Discerning a Catholic vocation to the priesthood begins with understanding the process of how to become a priest. In general, a priest is a religious leader or figure typically associated with a particular faith or religious tradition. The role and responsibilities of priests can vary widely depending on the specific religious context. Here are some common types of priests found in different religious traditions.
In the Catholic Faith there are several types of priests. A diocesan priest is ordained to serve the faithful in a particular diocese. An ordered priest is a member of a religious community and will serve in the ministries or apostolates to which his order is committed. Diocesan priests and ordered priests can both serve as pastors. A parish priest, also called a pastor, is responsible for the spiritual and pastoral care of a community of people. Priests who belong to a religious community or religious order live in community and follow a particular monastic rule, such as the Rule of St. Benedict or the Rule of St. Augustin.
There are also orthodox priests. Protestant ministers or pastors, and Rabbis in the Jewish tradition.
An Iman is a spiritual leader in Islam, a Hindu Priest, also referred to as a Pandit or Pujari, Buddhist monks or priests and within indigenous and traditional religions, a shaman or spiritual leader may serve as a priest-like figure who communicates with the spirit world, performs rituals, and provides spiritual guidance.
In the Roman Catholic faith, there are hundreds of religious orders of priests. The Jesuits, for example, are known for their excellent educational institutions. The Franciscans, who serve in parishes and retreat houses, and are known for their service and outreach to the poor. The Salvatorians, who serve in parishes and Dominicans, who also serve in parishes.
Different Catholic Vocations
Catholic vocations refer to the unique calling each person receives from God. He calls us to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world. But each person has a unique calling. There are various types of Catholic vocations, most notably, Catholic priests and religious Brothers and Sisters live a unique life in response to their vocation. The Norbertines are another Catholic religious order of priests and brothers. (There are also communities of Norbertine sisters.) The Norbertines, also known as the Canons Regular of Premontre, were founded by St. Norbert over 900 years ago. They follow the Rule of St. Augustine. Norbertines live in religious communities known as Abbey.
The Norbertines have communities across the United States. The Norbertines serve at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, CA and at Daylesford Abbey in Chester County, PA.
Catholic religious communities flourish in the United States. Hundreds of orders serve faithful Catholics as parish priests, educators, retreat directors and more. But the US is also home to contemplative communities.
The Cistercians, also known as Trappists, live in monasteries, leading lives of prayer and contemplation. They also have retreat houses at their monasteries where people can go for a retreat.
The Order of the Most Holy Savior (the “Brigittines”) was founded in 1370 by St. Bridget of Sweden. There is a Brigattine Priory, Our lady of Consolation, in Amity, Oregon.
The Carthusians, also known as the Order of Carthusians, are a Latin enclosed religious order of the Catholic Church. The order was founded by Bruno of Cologne in 1084 and includes both monks and nuns. The order has its own rule, called the Statutes, and their life combines both eremitical and cenobitic monasticism.
The Carthusians have a Charterhouse in Arlington, Vermont.
The Camaldolese Hermits of Mount Corona, commonly called Camaldolese, is a monastic order of Pontifical Right for men founded by Saint Romuald. Its name is derived from the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli, high in the mountains of central Italy, near the city of Arezzo They have a hermitage here in the United States, Holy Family Hermitage in Bloomingdale, Ohio. There is also a Camaldolese Hermitage at Big Sur in California.
There are parish priests who serve in parishes throughout the world, and monastic priests, who live in enclosed religious communities. Their role in today’s modern world is to lead lives of prayer and contemplation. A parish priest combines these roles by being men of prayer, celebrating daily and weekly Mass for the members of their communities, and giving homilies, also called a sermon, at Mass, a religious discourse that is intended primarily for spiritual edification.
Daily duties of a priest vary depending on the community and type of priest. However, all engage in prayer and work. Monastic communities work to support themselves. Some make and sell products such as cheese, wine, fudge, icons, and sculptures. Daily duties can also entail reading and studying scripture to prepare a homily, preparing for a liturgical celebration, giving spiritual direction to members of their communities and others too, and preparing and leading retreat experiences.
Daily duties may entail preparing their meals, keeping their monastery or rectory clean and neat, and doing gardening work too.
Learn How to Become a Priest
Becoming a priest typically involves a combination of education, spiritual formation, and a commitment to a religious vocation. The process may vary depending on the specific religious tradition or denomination you are interested in. Here are general steps that may apply to becoming a priest.
Undergraduate Education: Many traditions require a bachelor’s degree, often in theology, philosophy, or a related field. Some denominations may accept a broader liberal arts education.
Seminary: After completing undergraduate studies, prospective priests usually attend a seminary or theological school for further education and training. This can take several years and includes courses in theology, scripture, liturgy, pastoral care, and ethics.
Finding the right path towards being a priest typically begins with a talk with a priest, or a visit to an abbey or monastery. If leading a life of prayer, deepening your relationship with Jesus, and helping others grow in their spirituality is something you enjoy doing than priesthood may be the right path for you.
Spiritual Direction is also crucial. Seek guidance from a spiritual director or mentor who can help you discern your calling and provide support throughout the formation process. Engage in regular prayer and discernment to deepen your relationship with your faith and understand your vocation.
Live a Virtuous Life: Strive to live a life in accordance with the teachings and values of your faith tradition. Participate actively in your religious community, volunteering and engaging in community life.
Ordination is the culmination of the priestly formation process. This is a process that happens over several years.
Candidacy: Once accepted into a seminary or training program, you may go through a candidacy period during which your suitability for priesthood is assessed.
Diaconate: Some traditions have an intermediate step, such as becoming a deacon, before ordination to the priesthood.
Ordination: Upon completing the required education and formation, you may be ordained as a priest. The ordination ceremony is typically a significant and sacred event within the religious tradition.
Continuing Education: Priests often engage in lifelong learning, attending workshops, conferences, and pursuing advanced degrees to deepen their understanding of theology and pastoral care.
Contact a vocation director for more information. If interested in being a diocesan priest, each diocese has a vocation director, and their contact information can be found on the diocesan website. Typically, several letters and meetings would be involved.
If considering a religious order and they too have a Vocation Director, reach out to the local diocese, denomination headquarters, or religious community to inquire about specific requirements. Each denomination may have its own process and criteria for selecting and training priests.
Application Process: Submit an application to the relevant authority, which may include interviews, psychological evaluations, and background checks.
Formation in a vocation to the Catholic priesthood is a lifelong process. Priests continually develop and cultivate their calling to the priesthood through various means.
Spiritual Direction: Seek guidance from a spiritual director or mentor who can help you discern your calling and provide support throughout the formation process.
Prayer and Discernment: Engage in regular prayer and discernment to deepen your relationship with your faith and understand your vocation.
Personal and Spiritual Growth
Live a Virtuous Life: Strive to live a life in accordance with the teachings and values of your faith tradition.
Community Involvement: Participate actively in your religious community, volunteering and engaging in community life.
Many monastic communities or religious orders of priests often have a Come and See weekend, or a Discernment Retreat. This is a chance to experience their communal prayerful life, ask questions and learn more if this is the right path for you.
Dioceses also have vocation experiences and weekends, and some even have a priest versus seminarian soccer game where men can also meet and talk with priests and seminarians.
Visiting and meeting with priests is a crucial first step, as is discussing with them their life, their responsibilities, and the joys of their ministry.
To learn more about , becoming a Norbetine at Daylesford Abbey click here.
Finding the right path begins with a step, a phone call, a visit and a meeting
The treasure of a priestly vocation is yours to discover! The next step is yours!
May God be with you!