Today’s Diocesan Priest

No day is the same. Each day is different with its own challenges and opportunities. From visiting the sick, playing kickball with the school kids, to celebrating Sunday mass. It is exciting life. It is never dull. Not always easy but never dull. I could never handle a nine to five job sitting behind a desk. Being a priest is holding the key to the hearts and lives of so many people. You share their joys as in the birth of a child to the sorrow of burying a loved one. It is the stuff of life. I get time to pray. It is like getting paid to spend time with God. My prayer time is my focal point of my day. I love to be with Him.

To think it all began by going on retreat when I was in the 7th grade. I had no interest in being a priest; I wasn’t even an altar boy. I went on retreat and there I found these priests different. They played sports. Some were musicians and one was even a ventriloquist. They radiated happiness. I wanted to be like them I wanted to work with kids and keep them out of trouble. It is a wonderful life.

– Father Tom Connery, pastor, St. Peter Catholic Church, Deland

Diocesan Priesthood – FAQ’s

Why does the Church need priests?

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the life of the Church. Without the Eucharist, there is no Church. In a sacramental way, Christ is present to the Church in the person of the priest. All of the sacraments offer a personal encounter with Christ, and the priest is the one who offers the sacraments.

How do I know if God is calling me to the priesthood?

Today, many people look to the future and ask: “What do I want to do with my life?” The proper question is: “God, what do you want me to do with my life for you?” To know if you are being called, you must have a prayerful relationship with God, since God is the one who calls us to a specific vocation. Often, when someone senses that God is calling them to the priesthood, there is a negative reaction. This is normal, but do not think that it means you are not meant to be priest. Very often, it is a positive indicator!

What qualities are looked for in a priest?

A desire to serve others – love for the Church – deep faith – man of prayer – leadership ability – one who relates well with people – and one who is a builder of the community.

What do I do if I think I am being called to the priesthood?

Speak to people you trust and get their feedback. You may also wish to speak to your pastor or any other priest you know. Most of all, speak with the vocations director of the diocese, because he can answer many of your questions.

Do I have to know for sure that I want to be a priest to enter the seminary?

No There are two levels of seminary formation, college and theology. In both cases, seminary is not only a place of education and formation, it is also a place for continued prayer and discernment.

What is the process for entering the seminary?

There is first an application process for the diocese. Once the student is accepted by the diocese, then there is another application process for the seminary.

Where would I attend the seminary?

A. Currently, the Diocese of Orlando uses St. John Vianney College Seminary, Miami and St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, Boynton Beach. Once a student has been accepted as a seminarian by the diocese, then the student is assigned to the seminary by the bishop.

What are the academic requirements to enter the seminary?

To enter seminary college, a student must have completed high school with a GPA of 2.0 or better. For the final five years of theology, a student needs a four-year college degree with a GPA of 2.0 or better and some basic philosophy requirements. Generally, the education process requires nine years after high school.

If I were ordained a priest for the Diocese of Orlando, where would I serve?

Most diocesan priests serve as parish priests, However, some do serve in other roles, such as high school chaplain, hospital chaplain, or in offices at the Catholic Center.

How much does seminary cost and who is responsible for the expenses?

For college seminarians, the student and the family are responsible for the expense. However, there are numerous financial aid packages available through the school, and the diocese will do everything it can do to see that no one is turned down on the basis of financial need. At the theology level, the diocese covers the basic expenses of room, board, tuition, books, and health insurance premiums. The theology students also receive a monthly allowance to help defer other personal expenses.

What are the personal qualities needed to live as a religious priest?

A heart full of love and a deep need to make a difference in the world through service. A man called to serve God as a member of a religious community has the capacity to live in community with others who share the same dream. He is able, gradually, to learn to live the life of the vows: chaste love (chastity), simplicity and non-possessiveness (poverty), and accountability (obedience to God and his elected superiors). The spiritual vision of the founder of his community (ex: St. Ignatius Loyola for the Jesuits) speaks to him of a particular way to live a gospel-centered life. He is open to the call to mission and willing to be sent where he is most needed.

Do communities have age and health requirements for candidates?

Religious communities have varying age guidelines, but generally speaking the candidacy is open to men 18–50. Men who wish to live in religious community must be single (with a church annulment if divorced), with good physical, mental, and emotional health.

Will I be permitted to maintain my friendships and family bonds if I enter a religious community?

Certainly. These are often the very relationships which have supported your vocation. They deserve the best you can offer them. The healthy balance between community commitments and family ties is something that new members in a community struggle to forge and maintain throughout their lives as religious.

What are the differences between religious order priests and diocesan priests?

Religious Order Priests – Priests who are members of a religious order are community men. They choose to live out their lives within the structure of the vows and community life, while pursuing a ministry of loving service which flows out of the particular charism of their community (care for the poor, healing, education, media, foreign missions, etc.). As community members, they elect their superiors who then send them to missions where they are best suited and most needed. Many religious communities have an option for missions worldwide. Religious priests celebrate the Mass and administer the sacraments. Their daily Mass and prayer in community support their call to religious life and their total commitment to the service of the gospel.

Diocesan Priests – Diocesan priests are ordained for ministry in a particular diocese, with accountability to the Bishop of that diocese. They are men of prayer and are to be obedient to their bishop. Their ministries are dictated by the call of their bishop and the needs of their diocese. The vast majority of diocesan priests serve as parish priests, which encompasses hospital visitation, family counseling, youth activities, and parish organization. At the heart of their commitment to Christ is the celebration of daily Mass and administration of the sacraments.

Diocesan priests do not ordinarily live in community situations and must be capable of living on their own. This vocation is demanding since there is no community with which to pray, outside the celebration of Mass and sacraments, unless the priests form one for this purpose. Often a priest will say, “My parish is my community.” Diocesan priests are encouraged by their bishops to form strong relationships with their brother priests for prayer, sharing, support, and relaxation.

Are there monastic and cloistered religious communities for men who feel drawn to priesthood?

Monks are laymen who are called to live in monastic (enclosed) communities. They are community members in a religious community dedicated to a particular style of spirituality (ex: Benedictine, Trappist). A man is accepted into a monastery for life. No matter how many times he may be sent out briefly, his initial monastery will always be his home.

A monastery schedule includes more hours of silence and community prayer than are commonly found in apostolic communities. The hours of ministry are wrapped around the firm monastic schedule of prayer, silence, work, meals, relaxation, and rest. There exists a variety of monastic styles, some quite strict, others less so. A small number of monks are ordained to priesthood to serve their communities.

What is the process for becoming a priest in a religious order?

Inquirer – Faithful prayer, rooted in complete openness to God’s will, is the starting point of a man’s discernment. Seeking information about religious communities may take him to vocation periodicals, the web, friends, and family. But the most reliable source will be religious men with whom he can discuss his hopes and anxieties. If no religious priests live in his area, phone conversations and email can be very helpful for information gathering at this point. When the Inquirer finds a community spirit / charism with which he feels a connection, he asks to visit and pray with the members as frequently as possible. When the time is right, and the community vocation director encourages him, he may ask for acceptance into the spiritual formation program.

Candidate – During this period of 1-2 years, he may live in a local community, praying and ministering with the members, and receiving spiritual direction, and learning the history of the community.

Novice – The novice immerses himself in the spiritual traditions of his chosen community. He studies theology, philosophy, prayer, religious life, and community history and traditions. He continues spiritual direction and participates in community ministries.

Profession of Vows – At the close of his 1-2 year novitiate, a novice may request permission to profess vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. These vows expire at the close of one year, and must be renewed if the man wishes to retain his membership in the community. At the close of the period of initial profession, he may profess his perpetual vows in the community.

Ordination – A religious priest is ordained according to the tradition of his community. He may minister in a parish at the request of a bishop, or in any of a wide variety of missions which lie within the context of his community mission/charism (education, justice work, etc.)

Who should I talk with about my interest in becoming a religious order priest?

Start with your closest friends whom you think will be open to understanding your desires for union with God and service for others. Talk with your parents, your pastor, and the vocation director of the communities in whom you are interested. Contact the Vocation Office of the Diocese of Orlando: kpower@orlandodiocese.org or 407-245-4875.