Frequently Asked Questions
As a young man continues to discover his vocation in life, certain questions might surface in the process of discernment. These questions are in need of answers that can somehow motivate, guide, and inspire people to realize God’s special call to everyone. Here are some of the queries frequently asked by people about vocation, the life of a person in formation, and general guidelines in perceiving, discerning, and incarnating God’s vocation in his life.
1. What is my vocation in life?
By virtue of our baptism, we are called by Christ to share our own gifts and talents with others. In line with this, we have also the responsibility to discover how God wants to use our own particular gifts for His Church. Generally, there are four ways in which one forms their life to spread God’s joy: the single life, the married life, the ordained priesthood, and the vowed religious life.
2. What is a seminary?
The seminary is the “seedbed of vocation”, a special place where one learns about God and service to the Church. It is like a “training ground” for those who plan to become a priest someday. They are formed in five aspects of seminary life: communal, human, intellectual, pastoral, and spiritual.
3. What kinds of people sign up for a seminary?
People like you who are willing to serve God and the Church.
4. What is the difference between a diocesan priest and a religious priest?
A diocesan priest ordinarily serves the Church within a well-defined area called a diocese. He serves the people in various ministries, usually as a priest in a parish. He may also be involved in other forms of ministries: teaching, chaplaincy in hospitals, prisons, campus ministry, etc. He lives his priesthood in obedience to his bishop, the head of the diocese.
A religious priest, on the other hand, is a member of a community that goes beyond the geographical limits of a diocese. He seeks to live a vowed life within a community of men for mutual support and accomplishment of a particular ministry. There is an emphasis in the community of shared ideals, prayer, charism, and commitment to Christ. Religious priests work in a wide variety of ministries, often determined according to the charism of the community where they belong.
5. How many years of formation and studies are required to be a priest?
It depends on the age and level of education one has before entering the seminary. If one went to a college seminary, it would take around 9 years (4 years in college, 5 years in theology), if one came from a high school seminary, it would take him about 13 years (4 years in high school, another 4 years in college, and 5 years in theology), but if one finished a college degree before entering the seminary it would take around 7 years (2 years of special philosophy and 5 years of theology). This does not include the years if a seminarian takes regency or a break from seminary formation.
6. How old do I have to be before I enter the seminary? Is there any age limit for becoming a diocesan priest?
A person must have finished high school before entering the major seminary, perhaps 16 years old onwards. The age limit for those who entered late is 40 years old.
7. What if I’m not sure, but interested in entering?
No one is ever sure the first time they begin to explore God’s call in their lives. Discerning God’s call takes a lifetime. However, requesting information or reading about the life of the priest may show openness to the vocation to the priesthood.
8. What if I was a member of another religion / Christian denomination before I became Catholic? Can I still be a diocesan priest?
Yes. Many of our great theologians and priests were converts. However, it will help if one has been an active, practicing Catholic for several years before entering the seminary.
9. Are seminarians in the direct act of praying the entire day?
No, we also have other activities like academic classes, sports and leisure activities, housecleaning, etc. Is our whole day in prayer? YES. Prayer is a central focus of our life and is seen as a freeing experience rather than an obligation. The spirit of prayer and reflection must be imbibed in every activity that we perform.
10. What do seminarians do all day?
We have a variety of activities in the seminary. This is known as the five “wells” of seminary life: pray well, play well, study well, eat well, and sleep well.
11. What do you study in the seminary?
A seminarian normally takes up the course Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. If he previously finished a college course, he will be asked to take up units in philosophy and theology before proceeding to further theological formation. If he decides to continue his formation and enter theology, he would be taking up Master of Arts in Theology.
12. How smart do I have to be as a seminarian?
A person who is willing to give his best in his formation and whose intelligence is being used to the full is most welcome in the seminary.
13. What if I feel called, but I think I’m not “good enough” to work for the Church?
Often, you may not feel worthy to be in service of God. However, God would not be calling you in this direction if God did not feel you could offer your gifts and talents for the priesthood.
14. What if I have more questions or want to talk with someone regarding my vocation?
You may visit San Jose Seminary at Ateneo de Manila University campus, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. You may also reach us through our telephone number (632)426-60-91 and look for our vocation director.
15. Is there anything one can do for vocations if one is not interested in entering the seminary?
One of the very best things anyone can do is to pray for vocations and to help promote vocations.