What’s seminary life like?
Seminary life is a life of community. It is a unique environment in which men who are thinking about being priests are gathered together to learn and discern more about their vocation. This discernment takes place through study (there are academic classes) Daily Mass and prayer, service (apostolic/volunteer work) and community life. In coming to know more about God, one another and the priesthood, the seminarians are able to grow more certain in the plan God is calling them to.
How long does it take to become a priest?
It depends on your previous education and when you enter the seminary. Some will enter the seminary right from high school, others will enter with some college credits completed and still others will enter with a college degree.
For those entering without any college background, the seminary will take at least 8 years to complete: Four years of college and four years of Theology studies. For those entering with some college credits, those credits may be applied to the college program when possible and the seminarian can transfer into the appropriate college class.
For those entering the seminary with a college degree , the seminary will take at least 6 years to
omplete. These men must complete a 2 year Pre-Theology Program and four years of Theology studies.
During the college years, a seminarians study Philosophy, languages and theology. Upon graduating college, he receives a Bachelor of Arts Degree. The Theology studies make up the final four years of the seminary program. Upon completion of these studies, a seminarian receives a Masters of Divinity Degree.
The Pre-Theology Program is a two year program which affords a man already with a college degree, to gain some Philosophy credits and formation prior to Theology Studies.
I’m thinking about taking the first step, what do I do?
Whether or not you are ready to get serious about joining the Archdiocese and entering the seminary, it would be helpful to make an appointment with the Vocation Director for Diocesan Priesthood (Father Stephen DeLacy – firstname.lastname@example.org. Meeting with him will give you an opportunity to have many of your questions answered. Discernment is a difficult task that shouldn’t be attempted alone. Father DeLacy can give you practical advice and information regarding discernment and the seminary, answer financial and educational questions, explain the “nuts and bolts” of the vocation program in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and let you know the reasons that other men have chosen to embrace the life of a diocesan priest.
Keep in mind that you must be accepted by a diocese before going to the seminary, since there is not such thing as a “free agent” seminarian not affiliated with any diocese. Applying to the diocese includes interviewing with the Vocation Director, meeting with a professional to evaluate your psychological health, procuring letters of reference, agreeing to a background check and completing an extensive and detailed application packet. Once completed, and if accepted, the candidate talks further with the Vocation Director about the seminary.
Am I committing myself to being a priest by going to the seminary?
No. A seminarian is not committed to being a priest, but to exploring the possibility of priesthood as a life’s choice. The seminary formation program makes demands that help him test his happiness living the life of a priest. While he grows through experience and prayer, study, ministry, fraternity, celibacy and community life, the candidate is assisted by a spiritual director and a formation contact person on the seminary faculty. A regular evaluation of his progress at the seminary helps him make a decision to enter the next state of formation: Theology. A seminarian who leaves the formation program at any stage may transfer to any college or university program and has lost nothing expect for his uncertainty about being a priest. In the process, he has probably gained a better sense of his own calling to serve the Church in some way besides priesthood.
How can I be sure that I should enter the seminary?
Initially, one cannot be sure. This is why he presents himself to the vocation director: To seek understanding and a greater certainty. Through the process of prayer and speaking with the vocation directory, the decision of whether or not to enter the seminary will become more clear.