General Questions about Vocation
What is a vocation?
The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare which means to call. We share, together, the one Vocation to Holiness, which is the most fundamental vocation, and which begins at baptism. In this vocation, or call, to holiness, we are called to live a life of friendship with God through Jesus Christ, recognizing our dignity as beloved sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. We live this Universal Call to Holiness in a specific way (Particular Vocation) in Marriage, Religious Life, Priesthood, or in the Single State. A Vocation if not created, but it is discovered. It is a gift from God. For more information click here.
How do I know my vocation?
A person knows their vocation ultimately by knowing God, who calls them, and themselves, who are called. This process involves many things, but in general includes living a life of prayer (which is a dialogue with God), living a moral life (which is the fruit of a life close to God), living a life of generosity with the gifts God has given us, and figuring it all out in the community of the Church.
Knowing one's vocation is a process of discovery. We discover our vocation as we come to know God, ourselves and others. We come to know God through prayer, the sacraments and our living of our Christian life, and we come to hear his call. We can hear His voice through others also. Like when someone tells us that they think we might be a good priest or religious. As we come to know ourselves, discovering our gifts and talents, our likes and dislikes, we also know the needs of the Church and the world. But God often calls us to something that at first glance doesn’t seem to match up with all our own desires or gifts, so it is important to be aware of how God speaks to us in a variety of ways. For more information click here.
What is Discernment?
The word discernment comes from two Latin words: ‘dis’ (apart) and ‘cenere’ (to separate). To discern means ‘to separate apart’. Any time we choose between two or more options, we discern. The object of vocational discernment is to come to know what God desires of us, and to choose that with full freedom. Discernment of the Priesthood involves asking God for the grace to be called and asking oneself the question: “What is it that God desires me to do with this life He has given me?” For more information click here.
How do I contact the Vocation Office for the Archdiocese of Boston?
Questions about Priesthood
What is the Priesthood?
The Catholic Priesthood was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper as a means by which those men whom He calls to stand in His place carry on His ministry in the world, through His Church. A priest is a man, taken from among men, who is consecrated by God for the sacred action of sanctification. Pope Saint John Paul II once said that “A priest is a man who offers his whole humanity to God so that God might use him as an instrument of salvation.” God ordains the man to serve, as Christ came to serve, and to lead people to their greatest good, heaven. The priest does this in many ways, but the dignity and essence of the ordained priesthood resides not first in what he does, but in who he is: An Icon of Christ in the World. For more information click here.
What is a Catholic Priest?
A Catholic priest is a baptized man who has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Through this sacrament, a man enters into the ministerial priesthood which gives him a sacred power to serve (CCC 1592). The ministerial priesthood, exercised by an ordained priest is given to serve the common priesthood; all the people of God are called to participate in the common priesthood (CCC 1546-1547). A priest is “a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads His Church”; therefore, it is the mission of the Catholic priest “to feed the Church by the word and grace of God” (LG, 11). As such, a priest is a mediator or ‘bridge-builder’ between God and man; he does this by participating in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, who unites God and humanity in his very being. The priest carries out this ‘bridge-building’ through teaching, divine worship and leading the people (CCC 1592).
How do I become a priest?
A man becomes a priest by attending a seminary for 4-8 years depending upon his particular situation, and after being ordained by his bishop. Becoming a priest is a long process of formation and requires a good discernment of God’s will in one’s life. The process of entering into a seminary formation program, to discern and prepare for ordination to the priesthood is also a full process whereby the applicant works with the Archdiocesan Vocation Office to present himself to the Church for possible entrance to the seminary. For more information click here.
What do I do if I’m considering the Priesthood?
If you are considering the Priesthood, do these three things and you will figure it out:
Talk to a Vocation Director. Discernment your vocation requires action, not just thought! The role of the vocation director is to assist men in considering what God might be calling them to do.
Trust that God will direct you if you give Him permission. God is never outdone in generosity. This means that if we take the next step, and do it with a general attitude of openness to God’s plan, and a willingness to follow it, even if imperfectly, then we can trust that God will help us.
Strike while the iron is hot. Why is it that we pause and hesitate to seek what we think might be the case? Very often, an obstacle to taking the next step is the fear or lethargy that results in waiting to take the necessary steps toward discerning a call.
What does a priest do?
In general, a priest celebrates Mass each day, leads the community in prayer, administers the Sacraments, visits those in need, and provides for the spiritual, and temporal needs of the people. He basically spends his time being God’s instrument in the world. His activity revolves around the priestly identity that is given to him at ordination, and the three munera of the priest—to teach, to sanctify and to govern. The three offices (munera) mentioned above are exercised in different ways depending upon the specific assignment of the priest. The munera of teaching is expressed in a variety of ways including individual and group encounters with people throughout the day, like for example, preaching at Mass, or by teaching in a parish school. The munera of sanctifying is exercised first and foremost through the celebration of the sacraments, especially daily Mass, and through living a life of prayer. The munera of governing is exercised through the daily administration of the parish, or specific ministry, and through providing for the human and spiritual needs of the people. These three munera correspond to the three identifications of Christ as Priest (sanctifier), Prophet (teacher), and King (governor), and are integral to the identity and daily life of a parish priest. For more information click here.
How do I know if I’m called to be a priest?
The best way to know if you are called to be a priest is to ask God, and to get assistance from people who are trained to help you answer the question. These people include the vocation director or a diocese, your parish priest, spiritual director, and seminary faculty. Ask God for the grace to be called to this amazing and supernatural vocation, and then pay attention to the ways that He is helping you to see how he answers the prayer. If you feel attracted to the vocation of the priesthood, even though there are things about it that might make you nervous, or if you have a sense of a desire to do something great, which might transcend this world, then these could be good indications of a priestly call. For more information click here.
Do I have to be perfect to go to seminary?
You don’t have to be perfect to go to seminary. A call from God is not based on our own personal holiness, so we can still be called to be a priest and not be perfect. In fact, often, God uses our own imperfections to show that He is the origin of the call. This does not mean it is ok to just live a mediocre life. Rather, God calls us all to become perfected as He is perfect. We are all called to a Vocation of Holiness. A man called to be a priest lives out the call to holiness in the specific vocation of the priesthood. The call we have, in a certain respect, is the mode by which God wants us to become holy, to work out our salvation, so to speak. For more information contact us here.
If I want to get married, does that mean I’m not called to be a priest?
No. When a man is attracted to women and to marriage, it does not mean he is not possibly called to the priesthood. Rather, it means that he has the natural attractions that every man should have. Marriage, and all that goes with it, is a natural good which is part of God’s plan, and is written into the fabric of who we are. When a man considers the priesthood in contrast to the vocation of marriage, he is considering two good. Both marriage and priesthood are good. Many of the human qualities and virtues that are required to be a good husband and father are also those required of a good priest. Every man should have the attraction to be a father and a husband, to be spousal and to be generative. Those called by God to be a priest fulfill these desires in a different way than those called to marriage. When a man becomes celibate for the Kingdom of God, he sacrifices a natural good (marriage) for a supernatural reason (God and His Kingdom, and the salvation of souls). For more information click here.
Do priests get lonely?
Everyone gets lonely sometimes in life, but priests tend to have less time of loneliness than most people because priests spend the majority of their days being with people and relating to them in an intimate way. Priests live life right up front and experience many fulfilling relationships with many people. Celibacy allows a priest to be available to all his people in a way that a married man is not able to be. Loneliness and solitude are entirely different realities. Very often, a priest gets to enjoy solitude in life, where he spends time alone, with God in prayer, or simply enjoying “down time” from the business of everyday life. Priests’ lives are filled with a variety of appropriately intimate relationships that bring fulfillment to them from a human perspective. As the Spiritual Father and brother to his community, a priest enjoys the friendship of his people in a variety of ways. For more information click here.
How do I find out more about the priesthood?
Call the Vocation Director. In the Archdiocese of Boston, Fr Daniel Hennessey can be reached at 617-746-5969, or “Take the Next Step” The best way to find out more about the priesthood is to contact your vocation director, because he can help direct you to the right answers. You can also talk to a priest that you know and trust. Another way to know more is to visit the seminary. In the Archdiocese of Boston there are three seminaries open to visit; Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary, Saint John Seminary, and Redemptoris Mater Seminary.
General Questions about Seminary
How do I apply to the seminary?
In general, you do two things in the seminary: 1. You discern your call and 2. You prepare to be ordained a priest. Usually at the beginning of your time in seminary you focus more on discernment and over time focus more on the immediate preparation for becoming a priest. Seminary formation includes the four pillars of formation: Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Pastoral. Seminary study includes that of Philosophy, as a preparation and foundation for the study of Theology. Typically, each seminarian will earn a Bachelors degree in Philosophy, and a Masters of Divinity, or Master of Arts in Theology Degree prior to Ordination. The philosophy courses of study include a strong focus on Metaphysics, and the Theology studies include those of Systematic, Moral, Scriptural, and Practical Theology, as well as other courses specific to Priestly Ministry. For more information click here.
What is seminary formation?
Seminary formation, as outlined by Pope Saint John Paul II in Pastores Dabo Vobis include the four “pillars” of human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation. These pillars are looked at as a whole, and assist the seminarian to grow in all aspects of his person. Just as we see the fingers of a child’s hand grow in proportion to each other as he matures into manhood, so too we see the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral aspects of a seminarian grow into the maturity of a man ready to be ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. For more information click here.
Does the Archdiocese of Boston have an age limit on entering seminary?
We do not have an age limit for entering seminary for the Archdiocese of Boston. While most of our seminarians are between the ages of 18 -45, we accept men who are older, depending on their particular vocational call and aptitude for formation. We currently have seminarians at Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary, in Weston, Massachusetts, which is dedicated uniquely to the preparation of seminarians 30 years of age and older responding to a call to priestly ministry. For more information click here.
Who are the seminarians for the Archdiocese of Boston?
Currently there are over 65 men studying for the Archdiocese of Boston at five different seminaries. To view a list of our seminarians, and to learn about their personal stories of discernment and life in seminary, click here.
How much does it cost to go to the seminary?
Currently, for those in Pre-Theology and Theology Programs, financial resources provided by the Archdiocese of Boston generally cover the following needs:
- Room and Board
- Health and Dental Insurance costs
- Some personal needs
For those seminarians in College seminary, the Archdiocese of Boston covers the Room and Board and Health and Dental Insurance costs. The cost of other expenses are generally covered by the seminarian, or through funds available to those in need.
Can I enter seminary with student loan debt?
In general, a man can easily enter seminary if his student loan debt is under $40,000. Although very often a candidate for seminary will have outstanding student loan debt in even larger amounts, it need not always be an impediment. The Vocation Office can assist those in need in the process of payment so as to be able to enter into a formation program.