Today’s Religious Priest
Life in a religious order is about intent. The priests and brothers in my community choose to live, pray, work, and play together as a gospel witness to the world of commitment to God, the Church, and each other. The support I receive from my brothers enhances my ability to live out my vocation as a Franciscan priest and teaches me about the selfless love of Christ upon the cross. – Fr. David Kaczmarek, TOR
As a member of a missionary order, I enjoy being part of a worldwide family of men committed to preaching the good news. From Tanzania to Guatemala to Orlando, the Precious Blood missionaries, although greatly diverse, are still one brotherhood. – Fr. Ben Berinti, C.Pp.S.
Religious Priest FAQs
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 membership 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 world-wide.
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, 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 one or two 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 one / two 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.