In the Roman Catholic Church, a priest is a minister who can administer the sacraments, such as baptisms, weddings and the Eucharist. The first and most important step to becoming an ordained priest is receiving the call to priestly service. In addition to Sunday services, the responsibilities of priests include serving those in need, providing counselling services and guiding the spiritual formation of others.
Only men can become priests in the Roman Catholic Church. These men are active members of the church, have been baptised, received their First Communion and gone through the confirmation process. A man who wants to be a priest should discuss this vocation with his own priest, who can refer him to the guidance and spiritual formation services offered by the archdiocese.
During the period discernment, a man contemplating the priesthood heavily weighs this choice and contemplates if this is God's will for him. The individual learns more about the call to live a community-based lifestyle and the sacrifices he will make in becoming a priest. Other priests, the candidate's respective bishop of the archdiocese and vocational directors serve as mentors during the discernment period. The mentors observe the candidate's character, talents and dedication to the Church during this time, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Additionally, the USCCB states that during the discernment period, a candidate should engage in "prayerful dialogue with God" about his calling, assist in his church as a lay Eucharistic minister or lector and join an archdiocesan discernment group.
The admissions process of becoming an ordained priest is when the archdiocese decides if a candidate meets all the requirements to begin preparing for the priesthood, ordination and public ministry. According to the USCCB, to pass the admissions process, a candidate must have the right intentions, Christian values, knowledge of the Bible and other Catholic doctrines, knowledge of Catholic prayers and behaviours that match the candidate's values. During the admissions process, a candidate will have to undergo a psychological evaluation and pass a background check. Additionally, he must discuss at length his personal beliefs, life history and his reasons for wanting to become a priest.
After passing the admissions process, candidates for the priesthood attend a seminary in order to gain an education in theology, the study of God. Sometimes a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite to attending a seminary. During his studies at a seminary college, an aspiring priest will learn more about the subject of spiritual and priestly formation, conducting church services and giving effective sermons. A seminarian generally graduates with a master's or doctorate in divinity.
After graduation from seminary, a man who wants to become a priest serves as an ordain deacon, or ordinand for a minimum of six months. During his time as an ordinand, a man gains more experience needed to become a priest. An ordinand then earns the rite or ordination, which happens during a service called the Mass of Ordination.
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; The Formation of Candidates for Priesthood, Fifth Edition; 2006
- Catholic Religious Vocation Network; Sixteen Questions about Church Vocations; National Coalition for Church Vocations and the National Religious Vocation Conference; 2002
- Catholic Religious Vocation Network; What Does it Take to be a Good Priest?; Fr. Jim Kent, O.F.M. Conv.