“Become fire!” We are looking for men who are not half-hearted but whole-hearted, willing to lay down their lives for others…. We need men who actually believe that sainthood is possible… We need men burning with ardent and gentle zeal …. We need men who understand that a vocation to priesthood begins at the burning bush, before the majesty of God himself.” Are you that man?

L-R. Rev. Boniface Hicks, OSB, Director of Spiritual Formation; Very Rev. Edward Mazich, OSB, Rector; Mr. Kevin P. McCullouch, Diocese of Ogdensburg; Bishop Terry R. LaValley, Bishop of Ogdensburg; Mr. Tyler M. Fitzgerald, Diocese of Ogdensburg; Rev. Christopher C. Carrara, Diocese of Ogdensburg Vocations Director; and Rev. John-Mary Tompkins, OSB, Vice Rector and Director of Human Formation.  

Seminarians and Grand Knight Robert Heckman

The Seminarians each received a $1,000 gift from the Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Robert Heckman.  The gift comes from “Pennies from Heaven” donations to help support the Seminarians formation and education.  The Seminarians are left to right:  Dennis Ombongi, Kevin McCullouch, Tuan (Joseph) Vuong, Venes Laine, Grand Knight Bob Heckman, Tyler Fitzgerald, Deacon Lukas Gruber, Douglas Schirmer, Michael Lennox.  Absent:  Carter Pierce

Seminarian Christmas Gathering

Left to right:  Tuan (Joseph) Vuong, Dennis Ombongi, Father Matthew Conger, Assistant Vocation Director, Deacon Lukas Gruber, Sister Mary Eamon Lyng, SSJ, Vocation Coordinator, Kevin McCullouch, Bishop Terry R. LaValley, Tyler Fitzgerald, Michael Lennox, Douglas Schirmer, Venes Laine, Father Christopher Carrara, Vocation Director. Absent: Carter Pierce

Left to right:  Very Reverend Steven P. Beseau, Rector/President of the Josephinum, Dennis Ombongi, Most Reverend Earl K. Fernandes, Bishop of Columbus and Vice-Chancellor of the Josephinum.

Rite of Admission to Candidacy

Seminarian Dennis Ombongi  is attending the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio, He is enrolled in the list of candidates who will one day share in the Rite of Holy Orders.  

The Rite of Candidacy is the moment at which Dennis declares publicly his desire to be bound in Holy Orders for the service of God and mankind.  It is a self-offering of Dennis; a manifestation of his will to serve.

Assessment and Application Process

Guided by our overall diocesan goal to nurture and develop holy and well-formed priests, great care is taken to ensure a careful and thorough assessment and application process for all potential seminarian candidates. These assessment and application processes generally encompass the following:

Initial Contact and inquiry

This can start as simply as asking a priest at your parish to give you some tips for developing your prayer life. As you grow closer to God, you may sense a call to offer more of yourself to Him, "Who did you create me to be Lord?" Sometimes a conversation can become an invitation, to pursue more deeply, attend a discernment event, bring it up with a priest, a trusted friend, or the vocations director. If you begin to feel a sense that God is calling you to be a priest, bring that up with a priest you know, or contact the Vocations Director directly to speak with him. 

Once your discernment has reached the point of feeling a call to continue exploring your vocation in the context of seminary, ask the Vocations Director for an application to seminary. He will help you discern if this is the right moment for that, and give you guidance along that path.

Formal Interview

Part of receiving the application is a formal interview between the Director of the Office of Vocations and the potential candidate in which the following topics are discussed:

  • Personal health and well-being.
  • Family and employment history.
  • Religious and educational background. 
  • Current service and volunteering 
  • Scope of discernment of the priesthood and the diocese.
Application Process

Acceptance into the diocesan priesthood formation program requires that a candidate demonstrate emotional maturity, academic ability, personal stability and consistent growth in the practice of the faith. If, after the formal interview, the director believes the individual possesses suitable psychological, intellectual and spiritual attributes, the candidate is then invited to begin the formal application process. The general components of the application encompass the following:

Application Forms
  • Application form 
  • Autobiography
  • Background Check Release 
  • Safe Environment Release 
  • Guidelines for Recommendation Letter
  • Medical History Exam Form
  • Physician Release Form 
  • Psychological Release Form
Application Review 

After the candidate submits all the information and necessary paperwork as outlined above, the Director of the Office of Vocations, determines if the process should continue. If his decision is favorable, the Director of the Office of Vocations then recommends the candidate to the Bishop who always meets candidates personally. Once the Bishop approves, an interview is scheduled with the Seminary Admissions Advisory Committee. If the committee's vote is positive, the Bishop makes the decision, and discusses with the Director of the Office of Vocations a possible seminary placement. Once accepted by the diocese, the applicant then must complete the application process for the individual seminary he has been assigned to attend.

Time Frame

Individual circumstances may adjust or vary the sequence of events outlined above. Applications may be submitted at any time of year. The general necessary time frame to compile and complete all required application material is between 2-3 months. Applicants normally receive word of acceptance or non-acceptance within two months of submitting a completed application, but generally no later than the first week of July. 

What is seminary life like? 

Like a regular institution of higher learning, seminary life is academic and intellectual; there are classes, exams, papers and a whole lot of reading. However, seminary is not just about going to classes to learn theology and how to be a priest. 

Seminary is more about growing as a whole person. Therefore Chapel time, social time and time spent in service to others is just as important as the courses taken by seminarians. 

Seminary life is about growing in your prayer life. Building good habits of prayer is one of the main focuses in seminary. Mass and holy hours are built into the structure of the daily schedule, as well as communal morning prayer and evening prayer. 

Seminary life is social and fraternal. A priest must be social; after all, he is ordained for the sake of the people he serves. It is important he learn to be comfortable being himself around others. The brotherly fraternity at the seminary is one of the greatest graces of being there, knowing that every person there is at the seminary for the same singular purpose: to become a priest at the service of Christ and His Church.

Seminary life is challenging. It is meant to stretch and form each individual seminarian to be the best version of themselves for the sake of the people they will one day be called to serve.

The Rite of Admission to Candidacy is a pivotal step in the journey to the ordained priesthood. It is celebrated when a seminarian has reached a maturity of purpose in his formation and has demonstrated the necessary qualifications for ordination. In the presence of the bishop, he publicly expresses his intention to complete his preparation for Holy Orders and his resolve to fully invest himself to that end, so that he will serve Christ and the Church faithfully.     Another step along the way toward ordination for both priests and deacons is the installation as lector and acolyte. In most dioceses around the world, seminarians are the only men formally installed as lectors and acolytes. 

Watch ‘A Day in the Life” of some of our seminarians, and you will realize one certainty about seminary life:  it is definitely not boring. 


The bishop’s instruction tells them, “You will proclaim the word in the liturgical assembly, instruct children and adults in the faith and prepare them to receive the sacraments worthily. You will bring the message of salvation to those who have not yet received it.”   


When instituting acolytes, the bishop tells them, “You will have a special role in the church’s ministry. The summit and source of the church’s life is the Eucharist, which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow.” The instruction notes that they serve priests and deacons at the altar and also distribute Communion at Mass and to the sick.     Prior to ordination to diaconate or priesthood, the candidate must make his Profession of Faith and take his Oath of Fidelity.