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Discerning the Priesthood

FAQs for Discerners

FAQs for Discerners[Accordion]

Feeling like the Lord is calling you to the seminary is often all that is needed to enter seminary. This is because God calls many men to the seminary, even those whose vocation may not ultimately be priesthood. He does this because much of seminary formation is focused on simply living as a follower of Jesus Christ, and what that means for your life. If you feel like you are called to the seminary, but not sure about whether you are called to be a priest, that is normal – the seminary is the place that you would go to more intentionally discern what your vocation is. The decision to go to seminary is made in communication with the diocesan Vocation Director as well, so you do not need to worry about having all the answers before making that decision.

Click here to learn more about the Vocations Director

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No. The point of the seminary is to equip men to more fully, and freely, discern God’s will in their life. The seminary has no ‘agenda’ when it comes to an individual man’s vocation. The Church want’s priests who freely and lovingly accept the call – to force a man to become a priest would not only be bad for that man, but also the Church.

If you are currently dating, but you feel called to seminary, that is okay. However, at some point, you will need to decide which vocation you want to focus on discerning. Much like it would be difficult to discern marriage without dating someone, it would be equally difficult to discern priesthood without going to the seminary. If you find yourself in this situation, and both vocations (marriage and priesthood) seem desirable to you, then it would be helpful to speak with the Vocation Director or another priest – they can help you figure out which vocation you should focus on discerning.

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Not at all. No matter what your vocation ultimately is, if you feel that the Lord is calling you to enter the seminary, then that means there are graces he has in store for you there, even if for a time. What would be worse is to avoid going to seminary out of fear that you will be wasting your time if you leave. Seeking to live out the Lord’s will for your life will never be a waste of time.

Leaving seminary is not seen as a sign of failure, or that you have let people down. In fact, when someone in the seminary discerns that they are not called to priesthood, we should give thanks for the clarity they have received from the Lord in their prayerful discernment. The Church will support you as you discern the priesthood and will continue to support you if you discern that God is calling you to a different vocation than priesthood.

Although there are many different seminaries around the country, each diocese chooses which seminary (or seminaries) they want to send their seminarians to. The Diocese of Joliet currently sends seminarians to three different seminaries in the Midwest:

St. John Vianney College Seminary (St. Paul, Minnesota) — This seminary is used for men entering seminary after high school, or who are transferring into the seminary while in college. Here, seminarians attend the University of St. Thomas to receive a B.A. in Philosophy, while living in community at the seminary on campus.

Learn more about St. John Vianney College Seminary

Pontifical College Josephinum (Columbus, Ohio) — This seminary is used for men who have already completed a bachelor’s degree prior to entering seminary. Here, seminarians do a two-year program of philosophy studies and formation (often referred to as ‘pre-theology’).

Learn more about Pontifical College Josephinum

Mundelein Seminary (Mundelein, Illinois) – This seminary is used for men who have completed either a college seminary program, or a pre-theology program. Here, seminarians enter into the later stages of seminary formation, and are now more focused on direct preparation for the priesthood in their prayer, studies, and pastoral ministry.

Learn more about Mundelein Seminary

No. In fact, cutting off communications with friends and family would be a very bad thing to do. Just because a man enters seminary does not mean that he is going to be isolated from everyone he knew before seminary. In fact, for many priests, friendships that were formed before seminary often remain as very important friendships later in life. Your family would be walking with you in this process as well, so it would be very important to remain close to them throughout this time, even when you may be separated geographically due to schooling or other responsibilities. While in the seminary, seminarians will often make regular phone calls home to parents, siblings or other friends and family, to share what has been happening in their life and to hear about what has been happening back home.

Even though a large portion of seminary preparation is dedicated to academics, it would be wrong to conclude that the priesthood is only for intellectuals and academics. God calls men from all walks of life to be his priests. The reality is that God does not call the qualified – he qualifies those whom he calls. God would not call you to a vocation that you are incapable of accepting. Although seminary academics may prove to be a challenge, they will never be an obstacle that is impossible to overcome.

The reality is that following God’s will is something that always leads to a deep and lasting happiness. Much like dating relationships, there will always be ups and downs in the process of seminary formation and discernment. But there will always remain a true joy that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. You should never fear being unhappy when following God’s call.