Priesthood

Diocese Rejoices in Ordination

Could God be calling you to be a priest?

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Discernment - Prayer, Tools

Discernment means interpreting the interior movements of your soul: 
1.    How might God be speaking to you?  And how do we do that?  
2.   How do we listen for that gentle whisper of God’s voice in our heart? 

Prayer
1.  Take time everyday to pray.  And don’t just spend the time talking to God.  Make sure you spend time listening.  A lot of time.  
2.   Quiet your mind and listen in your heart for God. 
3.   Visit Prayer Tools page for prayer resources including Scripture verses to help you focus.

Prayer Tools

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with a simple Prayer to Know One’s Vocation, via the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:“Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you. But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength right to the end. Jesus, I trust in you.  Amen 

Additional Resources:         United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Prayers & Devotions        Daily Readings

Create a Spiritual Plan of Life:  A Spiritual Plan of Life will help you to focus on God as you are discerning your vocation

Explore your Vocation

How to become a Priest:

Priestly formation actually begins in the family, continues through the discernment process, is solidified during seminary years of study and pastoral experience, and is confirmed at ordination, where it becomes a lifetime of collaboration with God's grace and human effort.

Becoming a priest means taking one's mere human, mortal, sinful state, uniting it with God's grace and one's own effort, and witnessing the transformation into an alter Christus, which is Latin for “other Christ.”

Who is the Priest?

As an “alter Christus,” the priest is called to be a witness of Christ to the flock that has been entrusted to him as their shepherd. He is a minister of the sacraments, proclaimer of the word, teacher of the faith, and steward of the Church. The priest is meant to accompany and lead the flock entrusted to his care through this world in such a way as they are able to reach the eternal kingdom of heaven. A parish priest in particular has as his primary concern the spiritual needs of his people, to aid their growth and develop a sense of community among them. His aim is to build up the local Church within the context of the wider Church and to inspire his people to respond each to their own particular call to holiness.

General Qualifications for Acceptance to Priesthood:

Baptized, confirmed and practicing Roman Catholic men with a desire to serve God and His people as a priest must possess the following general qualifications:

  • Faith in, and love for, Christ and His Church. 
  • Good moral character.
  • High school diploma with favorable academic abilities. 
  • Emotional balance and maturity. 
  • Good physical health. 
  • Psychological readiness and capacity to pursue a sustaining, life-long commitment.
  • A deepening habit of prayer and a balanced devotional life. 
  • Maturity to recognize and the willingness to respond to the needs of others. 
  • Readiness to serve in the manner to which he is called by God, through his Bishop. 
  • A developing spirit of detachment that helps him be in the world but not of the world. 
  • Freedom to enter this state in life.
Stages of Priestly Formation:

Formation, as the Church understands it, is not equivalent to a secular sense of schooling or, even less, job training. Formation is first and foremost cooperation with the grace of God. In the United States of Catholic Conference Bishops' document The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, a reflection on Saint Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 leads to a description of formation. “The apostle Paul marvels at the work of the Holy Spirit who transforms believers into the very image of Jesus Christ, who himself is the image of God. This grace of the new covenant embraces all who have joined themselves to Jesus Christ in faith and baptism. Indeed, it is sheer grace, all God's doing. Moved by that grace, however, we make ourselves available to God's work of transformation. And that making ready a place for the Lord to dwell in us and transform us we call formation.” -The Program of Priestly Formation (5th Edition; #68)

Every seminarian has ultimately five people besides himself who are responsible for his formation. They are his bishop and his vocations director, the rector of the seminary he is attending and his formation advisor and spiritual director. The spiritual director has one job: to help make the man holy. Conversations between the spiritual director and directee are considered internal forum, meaning that the priest does not get to speak at all about them. He is completely confidential and does not share anything with the formation advisor, rector, vocations director or bishop. The formation advisor is the opposite of this, his job is to ensure that the seminarian is becoming a well formed priest in every way. There are four main areas that the seminarian must be formed to become a priest: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. They are commonly referred to as the Four Pillars.

Four Pillars of Formation:

The seminary and its programs foster the formation of future priests by attending specifically to their human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation, the four pillars of priestly formation developed in St. John Paul II's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis (I will Give You Shepherds). These pillars of formation and their finality give specificity to formation in seminaries as well as a sense of the integrated wholeness of the different dimensions of formation. -The Program of Priestly Formation (5th Edition; #70)

Human Formation

essentially deals with the personal habits, behaviors and tendencies within a person. Diet, exercise, sleeping habits, hygiene, social skills, fraternity, manners, work ethic, humor, time management - these are all good examples.

Spiritual Formation

 is the primary concern of the Spiritual Director and is thus left private and confidential, these would include his holiness of life, habits of prayer, content for prayer, vices he struggles with, virtues he needs to grow in, his practice of the sacraments and ability to do holy hours, spiritual reading that he is doing etc… While the majority of this is internal forum and thus is private; there are still many aspects that can be evaluated in a more public way. These would include his attendance at Mass and public prayer, his more obvious and natural virtues, external habits of prayer, frequency of holy hours, tardiness to house liturgies, attentiveness at morning and evening prayer.

Intellectual Formation

 is more than just the graduate classes that the men are taking. It also includes many workshops and practicums that prepare a seminarian to carry out the duties of priest effectively. It also can include becoming a more well-rounded thinker with an understanding of art and culture. Seminarians take 18 credits worth of Philosophy, Latin, Biblical Greek, and Spanish, as well as getting graduate degrees in Theology.

Pastoral Formation

is all the training of the seminarian to be a shepherd of God's people. It includes developing teaching, preaching and administration skills. As part of their formation, every seminarian has apostolates, or opportunities to volunteer and serve the people. They go to parishes to visit the sick, take communion to shut-ins, and teach RCIA or religious education classes. They go to teach catechism or religion in schools, to hospitals, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, prisons, nursing homes etc.. all as part of their seminary formation. They are trained in pastoral counseling, meeting management, homiletics, marriage preparation and marriage counseling among many other diverse dimensions of what a priest might encounter in his work as a parish priest. Here is an article that covers these stages of formation as well as the history of priestly formation in the Church. 


Two Paths of Formation

There are two basic paths for formation as a priest: with or without a college degree. If you do not have a college degree, there are four years of College Seminary (studying philosophy), then four years of Major Seminary (studying theology). If you have your college degree, you start with two years of prerequisite classes and formation, called Pre-Theology, and then four years of major theology. Taking a spiritual or pastoral year can extend this timeline but is also very enriching for the future priest.

Steps Along the Path to Priesthood 

Seminaries used by the Diocese of​ Ogdensburg:

  • Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio 
  • Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, MD 
  • Cathedral Seminary, Douglaston, NY 
  • St. Vincent’s Seminary, LaTrobe, PA