The first step in the application process for entering seminary is to meet with the vocation director to speak about your life, a call to the priesthood, discernment, and possible entrance into a seminary formation program. The basic question that any man thinking about the priesthood should consider is: “What is the next best step for me in determining God desires for me?” If he, in consultation with the Vocation Office, determines that the next best step is to enter seminary, then the Vocation Director will invite him to begin a process. The second step is to apply to a specific seminary formation program, recommended by the vocation office.
The First Step: Application for Sponsorship
The Application for Sponsorship includes several interviews with priests, and the following:
- A personal autobiography that outlines your life using the general categories of Family, Relationships, Education/Employment, Outlook on life/Faith and Practice of Religion/ Discernment, Priesthood.
- Letters of Reference from people who know you well such as your pastor, priests, employers, educators, and even friends
- Archdiocesan Sponsorship Application and Seminary Application Forms
- Legal Release Documents allowing the those responsible in the Church to evaluate your application
- A medical evaluation to assure you are in good health
- A psychological evaluation that screens for major mental illness and provides a general personality profile
- Background Screening Evaluation through law enforcement organizations
- Documentation of sacramental history such as baptism and confirmation
- Documents of educational history such as school transcripts, and standardized tests
- Some essays on your understanding of the nature and role of the Priest and the role of obedience and celibacy in the life of the Priest
- Documents that show your identity, such as State issues ID.
The Second Step: Interview at Seminary
After completing the Application for Sponsorship, the Archdiocese will make a decision regarding your application, and when a positive decision is made, you will be presented to a seminary for interview and acceptance into their seminary formation program. The interview at the seminary usually involves meeting with several members of the seminary faculty, either in a group or individually, to discuss your desire to discern and be formed in the seminary. While it is not simply a “rubber stamp”, it is not common for a man to be recommended by the Archdiocese and then not be admitted to a particular seminary.
Formation Programs in General
In general, there are three formation programs available to men who desire to discern and prepare for the diocesan priesthood in Boston. These programs are outlined in relation to stages of intellectual formation, with the understanding that at each stage of formation, all four pillars of formation (Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, Pastoral) are engaged.
The three formation programs are:
College Seminary: In this program a seminarian attends classes at Providence College in Providence Rhode Island, while matriculating toward a Bachelors Degree in Arts with a Major of Philosophy. While attending classes as a member of the general student of Providence College, and enjoying all the resources available to students there, he lives and takes his meals, etc, at Our Lady of Providence College Seminary. This program from start to finish is 4 years. New men are able to apply to this program at any stage (as a Freshman, Sophomore, Junior or Senior), according to their personal discernment, and in consultation and recommendation of the Vocation Office.
Pre-Theology: As the name implies, this program is one that prepares a man to enter into the Theology Seminary program. The Pre-Theology program is for men who begin seminary formation having already earned a Bachelor’s Degree (in any field), but who have not had any, or enough, Philosophical training. The study of philosophy is foundational to the study of theology, so the pre-theology student matriculates toward a Bachelors in Philosophy, studying especially, Ancient philosophy of Metaphysics, which prepares its student well to study the Theological giants of the Church. This program is 2 years, typically, and is offered at St John Seminary in Brighton, MA and at Pope Saint John XXII National Seminary in Weston, MA.
Theology: In this program, the seminarian matriculates toward a Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) or Masters of Arts (MA), while becoming an expert in the theological tradition of the Church. Courses include those typically found in any M.Div. or MA program but with numerous additionally courses that are particular to those seeking Ordination. This program is 4 years from start to finish, and is offered at Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary, St. John Seminary, and the Pontifical North American College.
Seminaries attended by Boston Seminarians
Currently, the Archdiocese of Boston has seminarians at St John Seminary, Brighton, MA, Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary, Weston, MA, Redemptoris Matter Seminary, Brookline, MA, Pontifical North American College, Rome, Italy, and Our Lady of Providence Seminary College, Providence, RI. A seminarian attends one of these seminaries based on the formation needs of the man, his age, and level of education. In general, if a new seminarian has not yet received a Bachelor’s Degree, he will enter Our Lady of Providence Seminary or Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary. If he has already finished a Bachelor’s Degree (in any field), he will enter one of the other seminaries in the Pre-Theology or Theology Program.