IMGL0189-1What is a vocation?
Many people use the word vocation (from the Latin vocare, meaning “to call”) in reference to the call to be a priest, sister, or brother. However, the Catholic understanding of vocation is much broader: every baptized person has a vocation–a call–to love and serve God. How you choose to live out that vocation is what each person must discern. Some feel called to live as single or married laypeople; others choose consecrated life and join a secular institute or religious community (as sisters, priests, or brothers); still others choose ordination as deacons or diocesan priests.

What is the difference between a diocesan or religious vocation?
Those who are called to the diocesan priesthood are ordained to ministry within a given geographic region (diocese), such as a pastor in a parish or a chaplain of a school, under the direction of a bishop. Others are called to a religious vocation, which can include priests. Religious priests are ordained for religious orders where they either live in community with other priests and brothers (such as monks), or as missionary or mendicant priests who travel to various regions as needed (such as Franciscans, Dominicans, or Jesuits). Men and women are also called to non-ordained religious vocations as brothers or sisters (or nuns).

Are young people choosing to become priests or religious?
Seminary enrollment across the nation is at the highest it has been in decades. Both of the seminaries our diocese send to (St. Joseph Seminary College and Notre Dame Seminary) are at capacity and continue to grow! Similarly, many religious communities are growing rapidly across the country (monasteries and convents alike)!

If I ask for information, will I be pressured to join the diocese or a religious community?
The Church wants to help you find your vocation, whether or not that be to priesthood or religious life. If you contact us with questions we will not pressure you to join any diocese or community. Instead, we will help you in your discernment by giving you all the information you need and, most especially, by praying for you. Our seminarians always keep a growing prayer list of young people across the diocese discerning a priestly or religious vocation. We want to pray for you and give you all he help you may need.

What is the process to become a seminarian?
In our diocese, a young man must first speak with the vocation director, Fr. Jose de Jesus Sanchez, to inquire about applying to seminary. Usually, the young man will meet with Fr. Sanchez and eventually receive an application form which requires a written autobiography and letters of recommendation. Next, the candidate will have a psychological evaluation, which is required by every seminary in the country. Then, an interview will be scheduled between the young man and the diocese vocation committee. Finally, the candidate will have a private meeting with Bishop Kopacz. When all of this has been done, the young man will be assigned a seminary and fill out a short application form before moving to the seminary.

What is the process to enter a religious community?
Every religious community has their own process. Most have a period of time (called a postulancy) where the young person goes to live with members of the community for a certain length of time to determine if the community is the right fit. There are several good religious communities in our diocese, and even more across the country. Those who are interested in religious life should contact the vocation director, Fr. Jose de Jesus Sanchez, to inquire about a particular community’s application process.

Can I visit a seminary or religious community before applying?
Of course! Both St. Joseph Seminary College and Notre Dame Seminary are eager to accept guests on class days and on weekends, free of charge. St. Joseph (known as “St. Ben’s”) also holds several “Come and See” weekend retreats for discerners every year. Likewise, most religious communities are similarly eager to accept guests and many host discernment retreats. Contact Fr. Sanchez if you are interested in visiting a seminary or religious community.

Are priests or religious ever bored or do they regret their decision to enter their state of life?
Like everyone, priests and religious have their good and bad days. Still, most priests and religious will be quick to tell you that their life is joy-filled and blessed with so many great opportunities that they would never give it up.

Do seminarians get to do normal things?
Seminaries are not like what most people would expect. Many people have compared seminary life to a healthy fraternity. The normal day of a seminarian includes class and prayer with his peers, but it also includes plenty of rest and relaxation with friends. In fact, a seminarian is expected to spend a large amount of time in recreation with classmates so that they can build strong and healthy friendships which are necessary for support in the priestly life. So, it is not uncommon to see seminarians at the movies, at a restaurant, or at a sporting event. Both seminaries we send to have their own football, basketball, soccer, and volleyball teams.