"I think God is calling me... now, what do I do now?"
Often when a young man experiences a sense of God’s call in his heart, many questions arise. The discernment about “becoming a priest” should be accompanied by spiritual and practical questions. This webpage is designed to remove some of the mystery about entering the seminary by explaining the journey to the priesthood, beginning with the application to the diocese and then to the seminary.
A young man contacts the Vocation Director possibly after speaking with his parish priest, campus minister, youth minister, trusted friend or by responding to information found in his parish, school or on the internet. During their initial meeting, the “candidate” will be encouraged to tell his story about his life and the process that has brought him to the point of meeting with the Vocation Director. He will be asked to provide general information about himself and his interest in the priesthood. Questions about his family and educational background, how he practices his faith, prays and serves others are covered. Also covered are things like his understanding of chastity/celibacy, his relationships with others, and how the call to the priesthood has manifested itself in his life and what he envisions ministry to be. At this initial meeting, the candidate is given an opportunity to ask any questions about the diocese, priesthood, or the application process.
The Vocations Director will usually encourage the candidate to get a spiritual director (if he does not already have one) and to meet with him regularly to further discern God's call. A second, more in-depth interview is held and if both the candidate and the Vocations Director feel that the basis of a call to the priesthood is present, an interview with the Bishop is then arranged. Presuming that these first two interviews have gone well, the candidate and the Vocations Director will discuss the application and testing process (psychological and intellectual) which will take place for the candidate to qualify to become a seminarian for the Diocese of Sioux City. Given the satisfactory completion of the application and all its requirements, the candidate would then meet with the Vocations Director and it is at that point that options available for seminary formation could be discussed in detail.
After the candidate has made the decision to pursue the possibility of a priestly vocation, he begins the application process which includes: the completing of a confidential application form with a chronological autobiography and work history, the compiling of sacramental and academic records (no photocopies, must be original or official records), a physical examination and health records, psychological assessment, letters of recommendation, background check, written responses to questions related to the priesthood as well as his participating in various interviews. The Vocation Director works closely with the candidate through this process. The application material is reviewed by the Vocations Director, confidential advisors and then given to the Bishop for his review and final decision.
Acceptance and Assignment to the Seminary
The candidate, who is accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Sioux city, is now assigned to a major or minor seminary by the Bishop (depending upon what academic level the candidate has completed). The Vocation Director will then provide the new seminarian with the application form necessary for entrance to that particular seminary for their approval. A new application process very similar to the one undertaken in his joining the Diocese of Sioux City now takes place (with much of the same records, recommendations and assessments being required).
If he has not visited that seminary, the new seminarian will be encouraged to visit the seminary as well as meet with other seminarians studying for the Diocese of Sioux City. He may be asked to interview with seminary personnel during the visit. A formal letter of acceptance is sent to the new seminarian with practical details about his moving into the seminary in late summer for the start of the new Academic year. An important part of entering the seminary is the going through the orientation process and the friendships made from the class the new seminarian becomes a part of. Therefore, for the good of the new seminarian and his formation, the Diocese of Sioux City does not send seminarians to the seminary in mid-term.
Seminarians begin formation with the start of the new academic year. They attend classes, retreats, and participate in apostolic work. A Spiritual Director at the seminary is assigned to each seminarian to assist in the formation process. In addition, each seminarian has an Academic Advisor at the seminary to provide necessary direction and assistance. Each summer, the Bishop may assign a seminarian to a particular pastoral work, such as assisting in a parish, hospital ministry, Totus Tuus, etc. The Vocation Director serves to assist the seminarian throughout the seminary formation process. The seminarian is expected to satisfactorily complete his undergraduate degree as well as receive a positive annual evaluation. If a new seminarian already has his undergraduate degree, but it is not in philosophy, he most likely will have to undertake up to two years of pre-theology studies to qualify to enter Major seminary and enter its program for priestly formation and work to complete a graduate theology degree.
Prior to ordination, the seminarian may be required to take a pastoral or spiritual year of formation beyond the required four years of theological studies and priestly formation of major seminary. The seminarian prepares for ordination as a transitional Deacon at some point following the third year of theological studies. Following his successful completion of the academic degree from the University he attends while in major seminary (usually a Masters of Divinity degree), the Deacon is called to Holy Orders by the Bishop and is ordained to the Priesthood.
Of course, every vocational journey is unique and thus there are variations from the outline provided here depending on the individual’s life experience. This general outline, however, provides a brief description of the process that enables the Church and the candidate to discern God’s will and call.
Some candidates contact the Vocation Director with a certainty that they feel God is calling them to the priesthood. Most, however, enter the seminary still asking, “Is God calling me?” The seminary is meant to be a place where God's call can be tested and discerned through prayer and the formation process. If you feel God may be calling you to the priesthood, take the first step and accept Jesus’ invitation: “Come and see.” Even if it is determined that you do not have a priestly vocation, the time spent in prayer and learning about your faith has proven to be a blessing to every young man who has been a seminarian, no matter what vocation he eventually enters into.