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For my project I chose to research the priesthood. In my paper I will tell you about priests, their daily routine, and provide an interview from a friend who is studying to be a priest.
There are several stages to becoming a priest. The first step is contact, which is when a man who is interested but is not quite sure that he should contact his pastor or the Vocations Director. A man would meet with someone and share his feelings and experiences in the community. The next step is becoming a candidate. This is a more formal stage and the man begins the process of interviews and meetings with people from the Vocations office. A person can be a candidate for one or two years in which they view what the priesthood is really like. The next step is becoming a Seminarian. This is when the candidate enters the Seminary. He is then sponsored by the diocese and begins his theological studies. Next the Seminarian becomes a transitional diaconate about one year before his ordination to the priesthood. At this time he makes promises of celibacy and obedience to his Bishop. Seminarians are also given courses on writing and giving homilies. They also write samples and receive feedback on them. Finally the last step is entering the priesthood. After a lot of prayer and hard work a man is recommended to the priesthood.
In preparing for the priesthood there are four main areas of study: the human, the spiritual, the ability to minister, and the academics. Spirituality is the study of prayer on an individual basis. The ability to minister is performed in supervised programs. While a man is at college he would take his ordinary courses plus his religious courses. After college he enters theology where he studies the scriptures, teachings of Church, and the skills needed to be a priest. A Seminarian should be an average to above average student who has the ability to pass his required classes. Seminarian life is not any harder than the life of an ordinary student. They have the added responsibility of becoming a man and bearer of Good News. If you attend college it takes those four years of college and four additional years of the seminary to become a priest. You could also begin the process of becoming a priest after obtaining a college degree. Then you would enter a two year Pre – Theology program then enter the four year theology program, which would be a total of six years in the Seminary. Seminarians also spend summers as interns in parishes. They also participate in summer programs to help them deepen their spiritual life.
Priests in the Catholic Church are members of the sacerdotal ministry. They are able to perform the sacraments, except for Holy Orders. Some qualities to look for in yourself if you want to become a priest are: you consider a personal relationship with God as an important and vital part of life; you have an ability and willingness to talk about your faith and experiences of God in your life; you have a desire to serve others and make a difference in other’s lives; you are willing to sacrifice personal or material gain for the service of the Gospel and the Church; you are someone that others can talk to; you enjoy life, people, and have a sense of humor; you have the ability to lead and work with people of all ages; you recognize the importance of the Church; you form and maintain healthy relationships with men and women; you feel good about yourself; have average intelligence, and have good physical, mental, and emotional health. The road to priesthood begins with God and his call. Priesthood is called a vocation because it is a call from God to serve the church and share our gifts and talents.
There are two different kinds of priests: a diocesan priest and a religious order priest. A religious order priest belongs to a community of men that take the vows of: poverty, chastity, and obedience. Poverty means that they do not own things individually, but as a group. Chastity means that they refrain from sexual activity and do not marry. Obedience means that they do what their supervisors ask of them. For religious order priests their vocation lies with the community and they usually specialize in education, tending to the sick, and the homeless. A diocesan priest belongs to a body of priests of a local diocese with a state or country and serves in his diocese under a bishop. Diocesan priests do not make any vows. They freely make promises of celibacy and obedience. They also receive personal salaries that enable them to pay for their expenses such as charities, vacations, clothing, and a car. He is sometimes called a secular priest. A diocesan priest can be a teacher, chaplain in hospitals, prisons, and campus ministry. Most diocesan priests are parish priests. It takes four years after college to become a diocesan priest.
Priests celebrate Mass on Sundays and during the week. They listen to confessions, anoint the sick, baptize, and perform funerals. They preach the Word of God at mass and in the classroom. They listen to people and try to promote charity and justice. There is no one special thing that a priest does. Their day is so varied and complex. Prayer plays a central role in the life of a priest. Prayer is communication with the Lord whom we love. Those priests that are truly happy are those that are faithful to prayer. Most priests spend two hours a day in prayer. Prayer is not easy. Sometimes priests do no feel like praying but because of their devotion to God they try to pray no matter how they feel.
Priests also do get time off. They have approximately the same amount of leisure time as adults and they are free to do whatever they wish as long as it is moral, legal, and reasonable. Diocesan priests go on an annual retreat alone or with fellow priests to get in touch with the Lord, and experience spiritual renewal. Also you do not necessarily loose your freedom as a priest. Sometimes people act differently around you when they know you are a priest. There is no reason to act strange because priests are just as normal as regular human beings. Some priests also wear clerical garb, or religious dress. They only own a few of these outfits and it limits the amount of money they spend on clothes. Other priests dress in normal street clothes. By dressing that way they are saying that the most valid sign of Christianity is lifestyle rather than clothes. Some priests wear street clothes because they feel that it makes people more comfortable around them. Priests are not perfect. They also have disagreements with other priests they live with. Instead of arguing and fighting the try to work out their problems through communication and openness.
One thing that a priest can not do is date because dating leads to marriage and part of being celibate means no marriage. Priests do have friends of the opposite sex. Just because they cannot date does not mean that they are not attracted to people of the opposite sex. Since priests are celibate they just redirect those feelings in other things. If a priest does happen to fall in love they are expected to do whatever is necessary to remain committed to being a priest. The priest has a choice of allowing his feelings for this person to continue or putting a kind and gentle end to them. Priests do often wonder about marriage and family life but then they realize how happy they are in their chosen lifestyle and remain celibate. You do not need to be a virgin in order to become a priest. A persons past is not important in being a priest. Priests do not get married because they despise marriage. They are so inclined to serve Christ that they are willing to be celibate. Celibacy shows the priest’s total dedication to serve God just like Jesus being celibate showed his dedication to his father’s plan. It shows that it is possible with God’s help to see sexuality in God’s eyes and find joy and have fulfilling relationships without going to bed with someone.
You cannot be fired from the priesthood. If your work is incompetent then you can be removed from your duties. Retiring is also an option. Priests can retire from active ministry and become involved in volunteer work because they can never from their love for the people. Unfournately, women are not allowed to be in the priesthood. The Church believes that God has plans for women that do not include the priesthood. Priests represent the person of Jesus in his place in the Church. Priests do for the good of the people what only Jesus could do by changing bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and absolve people from their sins. The gender of the priest also plays a major role. The Church feels that a man should be portrayed by another man and women played by women. God still gives women an important role in the Church. They are called to marry, have kids, and become nuns. There have been wonderful women in the Church like: Mary, mother of God; Cecilia, Agnes, Teresa of Avila, and Catherine. Women today are challenged to respond to the Gospel of Jesus and bring him to the world just like past generations of women have done.
Recently there has been a decline in men entering the priesthood. No one specific reason is given for this. Some reasons are: the rapid pace of change in the world, the unwillingness of many people to make a permanent commitment to any one thing, and the misunderstanding about the priesthood. Another reason could be that God’s call is just a whisper and some people do not hear it because their lives are so busy. In an effort to encourage more priests, The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) developed a three year program called “Future Full of Hope” in 1996. Their goal is to encourage parish communities to follow their call to the priesthood and religious life.
Next, I will present my interview that I conducted with my friend, Joe Martin, who is in his last year of studying to become a priest.
1. When did you first decide to enter the priesthood?
When I was little I was always very religious and interested in God. I guess I always knew that I wanted to be a priest and help others.
2. What was your family and friend’s reaction to you becoming a priest?
They were suprised because they just thought I was very religious; they never thought that I would become a priest. They always imagined me being a husband and father. It took them some time to adjust but now they are very proud of me.
3. What does your daily routine consist of ?
My daily routine varies from day to day. But one thing that never changes is that I am always praying. Since I am still a student, I spend a lot of my time in class.
4. Do you ever regret your decision to become a priest?
No, absolutely not. I know that the priesthood is my life and I would not change that. I am dedicated to becoming a good priest, one that people can talk to.
5. Do you ever wonder about what it would be like to be married?
Of course I do, but I do not spend all of my time thinking about it.
6. Do you feel that there are stereotypes placed on priests?
Yes, some people feel that they cannot talk to priests because they do not understand their problems. That is not true. We are just like everyone else, we all have similar problems.
7. Do you feel that people treat you differently because you are a priest?
No, not really. I mean sure people are kinder to us because we are priests. Most people realize we are just the same as everyone else.
8. Do you have any advice to give to those that are contemplating the priesthood?
Just make sure that you are sure about what you want to do before you enter the priesthood. Do not enter the priesthood because you feel pressure from your family.
If you are not sure of your calling in life, you are not alone. There are prayer groups that can give you the opportunity to pray and share with others who have the same thoughts about religious life and the priesthood. You can determine your vocation by using the discernment process. It will help you work through your problems and help you deal with God in your life.
“Frequently Asked Questions About Vocations.” Vocation FAQ’s Page. Available at http://members.aol.com/frjohn/html/vocfaq.html
“Priest.” Microsoft (R) Encarta(R) 97 Encyclopedia.(c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation.
“Ten Frequently Asked Questions About the Priesthood.” Clergy and Religious Life. Available at http://www.adw.org/clergy/questions.html
“Vocations.” Archdiocese of Detroit Vocations. March 1998.
Available at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~nemo/DC/vocations.html
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