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Discerning the Priesthood

FAQs for Parents

List of Frequently asked questions

FAQs for Parents[Accordion]

Ultimately you love and support them. The grace that God gives you as a parent is what best nourishes and supports your child. Thinking always of your son first is best. Continue to have expectations of him.

Parents can talk to their children about the importance of discovering God’s purpose in their lives. It can be helpful to them to hear how you discovered that you were called to marriage. As Catholics, each of us has a responsibility to learn about each vocation so that we can support others. Parents need to learn about and understand Church vocations as well as marriage and single life. Some resources for doing this are personal contacts with priests and religious, reading the lives of the Saints, literature about Church vocations, and websites such as this one.

If this hasn’t happened yet, maybe you ought to ask yourself how you or your spouse might react. Would it be a shock? Would you have concern or skepticism? Would this be a dream come true for you? Or your worst nightmare?

Knowing and understanding your own feelings, and your reasons for them, is an important step in knowing how to respond to your son. The vast majority of teens today feel that if they told their parents they were even “just thinking” about priesthood or religious life, their parents would be completely opposed to the idea, laugh at them, or in some other way not take them seriously.

A vocation is quite simply a call from God. God gives each one of us a vocation and has blessed us with certain abilities and talents. Some of us are called to be married. Others are called to be dedicated single persons. Still others are called to the priesthood or to religious life. One vocation is not better than another. We hope that if your son shows an interest in the priesthood you will be supportive and encouraging.

Try not to be offended or hurt that your son didn’t confide in you until now. When considering a calling, people often wish to keep things confidential from the people closest to them until they are ready to talk about it. Rest assured your son both needs and desires your support and encouragement. In fact, your support as a parent is most likely valued more than that of any other figure in your son’s life.

Some parents have expressed remorse that had they offered a more functional, loving model of marriage that their son would have chosen a married vocation over a single hearted vocation to serve God’s people and God’s Church. In other words, an attitude is adopted, “It’s my fault that my son is discerning a vocation to the priesthood.” This is very rarely a reality and this sense of causal-guilt should be abandoned.

Although a functional, loving model of married life in the household is very beneficial, several healthy models of marriage are present in the lives of children and young adults among neighbors, extended family, parishioners, coaches and teachers to name only a few. A vocation comes to a young person in the form of a personal call from God and should never be seen as a last or only option due to a limitation of choice.

This is another common anxiety that parents face. In many other moments in your son’s life, you have felt ready to offer sound advice from your own past experiences. However, because vocations to the priesthood or consecrated life are such unique calls, you may feel unqualified to offer helpful advice. One helpful question you can ask him is, “What is the most important thing I can do to assist and support you?” This simple question will mean a great deal. It is a further sign of your unconditional love as a parent.

Prayer will, of course, help. Listen to your son without judging or criticizing and reassure him that whatever the decision, you will love and accept him. Don’t start treating your son differently, and be honest with him about your worries and concerns about a vocation to the priesthood.

Another helpful question is, “Is your discernment of a vocation to the priesthood something that you’d like me to keep confidential at the moment?” This will assure your son of your respect for his “pace” of discernment and of its public knowledge.

These same concerns are commonly expressed by the very individuals who are in discernment, and are usually due to certain temperaments or failings. Celibate vocations require a high caliber of skills, abilities, and psycho-sexual maturity. However, they are not reserved for “the perfect.” If every young man who experienced the first movements in his heart to serve the Church waited until he felt completely worthy to begin his discernment, we may not have any priests at all! A genuine vocation is not measured by one’s feelings of worthiness, but rather by one’s desire to respond to God’s call to serve the Church as a disciple of Christ.

The academic and formation programs offered in the seminary seek to develop natural skills and abilities and to remedy any weaknesses or deficiencies. Before the discernment process reaches this stage, however, the most supportive action you as a parent can take is to encourage your son to be faithful to God’s call.

Yes. Doubt and faith are both part of the process of discerning and preparing for a vocation; questioning is normal and doubt is part of being human. Having doubts about one’s abilities and worthiness will happen. But we have to tell ourselves that it is God’s Grace that effects the change in us and that makes this possible. We need to realize that sometimes we will naturally move forward under our own excitement and other times we will need to very consciously put one foot in front of the other.

Discernment is an ongoing process. Becoming a seminarian does not mean that your son is obligated to become a priest.

Formation directors will help your son discern whether this choice is a good one for him individually. He may decide that he is called to serve the church in some other way, such as through marriage and raising a family. Prayer and reflection will help your child develop a better sense of God’s call.

It is possible that your son could spend as few as five months or as many as five years in seminary and discern that a life of single-hearted service in the Church is not for him. There is nothing shameful about withdrawing from a program for this reason. The time spent in formation should never be considered a waste. Your son will have grown in holiness, self awareness, and in personal maturity through the entire process of discernment and by his or her time in a formation program.

We understand that it would be impossible for nearly any family to take on the responsibility of paying for an academic program that can be as long as eight or more years. Because of this reality, a large portion of the cost for seminary formation and education is assisted by the Diocese of Joliet. Additionally, we try to make use of academic scholarships, and other means of financial assistance, to make sure that the individual financial responsibility of each seminarian is never too burdensome. Financial details would be provided and explained throughout the application process.

Yes. Priests continue to support and be supported by the members of their families. They visit family members and take part in family celebrations and events. Many families find an even stronger bond with children and siblings who have chosen a Church-related vocation. In a unique way, the parish/community also becomes an extended family for them.

If your son’s discernment leads him to enter seminary, his departure will be similar to a son leaving home to attend college or to enlist in the military. There will be an inevitable transition period for all parties. If a son enters seminary to study for the priesthood, he will most likely make visits home during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and over the summer vacation each year. Throughout his formation in seminary, he will be encouraged to maintain and develop family relationships through occasional visits and by frequent communication.

There is a difference between aloneness and loneliness. A celibate life can be a fulfilling life. Moments of solitude or aloneness are required for prayer, reflection, homily preparation, and rest. Still, no vocation is immune to loneliness; every human being has some lonely moments, whether he or she is married, single, priest or religious. Priests must always be vigilant in maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends, brother priests, parishioners, and/or fellow members of one’s religious community, as well as enjoying recreational pursuits.

Your son will be most happy living out the vocation that the Lord has called him to. If your son is called by God to be a priest, then by responding to that call your son will have a joy that nothing else in life could give him.

We all want our children to be happy in life — in an even greater way, God wants all his children to be happy. God would not call your son to a vocation that would not fulfill him. You can trust that God’s will for your son is directed towards his ultimate happiness and fulfillment, even if it is different from what you may have expected or hoped for.

This is a common concern for parents; but, in fact, there are no guarantees you would be one even if your child had not entered the priesthood or religious life. Although the presence of grandchildren would offer much happiness, every parent desires first and foremost for their child to live a joyful and fulfilled life. If God is calling your son to serve the Church as a priest, fulfillment, happiness, and holiness of life will only be fully realized by faithfully responding to this call. The Church recognizes with great respect and appreciation this sacrifice of parents. We trust that God will bless you abundantly, in ways you may not understand now, through your son’s happiness.

As a parent, you are always called to share with your children what you feel called to share. As a parent, you should be able to share your fears or concerns with your son. However, you should also give your son space to discern freely. It would not be helpful to put pressure on his discernment, one way or another. As he is seeking to follow God’s will in his life, the most important role you will play is by being the unconditionally loving parent that they need – even if you don’t fully understand or agree with them.

Even though a large portion of seminary preparation is dedicated to academic work, 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 your son to a vocation that he is incapable of accepting.

Although seminary academics may be a challenge for him, they will never be an obstacle that is impossible for him to overcome. Additionally, each seminary provides resources for students who struggle in various areas of academics - he would never be left without any help.