one. A sinful present might.
A favorite phrase I picked up somewhere is: "God doesn't make sinners or call saints. He calls sinners and makes saints."

There are some irregularities and impediments to orders. Some are able to be dispensed by the local ordinary (bishop). Some are reserved for the Holy See. From what I have read, and my flimsy understanding of the canon, I don't detect any of those. But your vocation director will be a better judge of that.

[quote="Khalid, post:14, topic:264828"]
Are there different seminaries for Byzantine as opposed to Latin Catholics?

[/quote]

Short answer: yes.
Longer answer: In the United States, there's a total of 4 Eastern Catholic seminaries (wikipedia link). Don't know how accurate that is. Looks like there's a couple in Canada too. But, those are dedicated seminaries. Like I mentioned, we have a number of Chaldean seminarians at Sacred Heart. I imagine a lot of seminaries are similar. Many of the same core classes, but a number of different ones (for instance, Aramaic instead of Latin, and no canon law classes). If you enter an order like the Dominicans or Jesuits, they both have seminaries in Rome and a number of other cities.

As an aside, I get the feeling that Dominicans and Jesuits are more popular in the Latin West than in the Eastern Churches. They are present in the East too, though. Again, your vocation director is going to help some, but I'll tell the truth: most diocesan vocation directors are trying hard to 'recruit' for the diocese, and aren't very familiar with a lot of outside options. Parishes need smart priests too!


#16

[quote="AndrewRaZ, post:15, topic:264828"]
Again, your vocation director is going to help some, but I'll tell the truth: most diocesan vocation directors are trying hard to 'recruit' for the diocese, and aren't very familiar with a lot of outside options.!

[/quote]

I got that impression from the priest, but didn't know whether it was ignorance (that he may not be familiar with many people who feel called to vocations), or whether he was trying to "block" me so to speak, so that I might stay in the parish, and especially that I might remain Byzantine (as he is aware of my proclivity to the West and Latin forms of religion and worship, and my struggling with the Eastern concepts, although I've picked up the Philokalia and Palamas' Triads to see if I can convince myself to remain: if I can not be convinced intellectually, my heart does not follow - thus I could never feel religious, or pious, as a matter of heart, and not mere Pharisaical "outward righteousness", in the Orthodox Church, and the Eastern Church is very similar). The parish has no vocations director as a separate position.

I don't know whether I'm allowed to see a vocations director of another parish of another rite, that is, the Latin rite, in which I feel called to, or even how to go about the transfer of rites. I'm assuming that I can see a priest of a Latin parish and ask him.

I'm definitely for Latin and Canon Law. Canon Law is intricate and interesting, from what I've seen of it (the Latin-English Code and the "New Commentary"), although I doubt I'd want to be a canon lawyer.

It's possible, that as I progress, I may feel more of a call to the parish, or directly pastoral, priesthood, and join an order like the FSSP, where of course I could write, and possibly teach, theology or philosophy, in spare time. I'm aware there are lay seminarians: I do not feel that I am called to the priesthood and religious life just as a negative matter (i.e. because I do not feel that I am called to the married or lay single life), but in an active, positive manner, recalling also the great priest-scholars and scholar-monks from the high middle ages that are my "heros" in the Church.

In the Eastern Church, there are those called "hieromonks", that are, priestly and religious. However, I am not sure if today there are any "scholars' monasteries", so to speak, such as St Thomas would have been in his day, where there is a life of prayer, labor, and never-ending religious, philosophical and theological learning.

And then there is the cost of seminary, and, if necessary, an American-recognized philosophy or theology degree before I can even join the seminary (which, for undergraduate, is far out of my price range, unless they'd let me test out of the classes by taking all of the exams to get the piece of paper for much less money). From what I've seen, the seminary, as much as the might-be-needed repeat of undergraduate training, is quite out of my price range.


#17

[quote="Khalid, post:16, topic:264828"]
I don't know whether I'm allowed to see a vocations director of another parish of another rite, that is, the Latin rite, in which I feel called to, or even how to go about the transfer of rites. I'm assuming that I can see a priest of a Latin parish and ask him.

[/quote]

You may seek out another vocation director, and I encourage you to do so if you don't feel that you're making progress. I suggest you let him know you're pursuing those options, so he doesn't feel that you're trying to go around him. If he offers to make those contacts for you, it would be best to let him.

I think every diocese is supposed to have a vocation director appointed by the bishop for the whole diocese. Did you check the diocesan website under 'vocations'? If there's a contact number there, that might be a better route, possibly, but if you're seeking outside the diocese, maybe not. I'm not sure.

[quote="Khalid, post:16, topic:264828"]
if I can not be convinced intellectually, my heart does not follow

[/quote]

Yep, that sounds very Thomistic, but not necessarily Dominican. I'll let you meditate on that. :)

[quote="Khalid, post:16, topic:264828"]
In the Eastern Church, there are those called "hieromonks", that are, priestly and religious. However, I am not sure if today there are any "scholars' monasteries", so to speak, such as St Thomas would have been in his day, where there is a life of prayer, labor, and never-ending religious, philosophical and theological learning.

[/quote]

There are quite a number of priestly religious monks, brothers, and friars. As for communities that are primarily scholarly, not much these days, but there are a few. The only one I know of off the top of my head is Solesmes in France, who do a lot of research figuring out the ancient Gregorian chant notation. I don't know more than that.

But that does lead me to an important point. A religious vocation is a unique call to service of the Church, to help Her realize Her mission here on earth. The Church doesn't really need someone to sit in a basement and translate all the untranslated Latin documents of the ages (an extreme example). Religious and especially priests are called uniquely to live out a special charism of service, which may manifest in a variety of ways. We don't always get a chance to choose how. If my bishop tells me to get an advanced degree, I say "Yes, Excellency." If he assigns me to a country parish, or a city parish, or missionary work, or asks me to drop out of seminary, I say "Yes, Excellency." I can express an opinion, but obedience comes first, and arguing about what I wanted to do instead isn't part of it. I can only hope and pray that God who knows my talents better than I do guides those placed in authority over me.

A very big part of discernment is discerning this ability to obey. That doesn't mean you have to let a diocesan vocation director push you into diocesan seminary if you don't feel that is where God is calling you. But it does mean having a certain level of detachment to our own plans. That's where that "humility before God" I mentioned earlier comes in. If your Bishop or Superior asks you to forego scholarly studies, are you willing to do so?

Something to take to your Holy Hour.

And I suggest you make one regularly, if you aren't already.

God bless you, and keep us updated!


#18

I think they look for people who aren't asking "how can I meet your expectations in order that I can deceive you as to my natural character."


#19

I don't understand. I don't believe me or the original poster are attempting to deceive, but merely to learn whether we're in the running (especially as I personally am getting the run-around with my priest and diocese about vocations in general, as I've said, I think due to the desire to keep my Byzantine): in any case, I couldn't very well deceive anyone after having posted everything objectionable in my past on an internet forum for the public to see, could I?

Deception, like cheating on a test, harms not the test-giver, but the test-taker.


#20

Yeah, you very well could. If the goal were simply to discover what they were looking for in order to appear to be what they want. As Catholics, we don date what ya did in the past. It’s moot. So saying that you posted every objectionable thing in some random online forum is worth didly-squat.
But I’m not gonna pretend to be your spiritual director, and nobody else should. If you are called to seminary, then go seek a Catholic spiritual director who is also a priest. Discern it together because it is the only way you can be called and accepted.
I’ve seen too many infiltrators inside the seminary, gays, socialists, Muslim sympathizers, leftists, even atheists and communists. All struggling for the power of the pulpit.
And now you ask "how can I discover their expectations??"
This conversation should end right now cuz it ain’t right to tell you jack except “go see a priest” already. And quit trying to CONTROL the process. You must submit in humility and let the process form you instead.
There, that’s all I’m telling you.


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