Going to Seminary
Taking the next step toward priesthood
Seminary: The best education the Church has to offer
A man who thinks God might be calling him to be a priest should go to the seminary. Often however, major misconceptions prevent a man from applying at all.
First, men often think that going to seminary is a commitment to becoming a priest. Nothing could be further from the truth! Seminary is just another stage of discernment, albeit an important stage. Second, many people still think that seminaries are like monasteries: large, cold edifices where people walk around in silence.
Actually, seminaries today are very much like universities. The aim of the seminary is the formation of body, mind, and soul. To this end, seminarians take classes in Catholic theology, Sacred Scripture, Church history, pastoral counseling, and other subjects. There are also opportunities for sports and recreation. Most importantly, the seminarian is expected to pray. He is taught how to pray liturgically and privately. In short, he is taught how to accomplish his life’s work: to become like Jesus!
Don’t be afraid to give seminary a try. It’s not only the best education the Church offers, but also a place to grow closer to God as you find your true vocation.
Daily Seminary Life
What is daily life like for a typical seminarian? In a word: busy. Because the demands of priesthood are so great, formation of future priests is extremely rigorous. In addition to master’s-level academics, seminarians pray together at least twice a day, go to daily Mass, meet with their spiritual directors, and go to pastoral assignments at local parishes. Plus there are special meetings and workshops. This leaves enough time for meals, homework, and recreation, but not much else. From a lay perspective, you could compare seminary to having a full-time job and getting a master’s degree at the same time.
Four Pillars of Priestly Formation
Being a priest is not a job: it is the taking on of a new identity; it is becoming alter Christus, another Christ. To this end, the Church requires rigorous formation in four key areas:
Human formation: learning how to form the future priests’ personality to be a bridge to Christ; how to be an effective witness for the Church.
Spiritual formation: developing a deep and mature relationship with Christ through prayer and virtuous living.
Intellectual formation: understanding the truths of the Faith and cultivating the skills to teach the Faith to others.
Pastoral formation: learning how to be a “shepherd of souls,” helping parishioners through the joys and trials of life.
Three Levels of Seminary
College Seminary: Men who obtain a normal college degree, while at the same time undergoing the formation required to enter major seminary.
Pre-Theology: Men who already have a college degree, but who need to satisfy the requirements of two years of formation and study of philosophy before entering major seminary.
Major Seminary (Theology): Men who have attended either college seminary or pre-theology, who now begin the final four years of priestly formation.
Seminaries used by the Diocese of Owensboro
The application process
A man who wishes to go to seminary must be accepted by Bishop Medley as a seminarian. For this to happen, the man first must become familiar to the Vocation Director. He must also complete an application, undergo psychological testing and background checks, and be interviewed by our Vocations Board. It is a fairly involved process, but it can actually be a very enriching part of a man’s self-discovery and journey toward priesthood.
What about debt?
Debt can be a concern for a man wishing to enter seminary. Seminarians are given only a modest monthly stipend, and are not permitted to have a job because formation is so intensive. For this reason, large debts must be paid off before a man enters the seminary. For example, if a man owns a home, the mortgage must be paid in full, which often entails the sale of the home. Large amounts of credit card debt must be paid as well, though smaller amounts may be permitted at the vocation director’s discretion.
Student loans are a different story, however. Because student loans can be deferred while enrolled in classes, a man is permitted to carry student loans into seminary. When he is ordained a priest and earns a regular salary, he resumes payments on his student loans.
Background photo by Corey Bruns.