It’s surprising that it’s not a simple process to become a priest. After all, it’s a life-changing journey. So a lot of people and a lot of steps are involved.
- It starts with the person considering priesthood. Okay, that’s the obvious one!
- The people who make up a person’s personal circle of support and affection have a big part to play: family, relations, close friends, peers, work colleagues, fellow students … this is not a journey one makes on one’s own!
- The local priest or a priest one has confided in for advice and guidance.
- The Director of Vocations in the diocese — the priest the bishop has asked to support people thinking of priesthood.
- The bishop of the diocese. He has the ultimate say in who may be accepted as a candidate for priesthood and in who may be ordained to serve the diocese.
- The formation team: the staff of the seminary or college where one studies and is receives training.
It’s also fair to say that this can’t be rushed. So it takes several years – varies between 7 and 10.
The first spell of time involves a person being in contact with the Director of Vocations to find out more information, to discuss what’s involved, to receive guidance and support, to have time to think and reflect and pray. This may involve attending a pre-seminary programme which is non-academic but is designed to help a person decide whether to commence seminary. (A good example of one of these courses is the one provided for Scottish students in Salamanca, Spain.)
Then the first big decision: by the diocese and by the individual — whether or not to apply to be accepted as a seminarian.
The application process involves written application, interviews, assessments, references and exchanges of information.
If a candidate is accepted by the diocese he is then enrolled in a seminary to commence a formation and study course.
- Currently, seminarians for Cork and Ross Diocese study at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
- Some seminarians undertake part of their study in other locations such as the Irish College, Rome.
- In the latter years of seminary formation, seminarians may be asked to take courses outside the college in various ministry settings such as hospital chaplaincy.