Why is seminary so long?


#1

Why is the seminary system (for secular priests) so long? Depending on your situation it could be up to six years until you are ordained a priest–that is even with a college degree. The work priests do just doesn’t seem to justify spending that much time. In that amount of time someone could become a physician or ear a doctorate in an academic field. I just don’t believe priesting is as complex/demanding as being a physician. Some might reply that it is to make the priest holy, but the priest’s holiness doesn’t effect the sacrament’s power and on top of that most priests don’t seem to be much holier than the lay Catholic who’s trying to be holy. If anyone knows of a seminary system that is shorter, that information would be much appreciated.


#2

I don’t know the answer to that. I have a very good friend who currently is studying in the seminary (on his second year of six). Now, the said friend has joined a religious order, so I assumed that was why it seemed to take a long time, but like I said, I don’t know what the standard is for seminary students. Are you considering a religious order too?


#3

[quote="raitchi2, post:1, topic:223541"]
Why is the seminary system (for secular priests) so long? Depending on your situation it could be up to six years until you are ordained a priest--that is even with a college degree. The work priests do just doesn't seem to justify spending that much time. In that amount of time someone could become a physician or ear a doctorate in an academic field. I just don't believe priesting is as complex/demanding as being a physician. Some might reply that it is to make the priest holy, but the priest's holiness doesn't effect the sacrament's power and on top of that most priests don't seem to be much holier than the lay Catholic who's trying to be holy. If anyone knows of a seminary system that is shorter, that information would be much appreciated.

[/quote]

***I would definitely disagree with you.

I am a college graduate with two degrees (bachelors and doctorate) currently enrolled in a Diaconate Formation Program. It will take me four years* just to complete that.

There is much to be learned. Old Testament, New Testament, the documents of Vatican II, Evangelization, Christology, Church History, Homiletics, how to preside at Rites and Rituals, Ecclesiology, Canon Law, and how to conduct Marriage Preparation classes.

And that is just to become a Deacon! Priests undergo an even more rigorous curriculum.**


#4

Debt Management Plans it is a best

Debt Management Plans :(


#5

I think you are overly focused on just the Sacraments. Yes this is a big part of it but priests also have many other things they must be able to do to be effective leaders (and I am going to throw this out in regards to a parish priest):

Business management- a parish must be able to support itself without getting itself to far into the red, if it gets too far into the red then there must be the ability to fundraise, etc. Also they must be able to balance the budget and protect their non-profit status as well as oversee the people doing their taxes each year.

Human Resources - yes priests hire and fire all of their lay employees as well as evaluations

Educational Curriculum - Guess what while they may hire a DRE they are ultimately responsible for faith formation at all ages

Legal - Yes, priests must have some sense of what is legal when organizing civic events. There are also Canon Law concerns when helping put together decree of nullity packets, and marriage prep work dispensations.

Counseling - Normal counseling degrees are anywhere from 2-4 years post grad. Priests are also counselors. Marital, child, pastoral, substance abuse, prison ministry, grief, etc. They don’t get to specialize.

Languages - what parish do you know that does not offer at least two languages (English and Latin)

I think I have made a good case for why this takes so long forget the fact that it is a formation process. If you are not ready to do the work - maybe this is not for you.


#6

The academics in seminary generally take only two more years than any other Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. Comparing a physician to the priesthood in the way you are comparing them does not work. Physicians have a natural vocation, and deal exclusively with the natural in their work. Priests have a supernatural vocation, and deal with BOTH the natural and supernatural in their work. I suggest you find some theological and spiritual writings on the priesthood- maybe they could help you understand what is so special about it. There is a short video about the priesthood called Fishers of Men. You can find & watch it online- maybe it’ll help you understand how the priesthood is more than a job.


#7

I watched a two part program over the last couple of evenings on PBS, it was titled “The Calling”.

pbs.org/independentlens/calling/film.html

whatsyourcalling.org/the-film

The documentary followed various people through seminary:

two Islamic people, one single woman, - one divorced man with 4 children,
an African American Baptist female with one child
two Jewish men, one single - one married with one child
one Catholic - permanent deacon
one Methodist - single

My impression was that the Catholic priest was the most comfortable within himself about the calling, and he was being placed in emotionally difficult situations (Annointing of the Sick & Dying) :

Go to Clip 2 (2:22) at pbs.org/independentlens/calling/film.html


#8

As was said in one of the above posts, your emphasis on the Sacraments is the misunderstanding. Yes, the offering of the Holy Mass, hearing of Confessions, Baptisms, etc. are a huge part of the ministry. However, if a priest were simply a vending machine of the Sacraments, surely the Holy Church would not waste the time and effort on such formation. A priest would simply learn the mass, the prayer of absolution, etc. and be off on his merry way. A month, two months tops.

Clearly this is a misunderstanding of what it is to be a priest. A priest acts as a teacher as well as a spiritual father to hundreds, usually even thousands of people who NEED not only the Sacraments, but his advice, his experience, his wisdom, his very presence as the representative of Christ. And the study of philosophy and theology are important so that the priest is knowledgeable and confident in his faith. But the study is only part of formation. The intense amount of prayer, exposure to the lives and ministries of many priests, deacons and brother seminarians, and the time to reflect on “what does it mean to be a priest?” and “does God really want me to do his work in this vocation?” are not questions that can be answered alone, or in a matter of months.

If you are simply asking the question out of curiosity, I would encourage you to trust that Holy Mother Church has much wisdom and experience (ensured by the Holy Spirit, of course!) that this preparation is necessary in forming men who will represent Christ in the world. If you are asking because you are considering a call to the priesthood and don’t want to spend the time, realize that this process is much more than a master’s degree. The time in seminary is to be cherished and embraced to form you into God’s priest, not rushed through and annoying.

Just so you know, I speak from limited but personal experience, as I am a seminarian in a College seminary. Trust me, the study of philosophy is only the beginning of how we are formed. And NO man who comes to the seminary program is ready for ordination after just a couple of years. Part of the process is obedience and trust. If one does not trust that this is essential to his formation as a Christian disciple and priest, he does not have the humility necessary for the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Hope this helps!

In Christ and Mary,
Frank


#9

I guess my issue is there are priests that work in fields totally unrelated to ministry. Some are lawyers some are doctors etc. I'm wondering if there is any way of combining my work (nursing) with priesting that wont involve ceasing to be a nurse for the priest training (you'll loose your license etc.) Does anyone know of dioceses that offer "night" or "weekend" seminary?


#10

Some specialize - for instance becoming a Canon Lawyer but that takes a doctorate usually. Are you sure that these “priests” that you see are actually priests and not Religious Lay Brothers working as nurses? You would probably be best served speaking to a spiritual director - not a vocations director as a vocations director is going to steer you on their path - but in the end a calling is given by God and confirmed by the Church and if one is not willing to do the things needed than one may not have that calling or that calling may be misunderstood (ie - religious lay brother).

Also you may want to look into whether or not you are sure that you do not have a secular (third order) calling or again like I said Religious lay brother. However, the path of religious lay brother is one of obedience and sacrifice.


#11

A priest in the United States needs a Masters of Divinity, which is a four year professional masters degree program.

Many dioceses also have requirements for a pastoral year which is like an internship before ordination.

It is also this long for the formation portion of the program, to make sure a priest has been properly formed.

Six years, even with a bachelors degree, is short. In my province of the Order of Carmel it takes (if one has a bachelors degree and all the entry requirements for the major seminary) a minimum of 8 years, with final vows coming after 6 years.

In the program, it depends on where you go, but where I go there is a lot of scripture, some theology, some pastoral studies (sort of counseling) as well as the classes in Canon Law and the Sacraments. There is also a requirement from some classes in Spirituality and Church History.


#12

[quote="joandarc2008, post:5, topic:223541"]
I think you are overly focused on just the Sacraments. Yes this is a big part of it but priests also have many other things they must be able to do to be effective leaders (and I am going to throw this out in regards to a parish priest):

Business management- a parish must be able to support itself without getting itself to far into the red, if it gets too far into the red then there must be the ability to fundraise, etc. Also they must be able to balance the budget and protect their non-profit status as well as oversee the people doing their taxes each year.

Human Resources - yes priests hire and fire all of their lay employees as well as evaluations

Educational Curriculum - Guess what while they may hire a DRE they are ultimately responsible for faith formation at all ages

Legal - Yes, priests must have some sense of what is legal when organizing civic events. There are also Canon Law concerns when helping put together decree of nullity packets, and marriage prep work dispensations.

Counseling - Normal counseling degrees are anywhere from 2-4 years post grad. Priests are also counselors. Marital, child, pastoral, substance abuse, prison ministry, grief, etc. They don't get to specialize.

Languages - what parish do you know that does not offer at least two languages (English and Latin)

I think I have made a good case for why this takes so long forget the fact that it is a formation process. If you are not ready to do the work - maybe this is not for you.

[/quote]

Unfortunately business management isn't one of the courses they teach at the seminary...it's all learn as you go, hopefully with an experienced pastor in their pastoral year and their first years as a priest. Some priests have undergrad or even graduate degrees in business, which is a big help. Same goes for human resources or education courses. Some are good with it and some aren't. That is why it is important for them to have some good lay people on staff who can do that kind of work.

Counseling is basically a course or two. Anything more specialized they have to do on their own. Languages may consist of a summer Spanish immersion course.

But there are so many important course they take. I studied at our diocesan seminary for my MA and my D.Min. I also work for a parish and I can tell you that the priests, for the most part, use the information from every course they take in writing homilies, catechizing, answering questions, dealing with marriage issues, pastoral counseling, confessions, working on diocesan committees, writing articles for the bulletin, preparing prayer services and simply conversing with parishioners.

Many laity today are highly educated, even with regard to their faith. I would want my priests to be just as educated or more educated, at least theologically, than their parishioners.


#13

The whole point behind seminary is to be properly formed. You won't get the proper formation through night school, becoming a priest is far more than taking weekend classes here or there. It's not a career, it's a calling.


#14

[quote="raitchi2, post:1, topic:223541"]
Why is the seminary system (for secular priests) so long? Depending on your situation it could be up to six years until you are ordained a priest--that is even with a college degree. The work priests do just doesn't seem to justify spending that much time. In that amount of time someone could become a physician or ear a doctorate in an academic field. I just don't believe priesting is as complex/demanding as being a physician. Some might reply that it is to make the priest holy, but the priest's holiness doesn't effect the sacrament's power and on top of that most priests don't seem to be much holier than the lay Catholic who's trying to be holy. If anyone knows of a seminary system that is shorter, that information would be much appreciated.

[/quote]

discernment, discernment, discernment. Even for other vocations the process is long. It is a process of 2 1/2 years for Secular Franciscan Order and I have 17 months to go. You need to know if this your true calling and the will of God.


#15

[quote="raitchi2, post:1, topic:223541"]
The work priests do just doesn't seem to justify spending that much time. In that amount of time someone could become a physician or ear a doctorate in an academic field. I just don't believe priesting is as complex/demanding as being a physician.

[/quote]

Doctors of souls.


#16

[quote="raitchi2, post:1, topic:223541"]
Why is the seminary system (for secular priests) so long? Depending on your situation it could be up to six years until you are ordained a priest--that is even with a college degree. The work priests do just doesn't seem to justify spending that much time. In that amount of time someone could become a physician or ear a doctorate in an academic field. I just don't believe priesting is as complex/demanding as being a physician. Some might reply that it is to make the priest holy, but the priest's holiness doesn't effect the sacrament's power and on top of that most priests don't seem to be much holier than the lay Catholic who's trying to be holy. If anyone knows of a seminary system that is shorter, that information would be much appreciated.

[/quote]

It should tell you that something, that many priests are physicians but not necessarily vice-versa.
No, there are very few physicians who become priests, just to have something to do or whatever--meaning that the priestly office has enough breadth that it can encompass and incorporate other specializations from physician to psychologist, but not the other way around. Many of the priests who were once attorneys or physicians--that I have read about, at least--actually leave their practices behind them, and make priestly ministry their primary concern.

Furthermore, your evaluation of the priesthood by 'the work it does' and whether it can 'justify spending that much time' means that you're probably not thinking about it correctly. You're approaching in too utilitarian a fashion. If we're just going going to start considering all training justified only by the 'work it does'--why don't we just liquidate philosophy, philology, and history departments across the country and put them all in HVAC and EMT-Advanced courses? ... Since Socrates was a stone mason and Cleanthes dug wells, perhaps you have a point. :P

Fact of the matter is,--holiness aside, even--the ordination of the priest can't exactly be called 'instantaneous'. You can't hand someone a degree or zap them with a crosier and make them a priest. If the Archdiocese of New York's seminary at Dunwoodie accepted me, placed me in their courses on Monday, handed me an STB, MDiv, and MA on Friday, and ordained me next Thursday, do you think people would take me seriously as a priest? Probably not.
This is why seminaries are generally intense environments where spiritual 'gains' are expected.

Finally, if the priests you know don't seem to be much 'holier' than your average layman, keep in mind that they are called 'secular' priests for a reason. Their calling doesn't exactly involve hairshirts and holy silence: in fact, it might be more of an asset to their calling to know something about how the Yankees or Cowboys did, than to appear aloof like the 'priests of old' (pre-1950s Irish-American clergy, for instance).
If you are asking this question (i.e., for a shorter route to ordination) for your own purposes, perhaps you should find a spiritual director in your diocese and express your opinions on formation length and ordination? :o


#17

[quote="raitchi2, post:9, topic:223541"]
I guess my issue is there are priests that work in fields totally unrelated to ministry. Some are lawyers some are doctors etc. I'm wondering if there is any way of combining my work (nursing) with priesting that wont involve ceasing to be a nurse for the priest training (you'll loose your license etc.) Does anyone know of dioceses that offer "night" or "weekend" seminary?

[/quote]

Whoops, just noticed this.

I am certain that there are ways of combining the two. But are you absolutely certain that the secular priesthood is for you? There are plenty of missionary orders who would probably need nurses and whose theologates might not be an uninterrupted 5-year block, like the diocesan seminary.

You'll also have to be more specific as to what the laws are for your state: that is, exactly how long you would have to be 'inactive'/'nonpracticing' to lose your license? If you were able to work during summers, maybe you could even make the diocesan seminary work? :hmmm:

In any case, you'll have to be more specific about your aims and requirements, before you can get some help that will actually be useful to you. :)


#18

There are no part-time options for study to the priesthood.

The permanent diaconate is more of a part-time study program though it takes at least 4 to 5 years.

You seems to discount the formation aspect of the study.

You may be able to work something out with a diocese where you could work part-time as a nurse while you study full time at the seminary to keep your license current or, if nursing is going to be a part of your ministry they might cover the costs and allow for the necessary classes/training for you to get re-licensed at the end of the seminary if you did lose your license.


#19

Actually I think the Religious Order aspect (first order that is) may become even more daunting to the OP as Religious Order Brothers take a Vow of Obedience to the Order not a promise of obedience to a Bishop. Pretty much all of one’s activities are regulated as far as goings and comings.

One thing I would suggest to the OP is a third order/lay order/secular order as he will be able to do what he wants to do in his secular life while the Gospel life according to whichever Saint his charism suggests.


#20

Let us not forget about philosophy and theology. The priest must understand the theology of the church and he must have a good grounding in philosophy before he can even begin with theology. This takes time. One can not simply fly through theology. I just finished my first semester in seminary and at home on Christmas vacation. Our seminary takes 7 years including 2 years of philosophy and 3 years of theology. There is a lot to learn.


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