Diocesan priests, or parish priests, as they are sometimes called, are priests ordained to serve a particular church. "Diocesan" comes from a Greek word meaning "to keep house," and "parish" (also a Greek word) means "a dwelling beside or near." A diocesan priest is the priest involved in the day-to-day lives of people. He "lives near them" in every way, and helps the local bishop to "keep house" in the family of God, either as an Associate Pastor or as a Pastor (and sometimes in ministries like teaching, serving as a campus minister, or as a chaplain in a hospital, a military base, or a prison). A parish priest in the Diocese of Peoria is committed to the family of God living in the twenty-six counties of Central Illinois.
The word "vocation" means call. The word "call" is used in many ways. We have phone calls, we can call a ball game, or we can call hogs. Believe it or not, "vocation" is more like the sense of "call" as in "calling hogs." When we call hogs we are making a noise so as to draw them closer to us. That is what God is doing when he calls us in our vocation. Everybody has a vocation in the sense that God is constantly "making noise" so as to call us closer to him, to become holy. For some, God calls them to holiness by being husbands or fathers. For others God is calling them to holiness by serving as missionaries or doctors or monks. For many God is calling them to holiness as priests. It is only by seeking God's will for our lives then following it that we can truly know the happiness God intends for us. Unfortunately, many people seek happiness according only to what they want, or following one's own will apart from God's. In fact, true happiness comes only from seeking God's will, then surrendering our own will to His and then following it joyfully.
Actually the only reason to become a priest is because you discovered that that is who God made you to be. If God made you to be a priest, then you will only find true happiness by following that call.
A religious priest (a member of a religious order or society) takes the vow of poverty as well as vows of celibacy and obedience. Usually, he lives with a number of other priests or brothers of his religious community. Religious communities, or "orders" as they are often called, place a special emphasis on some particular point or points of the Gospel. Some orders are particularly dedicated to teaching, some to caring for the sick, some for taking care of the poor, etc. There are even orders dedicated to operating television and radio stations to spread the gospel. A religious priest vows obedience to his order through his superiors. A diocesan priest serves the people of God in a particular area or "diocese." He promises obedience to the bishop of his diocese. He makes sacred promises of obedience and celibacy. He does not make a vow of poverty, however he is supposed to live a simple life and take seriously the gospel command to be detached from worldly things.
The ministry of a priest always depends on the needs of the people to whom he is assigned and takes into account the individual priest's particular interests and skills. The basic drive of the ministry of a priest is to make present the mysteries of God. He does this mostly through celebration of the sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist. He does this in a variety of ways. He may spend much of his time in preparation for and in celebration of the sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Baptism, Funerals, Marriage, Sacrament of the Sick). Each day he sets some time aside for prayer. Visiting the sick, visiting people in their homes, and working with the various parish and neighborhood organizations are all part of his ministry, too. The diocesan priest must also be available to people when they have special needs. He is frequently involved in individual counseling (marriage problems, drug problems, parent/teacher problems, or just life in general). He is sent to live with a certain community of faith (usually a parish), and thus is involved as a leader with the social and spiritual concerns of his people. Like anyone else, a priest must also find some time for exercise, rest and relaxation -time when he can do whatever he enjoys; things like sports, hobbies, music, etc.
A single Catholic man with at least average intelligence, emotional stability, a habit of generosity and a sincere love for God qualifies for priesthood. He should enjoy working with a variety of people and be committed to making the world a better place through priestly ministry. He should be a happy individual who loves life and is willing to dive headfirst into all God wants of him. He should seek after holiness, be faithful to the Church's teachings and be loyal to the Holy Father.
One must be at least 25 years old to be ordained and priests serve in active ministry until the age of 75. However, priesthood lasts forever, and so one remains a priest as long as he lives. Young men may apply to become seminarians after they have graduated from high school. While there is no firm upper age limit, and there are exceptions, we generally do not consider inviting men over the age of 45 to enter the seminary.
Before being ordained, a man must undergo formation, which allows him to be transformed and grow into the role God is asking him to take. This is done in the seminary. The word seminary has as its root the word "seminis," which means "seed." The seminary is the seedbed for vocations where the seed planted by God begins to take root and sprout. In the seminary, the candidate is nurtured and taught so that he can mature not only as a person, but academically, pastorally and spiritually.
The seminary formation program makes demands that help a seminarian test his happiness living the life of a priest. While he grows through experience, 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. Besides classes as at any college, the seminarian takes part in communal prayer, apostolic works, and community life. A regular evaluation of his progress at the seminary helps him make a decision to enter the next state of formation: theology (for those graduating from college) or ordination.
That depends on the individual, his background, and when he starts preparation. If he is a college graduate with no previous seminary experience, it will probably take six years. High school graduates will have four years of college and four years of theology.
No. A seminarian is not committed to being a priest, but rather to exploring the possibility of priesthood as a life choice. When a man asks to become a seminarian for the Diocese of Peoria, we do ask him to commit to giving seminary a try for at least two years. It is common to feel uneasy at first, and we don't want someone to leave simply because of homesickness or the frustrations of a new environment. After two years, if you have come to the mature decision that God is not calling you to the priesthood, you are free to leave. A seminarian who leaves the formation program at any stage may transfer to any college or university program and has lost nothing except 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.
The lack of money should never hinder us from doing God's will. For that reason, the Diocese of Peoria pays tuition, room, and board for all of seminarians in pre-theology and theology studies (those who have already received a bachelor's degree). For those in college seminary, we ask them to apply for as many scholarships and grants as he possibly can. After that, the man or his family are asked to apply for reasonable loans and to pay as much out of pocket for tuituin, room, and board, as they are able. If they are still unable to make up the difference, the man may apply for the Msgr. Duncan College Seminarian Scholarship for additional funds. That being said, no one should be scared away from applying to seminary because of financial matters. It is best to speak with the vocations director before deciding that you are unable to apply.
There are two manifestations of God's Divine Will.
The first is God's Ordinary Will.
We know God's Ordinary Will through the duties associated with our state in life. It is God's Will for a mother to care for the needs of her children before assisting at Daily Mass. It is God's Will that a monk fulfills his duties of communal prayer before going to milk the cows. It is God's will that high school students study and grow. We should perform our ordinary daily duties well. This is God's Will for each of us.
The second is God's Signified Will.
St. Francis de Sales was three times struck off his galloping horse to land three times on his sword and scabbard in the form of a cross. Despite his father's opposition, he took this as a sign of priestly vocation. He abandoned his work as a senator and entered the seminary to become a priest and later a bishop.
Ordinarily, however, God's Signified Will does not come in such an "in your face" way. Basically, the only way to know someone else's will is to get to know the other person. You know how people who are profoundly in love with one another will often know what the other wants without there being any spoken words? The same is true for God. God invites every human being on earth to share his or her heart with Him. It is only in this "heart-to-heart" conversation that we can know God's will for us. Another name for heart-to-heart conversation with God is prayer.
No. It is not a feeling. It is an objective call from God. However, God will also use external "clues" to communicate with us. Sometimes, these clues come in the form of feelings of joy and awe as a way of affirming us in doing God's will. However, one should be careful to note that feelings are not always manifestations of God's will. For example, I often feel joy and awe when I see a pepperoni pizza even when I know objectively that it is definitely not God's will that I should have it right now. Feelings often lie to us. No one should choose or reject the notion of a priestly vocation simply based on feelings. In fact, we might not feel anything at all, but we have what it takes and we are willing to do God's Will. A young man may never have felt a call to the priesthood but enters the seminary because a priest saw in him the signs of a vocation and asked him to seriously consider it.
We can go a long way in discovering who God made us to be simply by knowing ourselves, our strengths and our weaknesses. For example, I can be pretty sure that God is not calling me to be a ballet dancer as I know that I am over 40 years old, over 200 pounds, and have as much grace as a bull in a china shop.
Ask yourself these questions: When you go to Mass can you picture yourself doing the work of a priest? Do you have a kind heart? Are you willing to be of service to other people and help them to meet Christ through your work? If you are generous, love to volunteer, want to help, are concerned for the poor and needy and want to change the world through prayer work, then maybe God is calling you to be a priest.
Not exactly. It is true that those things we are good at or those things we enjoy doing might be clues as to our vocation, but they are only clues. There are quite a number of men who have been called to the priesthood who weren't particularly good at public speaking or who dreaded the thought of having to comfort a grieving family. But if God is calling, He will give you what you need.
Visit our website: www.comeandfollowme.org. Talk to your pastor or another priest. Call the vocation office (309.671.1550) or write Msgr_Brownsey@cdop.org. I also recommend that every young Catholic man participate in our Emmaus Days program. Depending on your age level, Emmaus Days is a 3 or 4 day retreat where men your age come to learn about vocations and have a very good time doing it. More information on Emmaus Days is also available on our website.
You can't. All we can have are indications that it is the right thing to do. If you are morally upright, pious, intelligent, balanced and in good health, you might have a vocation. The only way to know is to try. Even if it turns out that we do not have a vocation, the years spent at the seminary are never lost.
To save your immortal soul. If it is God's Will for you to become a priest, or a religious, then that's the way that God wants you to save your soul. St. John Bosco said that one in three young persons has a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.
Actually it is probably true that God is calling just as many today as He ever has. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer men listening for that call or answering it. Many have bought into the lie that happiness comes from following their own will. They think that the purpose of this life is to get as much for themselves as possible. Those who think this way are not bad people, nor are they even necessarily guilty of denying God's will. They have just been tricked by the spirit of this world and will, unfortunately, not realize the happiness God had planned for them. However, even secular surveys that see priesthood as merely a profession betray the truth that the priesthood ranks among the highest "professions" with regard to "job satisfaction." Of course, little do they know it has nothing to do with "profession" and "job satisfaction" as it is all about "vocation" and becoming who you were made to be.
I would like to tell you that if you become a priest you will always be happy, the sky will always be blue, and you will never become frustrated or discouraged. However, that would be a lie. As with anything, there are always moments of frustration and discouragement. However, these are just moments. When one is following God's will, happiness always prevails.
It is everything! You need to pray! It has to be done often and every day. It is important to be specific with your prayer. Ask God, "What do you want me to do with my life?" Simply ask the question, then be quiet and listen to what God speaks to your heart. Many of our priests and seminarians have found that the most helpful prayer is, "Lord, Help me to want to be what you want me to be."
Any saint you are especially close to will be able to help you discern God's will. But there are a few who have a special mission to help with these matters. First, of course, is the Blessed Mother. Mary received her vocation from the angel at the annunciation. Frightened though she was, she was motivated by the love of God and generous enough to say, "Let it be done to me according to your will." The patron saint of priestly vocations for the Diocese of Peoria is St. Therese of Lisieux. She lived in France in the 19th century and promised God that she would pray constantly for priests and seminarians. Our seminarians love her as their little sister. I recommend that anyone who is trying to discern God's will should read her book, The Story of a Soul. I have found St. Andrew to be helpful with matters of vocation, as well. It was St. Andrew who, there at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, persuaded his brother to follow Jesus. In other words, St. Peter, our first pope, would not have realized his vocation had his brother Andrew not pointed it out. There are countless other saints who can help: St. John Marie Vianney, the patron saint of diocesan priests; St. John Bosco, who devoted his life to helping young men grow in holiness, etc.
Talk to your friends about the idea of priesthood or being a religious sister or brother. Listen to what they say. Get insight from your parents. Speak to your parish priest. God speaks not only to the heart directly but through other people. Generally, if others agree with your desire it is a positive sign.
Unfortunately this is common. The truth is that parents only want what's best for their children. Sadly, there are a great number of people who have never been taught that happiness comes from doing God's will. They are sure you can't be happy unless you become who they want you to be. Most parents have dreams for their children. If they never included priesthood among their dreams then your becoming a priest may shatter those dreams. Don't lose heart, though. As they see the happiness that you experience in following God's will, they usually come around. In fact, many priests and seminarians can give witness to family members who were against their becoming priests and, over time, not only accepted it, but even experienced profound conversion in their own lives, finding happiness for themselves as they opened up more and more to God's will.
Yes. The Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Peoria works closely with families. We have an organization called "POPS" or Parents of Priests and Seminarians. Once a year we have a weekend retreat where we invite parents of priests and seminarians to get together and grow spiritually. Especially the parents of our newer men benefit greatly from getting to know other parents whose sons are going through the same thing. They meet other parents who share their concerns. They also meet parents who were once concerned, but are now very happy to have a son who is a priest or seminarian.
While it is good to discern, discernment can become an excuse for inaction. You cannot possibly discern to the point of perfect knowledge of God's will. At a certain point you have to say, "Lord, so far this is what I think you want me to do." Then, in a spirit of generosity, just go for it. We call it "act as if." You go forward as if it is God's will. If you are right, then God will confirm your decision. If you are wrong, you will know that, too. Either way, you will make progress toward fulfilling your vocation.