Priesthood

A diocesan priest is one who is called to serve people in a particular diocese and parish. He takes a vow of celibacy (that is, he is not married) and a vow of obedience to his Bishop and the Bishop’s successor. A diocesan priest is primarily a parish priest, but he can also be assigned full-time to a specific ministry in the life of the Church. In the parish the priest administers the sacraments, cares for the needs of the people in good and bad times and helps to promote the message of Christ. It is a call to give your life to making Christ’s presence real through the sacraments and especially through the Eucharist.

How do I know if God is calling me to be a priest?

A single Catholic person who wants to be a disciple of Christ, who lives a Christian way of life may well be called to the priesthood. He doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does he have to feel completely at ease with the idea of being a priest. He must simply believe that God calls people like him to be priests and open his heart to the Holy Spirit. A good first step is to speak to a priest or join a discernment group.

​The person considering formation as a priest asks to meet the vocations director of the diocese and begins a process of discernment. The discernment process from first enquiry to entering seminary typically takes two years and this careful process reassures the candidate that other people share his sense of God’s call. The bishop and selection panelmake the final decision about person’s suitability. The process of formation before ordination takes up to 8 years (older men may follow a shorter programme). Formation involves not only study and skills development but also a deepening of discipleship.

How do I go about applying to be a priest?

On Becoming a Priest

A candidate for the priesthood lives in a seminary which is both a house of discipleship and a house of study. He receives one to one spiritual direction while also developing practical skills in preaching, pastoral care and leadership. He studies philosophy and theology and will go on placements to parishes and schools, hospitals and care homes. There are various stages in this process when a candidate’s progress is assessed but he may freely leave at any time. Ordination as a deacon occurs after 5 or 6 years, followed by priestly ordination a year later.

What do Priests do?

The life of a priest is busy, demanding, challenging—and incredibly rewarding.  The vast majority of priests live happy, fulfilling lives. Individual priests have a very wide variety of tasks within the Church. There are many specialized ministries such as being a chaplain, working at the diocesan offices, or teaching in a seminary.  But the majority of priests serve in parishes. Their duties include:

  • Celebrate Mass and preach the Gospel
  • Lead and Co-ordinate Parish Life
  • Bring new members into the Church through Baptism
  • Hear Confessions and provide spiritual direction
  • Help teens and young adults come to know Christ
  • Prepare couples for marriage
  • Teach people how to pray
  • Feed the poor, visit prisons, and advocate for justice
  • Counsel people going through difficult times
  • Visit the sick in hospitals and anoint them for healing
  • Celebrate funerals and bury the dead
  • Pray daily for the People of God

A Diocesan priest is a person who:

  • is called to be open to God’s love, promises and will for him
  • is prayerful, desiring to love God and God’s people
  • is available and involved in the day-to-day lives of the people he is called to serve
  • provides leadership with others, enhancing the role of the laity to make the parish a welcoming, active, participative, prayerful and inclusive place in which all know themselves to be loved by God and called to fulfill their personal vocations within the Church and beyond.
  • is a presence of the Church in the wider community
  • administers the parish, including financial oversight and integrity

Proclaiming the Gospel

A priest proclaims the Gospel and helps people understand how the Word of God relates to their lives. A priest teaches in the name of Christ and has been given this responsibility by his bishop. He does this well when he meditates on the Word of God – believes what he reads – teaches what he believes and puts into practice what he teaches. Adapted from ‘The Rite of Ordination’.

Building Communion

A priest is a man of communion whose primary work is to build up communion with God and with others, among the followers of Christ and among all people of good will.

Pastoral Care

Where ever he is working the priest is there to offer Christ’s compassion to those around him. He shows special concern for those on the margins and those who have the lost their way in life. At the same time, he brings together the followers of Christ and supports them on the ‘hard road that leads to life.’(Mt 7:14)

Living Communion

The communion that the priest celebrates in the sacraments finds further expression in his work of building up the local community. He brings together the people of his parish to support each other in faith, hope and love. He enables the parish community to reach out beyond itself, especially to those in need.

A living Sacrament

Through the sacrament of ordination, a priest’s whole life is shaped into the pattern of Christ’s life. He is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s action as is clearly seen when he presides at Mass and prays that the Spirit may come down upon the bread and wine, ‘so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.’ In all his prayer and work, he unites himself to Christ the one High Priest and lovingly offers those in his care to God the Father.Being a Catholic Priest is a way of following Jesus Christ with your whole life, body and soul.The priesthood is a relationship not a career.

A receiver of the Word of God

As he reads from the Bible day by day, a priest’s life becomes rooted in the Word of God. His daily prayer includes the Prayer of the Church (the Divine Office) which is formed out of psalms and biblical texts. Each day he meditates on the Gospel of the day and proclaims it at Mass. The Rosary provides him with a framework for meditating on the mysteries of the faith celebrated in the Bible. In these and other ways, the priest allows himself to be formed by God’s Word.

A Priestly Ministry

All baptised Christians have a priestly role when they offer up to God both the joys of daily life and the sacrifices they make in the service of others, uniting their self-offering to Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass. The ordained priest offers the sacrifice of the Mass ‘in the person of Christ’ and draws people into communion with God the Father. The priest restores people to communion, as seen, for example, when he reconciles them in confession and when he anoints the sick. The ordained priesthood is a means by which Christ has chosen to lead people into faith, hope and love so that the Church might proclaim God’s mercy to all.

 

(Website of the National Office of Vocations UK)