Vocation Handbook Section Three

/Vocation Handbook Section Three
Vocation Handbook Section Three2017-10-19T10:43:15+00:00

What Qualities Should a Priest Have?

Priests are, first of all, weak human beings. No one is really worthy of this vocation, but God has always chosen the weak and made them strong in bearing witness to him. The apostles were weak: Peter denied Jesus, Judas betrayed him, and the rest abandoned him at his darkest hour, with the exception of John. Yet all but Judas were strengthened by the Holy Spirit and became great saints.

The unworthiness of the priest does not prevent Christ from acting. As St. Augustine put it: Christ’s gift is not profaned by a weak minister: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains clear. What passes through defiled human beings is not itself defiled.

If the church is to be “Catholic,” universal and inclusive, it must have priests from all of our diverse ethnic groups. The Vocation Office welcomes and encourages seminary applications from our multicultural groups. With all this said, there are certain qualities the church requires of those who would be candidates for formation as priests.

Spiritual Requirements

Spiritual requirements include an integral faith, an acceptance of the faith as taught by the church, and a consistent manner of living it out in Christ; an active prayer life shown in a commitment to deepening the candidate’s relationship with God; an abiding love for the sacramental life of the church, especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation; and a sincere charity toward others, “seeking Christ in people.” Candidates ought to be properly motivated, described by Pope Paul VI as having “a distinct, firm desire to dedicate oneself completely to the service of God.” This right intention entails seeking and imitating the Lord and choosing to work with the bishop and serve the needs of the diocese.

Moral Requirements

Morally, candidates should possess a good reputation evident in the exercise of proven virtues and a sound prudential judgment, for one cannot give what one does not have.

Intellectual Requirements

Intellectually, candidates must have the requisite ability, docility, and openness to comprehend and complete the academic study of philosophy and theology.

Human Requirements

In terms of human qualities, candidates should demonstrate an overall personal balance, mature flexibility and creativity in their approach to life. They also need to possess an ability to relate with others, to establish wholesome friendships, and to deal with intimacy appropriately. They must be open to ministering to and with diverse members within the church. Candidates should also exhibit emotional health and affective maturity, with an understanding both of their own sexuality appropriate to their age and of true and responsible love.

Physical Requirements

Physically, candidates must possess the good health necessary for priestly formation and ministry.

Celibacy and Obedience

For many centuries, the Roman Catholic church has required that all of its ordained ministers, with the exception of permanent deacons, live a celibate lifestyle. This long tradition, reaffirmed by Vatican Council II and subsequently by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, is the result of many centuries of reflection about the style of life appropriate to ordained ministry.

Celibacy comes from the Latin (caelebs) meaning “single.” Celibacy is the religious practice of devoting the time, love, energy and attention one would give a spouse and a family over to the service of God’s people. Celibacy makes complete availability for apostolic service possible. The celibate commitment has remained the most radical and comprehensive translation of Jesus’ call to give up everything for the sake of the kingdom.

Seminary helps prepare candidates to make their promise of celibacy and to learn to honor it as a special gift of God through suitable education, and spiritual guidance and prayer.

Obedience, like celibacy, frees one for complete availability to perform apostolic service. For the good of the church and its service to God’s people, diocesan priests make a promise of obedience to the bishop and his successors.

The promises are made in front of the bishops during the ordination to the diaconate, a year or less before ordination to priesthood.


  • How do I integrate my faith in my everyday life? How is it evident to others that I am a Christian? A Catholic?
  • How are the human requirements of a priest evident in my life? In which of these areas do I need to grow?
  • Why is good physical health a requirement for priesthood?
  • How do I understand celibacy as freeing a person for service to God? In what ways is a celibate person able to be a fruitful, loving person?
  • Imagine yourself living a celibate lifestyle. What are the challenges for you? What are the gifts?

Who Cannot Be Ordained?

Even though priestly ordination in the Catholic church has from the beginning been reserved for men alone, in recent years that practice has been challenged in some circles. Without entering into a discussion of this debate, we simply present here the official teachings of the church.

When the question arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI said that the church does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination. On November 30, 1975, he wrote, “The church holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his church.”

In 1977, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith reaffirmed what Pope Paul VI taught and added, “Furthermore, the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary… received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as a discrimination against them.”

When the debate did not die, in an effort to remove all doubt, Pope John Paul II made this solemn declaration on May 22, 1994, in his Apostolic Letter on the Ordination of Priests: “I declare that the church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the church’s faithful.”

For various other reasons, canon law prevents some from receiving holy orders, either permanently or temporarily. These reasons include: anyone who is forced in any way or for any reason; those who suffer from mental illness; those who have left the church or do not believe what the church believes; those who have attempted marriage; those who have committed murder or positively cooperated in a completed abortion; those who have attempted suicide; those who have gravely mutilated themselves or others; those who have pretended to be ordained or received holy orders illegitimately; those who have only very recently joined the church, until they have had sufficient time to adjust; and, those who hold an office which is forbidden to clerics by canon law.

How Does One Apply to Begin Studies?

Preliminary Preparation

We hear and understand our calls by listening to our own hearts. When discerning a vocation there is always a confusion of options. Many things interest us. Some suggestions are to follow the leads that are present; trust what is deepest in our hearts; reflect on what is the source of love in our hearts, where it is leading us, and how deeply it is present. We need to take one step at a time, not trying to figure out in exact detail our entire future. This requires that we spend some quality time with God, with ourselves, and perhaps a spiritual guide. Before one begins the application process, it is good to begin a period of serious prayer, deepening parish involvement and ministry exploration. In the time before an applicant begins the official application process, one should:

  • Begin a period of serious prayer, including regular attendance at Sunday Eucharist, maybe even daily Eucharist whenever possible, as well as private prayer. Ask God to help.
  • Get to know your pastor or any trusted priest friend. Tell him of your interest and ask if he will help you and guide you. You will need this recommendation in the application process.
  • Get involved in some ministry in your parish and maybe even some social service project so that you can get a taste and feel for ministry, as well as what it is like to work with other ministers in the church. Be known in parish ministry circles, so that other volunteer ministers will be able to give you a positive recommendation.
  • Contact the Vocation Office and ask to discuss your interest, concerns, and questions with the Vocation Director. He can guide you from one step to the next. You can contact the Vocation Office by calling (502) 636-0296 or by sending an e-mail to vocations@archlou.org.
  •  Plan to attend one or both of the organized programs for those who are thinking about a possible vocation to priesthood or religious life. The Dinner With the Archbishop is held in the fall. It is a chance to meet other young people who have similar thoughts and interests, a chance to hear about how a variety of priests, sisters and brothers heard and answered their calls. LifeQuest Retreat is a weekend retreat held in the spring at a local seminary. It is a chance to see what a seminary looks like, what a typical day feels like, as well as a chance to meet actual seminarians.

Official Application Process

If the person feels comfortable enough to keep exploring and the vocation director has discerned that the applicant should indeed “take the plunge,” so to speak, they begin the official application process together. A decision to enter the seminary is not a decision to be a priest, but a decision to explore the possibility even more seriously. Better to try and change one’s mind than to never try at all. For some, seminary will solidify their decision that truly they do have a call to serve God’s people as a diocesan priest. For others, seminary will solidify their decision that their vocation lies elsewhere. There is no shame in leaving. The seminary is there to help in making a good decision. The application process has two parts: application to be accepted as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Louisville and application to a particular seminary.

Application to the Archdiocese

The church needs happy, holy and effective priests. To ensure that a candidate has the right “stuff” or the potential to have all the right “stuff,” the application process seeks not perfect people, but people who seek holiness, people who are physically and mentally healthy, people who can relate well to others, and people who have the ability, discipline, and openness to handle the rigorous academic and formation program.

The following list of documents will be gathered:

  • personal autobiography
  • application form
  • letters of recommendation (five)
  • physical examination
  • criminal background check
  • psychological evaluation
  • four interviews: personal assessment, interpersonal socialization, personal and spiritual motivation, priestly call and understanding
  • academic records
  • sacramental certificates
  • recent photograph
  • meeting with parents and family of the applicant
  • final interview with the archbishop

After review of the above documents, the vocation director will either recommend the candidate to the archbishop for acceptance, make recommendations about further work, or suggest that he look at other possible vocations. If recommended, the candidate meets with the archbishop for a formal acceptance as a seminarian for the archdiocese.

Application to a Particular Seminary

Once accepted by the archbishop, the process of selecting a seminary begins, and application to that particular seminary is initiated. The choice is based on abilities, background, preference, academic ability and needs. Some of the materials gathered during the application process are shared with the seminary. Academic records are transferred. A visit to the seminary is often helpful. Usually, if one is accepted by a diocese, he is accepted by the seminary.


  • If an individual is thinking seriously about priesthood, why is it important that he begin a period of serious prater and that he attend Mass regularly?
  • Have I ever taken part in a social service project? How did that project help me in my understanding of what ministry is? How would I define ministry?
  • What would I think of a friend or sibling who went to the seminary but returned prior to ordination? Why?
  • What do you believe are the reasons the archdiocese requires all that it does for applicants to the priesthood?

Where Does A Louisville Diocesan Seminarian Study?

Because all seminarians are not alike, the Archdiocese of Louisville uses several seminaries to train its priests, depending on the educational level, needs, abilities, and backgrounds of individuals. The choice of the seminary is negotiated by the archbishop, vocation director, each seminary’s admission board, and the applying seminarian.

About 74 percent of all seminarians today are of Anglo background (5 percent of whom are immigrants). About 13 percent are of Hispanic or Latino background; 9 percent are Asian, and 4 percent are black (African and African-American). Fourteen percent are below the age of 25. Sixteen percent are over forty. The largest group is between 29 and 35, making the average age somewhere in the early 30s. Well over 90 percent have been working in a career of one sort or another. A noticeable number come from the military.

Seminarians today tend to fall in one or more of the following four types: those deeply rooted in their faith; those who are recently converted; those with minimal connection to the church; and those with a rigid understanding of their faith. Students who are recently converted make up one-third of seminarians. Seminarians in this group tend to continue on in their studies more than the smaller number with a rigid understanding of their faith.

College Seminaries

Conception Seminary College – Conception, Missouri

Established in 1886 by the Swiss-American Congregation of Benedictines on a 960 acre tract, this 30 acre campus is located in rural northwest Missouri, near Kansas City. Hosting a Printery House, Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Guest House and Abbey, Conception offers a pre-theology program after completion of college and a Language, Culture and church Program for students of Vietnamese and Hispanic heritages.

Saint John Vianney College Seminary at the University of Saint Thomas

Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Saint John Vianney Seminary offers its students an exciting urban environment. Also, the Mississippi River is only one block from campus. Saint John Vianney Seminary is committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the development of the gifts of each member through prayer, liberal education, interpersonal relationships, obedience, counseling, and spiritual direction, so that the Catholic priesthood will be provided with good future leadership.

Seminary Schools of Theology

Saint Meinrad School of Theology – St. Meinrad, Indiana

Saint Meinrad School of Theology is located in the rolling hills of southern Indiana, about halfway between Evansville, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky. Preparing leaders for the Roman Catholic church for nearly 140 years, Saint Meinrad is operated by the Benedictine monks. The School’s motto, Sanctitate et Scientia (Holiness and Learning), reflects the priesthood program’s focus on excellent academic formation and well-developed spiritual formation for future church leaders. Saint Meinrad offers graduate level courses for students seeking master’s degrees, including the Master of Divinity degree, as well as a continuing education program.

Mundelein Seminary University of Saint Mary of the Lake – Mundelein, Illinois

Located on 900 acres of land 40 miles north of Chicago and 50 miles south of Milwaukee, Mundelein has provided a beautiful environment dedicated to the mission of study and prayer since 1844. This location provides its 209 students with many opportunities for cultural and social enrichment. Students are educated for parish ministry as diocesan priests through an integrated program of intellectual, human, spiritual and pastoral formation.

Saint Mary’s Seminary and University – Baltimore, Maryland

Founded in 1791 by the Sulpician Fathers, St. Mary’s strives to provide an outstanding spiritual, intellectual and pastoral preparation of candidates for Roman Catholic priesthood. Grounded in Jesus Christ and primarily directed toward diocesan priestly service in the church, St. Mary’s offers distinctive graduate and professional programs in theology and ministry. This school has more than 4,000 living alumni who serve as priests in 135 dioceses and 17 religious communities around the world.

Catholic University of America Theological College – Washington, D.C.

Located in our national capital, Theological College was founded in 1917, a national Catholic seminary with the mission, “the formation of true pastors around the people of God, after the model of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd.” This seminary, under the jurisdiction of the Society of St. Sulpice, provides the spiritual and pastoral formation for seminarians. The 2001 seminary community includes more than 90 men from 44 archdioceses and dioceses around the nation and the world.



  • What value do you see in a diocese using a variety of seminaries for training future priests?
  • What are the strengths of each of the seminaries listed in this section?
  • If you were choosing a seminary to attend, which one would you choose? Why?

What is Seminary All About?

Men prepare for priesthood in a seminary. The seminary is much more than a place in which to live and study. The seminary is a formation community reminiscent of the time the apostles spent with Jesus in preparation for their apostolic ministry. Its specific goal is to aid its members to discern their vocations, respond to them, and to prepare to receive the sacrament of orders. The seminary is committed to forming whole persons, holy persons, intelligent persons, and effective ministers for the church. Seminary training, therefore, has four parts: human formation, spiritual formation, intellectual formation, and pastoral formation.

Through counselors, peer support, teachers, mentors, spiritual directors, academic courses, community and private prayer experiences, written and oral evaluations, and a variety of pastoral experiences, the seminary community helps the future priest develop himself in all four areas.

Human Formation

A priest is called to be a “living image” of Jesus Christ in his relations and attitudes toward others. In order that his ministry may be credible and acceptable, it is important that he mold his personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge to and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ. A priest needs to have a great capacity to relate to others, especially since he is called to be responsible for a community and to be a “man of communion.”

This demands that the priest himself not be arrogant or quarrelsome, but affable, hospitable, sincere in his words and actions, prudent and discreet, generous and ready to serve, capable of appropriate relationships and of encouraging the same in others, and quick to understand, forgive, and console. He must also develop the skills to know the depths of the human heart, to perceive difficulties and problems, to make meeting and dialogue easy, to create trust and cooperation, and to express good judgments.

The church highly recommends and encourages its priests and future priests to balance their lives with leisure and exercise. Most seminaries today have wellness directors on staff and provide gymnasiums, intramural sports programs, exercise equipment, tracks, tennis and racquetball courts, lakes for fishing, and access to golf courses. Concerts, performances, lectures, movies, and parties are scheduled throughout the year. Student-operated pubs and recreation rooms are also available.

The seminary provides individual and group counseling under professional supervision. Mentors are available.

Spiritual Formation

The whole purpose of spiritual formation is to help the future priest learn how to live in an intimate and ongoing relationship and communion with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Those who would be priests need to form the habit of drawing close to God as friends in every detail of their lives.

In the spiritual formation program of the seminary, future priests are taught to seek Christ in faithful meditation on the Word of God, in active participation in the regular celebration of the sacraments and Divine Office, in a true attachment to the church, and in the people to whom they are sent, especially the poor, little children, the weak, sinners and nonbelievers. Future priests should also exhibit a love and reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Intellectual Formation

To be pastorally effective, intellectual formation is to be integrated with a spirituality marked by a personal experience with God. Intellectual formation begins with the study of philosophy. Only a sound philosophy can help candidates for the priesthood develop a reflective awareness above all on the study of sacred doctrine of theology. True theology proceeds from the faith and aims at leading to the faith. Theology helps the future priests’ own understanding of the faith, but also helps his pastoral ministry be more effective.

Theology then helps the candidate for priesthood “to believe,” “to live,” and “to communicate” the Christian faith and outlook. In his theology courses, the future priest studies Sacred Scripture, dogmatic and moral theology, church history, spiritual theology, canon law, and pastoral theology. Academic advisors are available to each seminarian.

Pastoral Formation

A priest must not only be a good, holy and intelligent person, he must also be effective in the ministry. Through a gradual experience of ministry, a future priest learns from his classmates and the priests and pastoral ministers alongside whom he will be sent to work. Throughout his seminary years, especially at the theological level, each candidate is given a variety of pastoral experiences on weekends and especially during the summer, in parishes, church agencies, hospitals, and service organizations. He should be open and available to all the possibilities offered in today’s church, ready to follow the direction of his bishop for the good of the church as a whole.

Theological training begins after graduation from a seminary college or regular college. If one has not studied philosophy in college, a year of pre-theology may be required before a typical four-year program of theological studies.

Evaluation Process

To document progress and to identify areas of needed growth, each seminarian is evaluated regularly in all four of the above areas through a series of self-evaluations, faculty and administration evaluations, and ministry experience evaluations.

A Typical Academic Program

In a Seminary College

Even though most candidates these days enter seminary after college graduation, in some special cases, candidates are accepted into the seminary program as college students to complete their undergraduate degrees. The Archdiocese of Louisville uses two college seminaries at this time.

  • Conception College Seminary, run by the Benedictine Monks of Conception Abbey in Missouri, is a small liberal arts college that offers a Bachelor of Arts degree, with offerings in theology, religion, history, literature, and arts and sciences. Since students at Conception College are preparing for entry into theological schools, each student must specialize in philosophy and choose a minor either in the humanities, theology or psychology. The student-faculty ratio is 3:1, making it a good school for those needing personalized attention.
  • St. John Vianney Seminary is located on the Campus of the University of St. Thomas and is sponsored by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The seminary provides the human, spiritual and pastoral formation, while the University of St. Thomas provides the academic formation. Seminary students attend class with 5,127 undergraduate men and women at the University of St. Thomas and can choose from among 79 major and 61 minor fields of study for a Bachelor’s degree. The student-faculty ratio is 17:1. Since students at St. John Vianney are preparing to enter schools of theology, special attention is paid to philosophy requirements.

In a Seminary School of Theology

The Archdiocese of Louisville uses five seminary schools of theology: Saint Meinrad (Indiana), Mundelein (Illinois), Catholic University (Washington, D.C.), Saint Mary’s (Maryland), and Louvain (Belgium). While each one has its own unique programs, Saint Meinrad is typical. Therefore, we will use their program as an example.

The Five-Year Program

Candidates without a background in philosophy and theology can finish their studies for the priesthood in five years and obtain both an MA and an MDiv degree. This program provides a solid foundation for both spiritual a

The Four-Year Program

Those candidates with 24 hours of undergraduate philosophy and 12 hours of undergraduate theology can finish the Master of Divinity program requirements in four years. Because of their undergraduate background, they are able to move directly into a higher level of study. A year-long internship can also be added to this program so that the student may gain valuable experience in the practice of theology. With the requisite undergraduate courses, the students usually receive the MA at the end of their second year and the MDiv at the end of their fourth year of study.

Pre-Theology Courses

First Semester
Ethics and Natural Law
Plato and Augustine
The Creed in History
Psalms and Prayer or Language
Proclamation as Ritual

  • January Interterm

Foundations of Christian Spirituality

  • Second Semester

Aristotle and Aquinas
Introduction to the Liturgy
Medieval church History
Philosophy Electives

  • Third Semester

Modern Philosophy
Foundational Theology
Sacraments of Initiation
Introduction to the Old Testament
Philosophy Elective

  • January Interterm

Foundations of Catholic Spirituality: Theology and Forms of Prayer (followed by a directed retreat)
Fourth Semester American Philosophy and Culture
Theological Anthropology
Introduction to New Testament I
Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling
Seminar on Supervised Pastoral Care and Counseling
Supervised Pastoral Care Ministry
Philosophy Elective

Theology Courses

First Semester
Foundational Theology
Sacraments of Initiation
Introduction to Old Testament
Early church History

  • January Interterm

Foundations of Catholic Spirituality: Theology and Forms of Prayer (followed by a directed retreat)
Second Semester
Theological Anthropology
Introduction to New Testament I
Medieval Church History
Introduction to Pastoral Care & Counseling
Seminar on Supervised Pastoral Care Ministry
Supervised Pastoral Care Ministry

  • Summer

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) must be taken during the summer following the second semester of the MDiv program or the summer following the fourth semester. (This program is an intensive hospital ministry experience.)

  • Third Semester

Church and Orders
Fundamental Moral Theology
Introduction to New Testament II
Modern church History
Seminar on Supervised Parish Ministry I
Supervised Parish Ministry I

  • January Interterm


  • Fourth Semester

Sacrament of Marriage
Introduction to Homiletics
Seminar on Supervised Parish Ministry II
Supervised Parish Ministry II

  • Summer

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) must be taken during the summer following the second semester of the MDiv program or the summer following the fourth semester.

  • Pastoral Internship

Year-long Pastoral Internship following fourth semester (optional)

  • Fifth Semester Trinity

Advanced Homiletics
Introduction to Canon Law
Practicum for Advanced Homiletics

  • January Interterm


  • Sixth Semester

Catholic Social Ethics
Introduction to Catechetical Ministry
Seminar on Supervised Social Ministry
Supervised Social Ministry

  • Summer

Summer Pastoral Internship

  • Seventh Semester

Sexual and Medical Ethics
Ministry to Families
Pastoral Internship Seminar
Practicum in Homiletics/Liturgics I

  • January Interterm


  • Eighth Semester

Sacraments of Reconciliation
Priesthood and Spirituality
Pastoral Leadership
Practicum in Homiletics/Liturgics II

Special Opportunities for Learning

Spanish Language Programs

In order to prepare bilingual, bicultural ministers for the church, many seminaries offer a full range of Spanish electives. These courses develop the ability to minister in a pastoral setting in the Spanish language. Students can be individually assessed for readiness to participate in an intensive immersion experience at a language school abroad.

The Mexican-American Cultural Center (MACC) in San Antonio, Texas, offers an intensive Spanish language program. Taught at three levels, beginner, intermediate, and advanced, the program emphasizes hearing and speaking Spanish for pastoral ministry. The same program also is offered during the summer. Opportunities for intensive Spanish-language programs during the same time periods can be arranged at schools in Mexico.

Eucharist and morning prayer in Spanish are celebrated weekly in most seminaries. Students have the opportunity to proclaim the readings in Spanish within the context of the liturgy and to develop some familiarity with music for Spanish Masses.

Other Options

Seminarians from the Archdiocese of Louisville can choose either one of the Spanish programs mentioned above or one of the following special programs: a Holy Land study trip, an ecumenical study experience in a protestant seminary, a study trip to Rome, an opportunity to learn American Sign Language and deaf culture, an experience of black culture, or a cooperative program with another divinity school. Each seminary also has endowed lectures each year on topics such as homiletics, philosophy, theology, and church art and architecture.


  • Picture yourself in a seminary. What would be the most challenging aspect of this experience for you? What gifts do you have which would help you?
  • What would a seminarian gain from participating in a special learning opportunity? How would such a program help him be a better priest?

What Does It Cost?

Even though it is very expensive to train a priest for ministry (about $25,000 a year for tuition, room and board, books, insurance, and other expenses), no one is turned away because of financial need. Most individuals and families cannot afford all the financial costs. The Archdiocese of Louisville provides financial assistance to help in the formation of its future priests. No candidate is rejected for lack of money.

What Are the Steps to Ordination?

Certain ministries were established by the church in more ancient times for the purpose of offering service to the people of God according to their needs. Some of those functions, which were more closely connected with the liturgical celebration, slowly came to be considered as a training in preparation for the reception of Holy Orders. Vatican II re-examined these functions and adapted them to the contemporary needs of the church.

Among the particular offices to be preserved and adapted to contemporary needs are those that are in a special way more closely connected with the ministries of the word and of the altar: that of reader and acolyte. The reader is appointed for the function of reading the Word of God in the liturgical assembly, except for the gospel. The acolyte is appointed to aid the deacon and priest at the altar. A seminarian receives the ministry of reader in his first or second year of theology and the ministry of acolyte in his third year of theology.

In the fourth year of theology, a seminarian declares his candidacy for ordination as a deacon. The rite of admission to candidacy is celebrated when there is a clear evidence that the seminarian’s properly formed intention has matured. The seminarian must make a public expression of his intention to receive holy orders. The bishop then gives his public acceptance of the seminarian’s intention.

During his fifth year, a seminarian is ordained a deacon. A public commitment to celibacy must be made before the rite of ordination of a deacon. A deacon helps the bishop and his body of priests as a minister of the word, of the altar, and of service. It will be his duty to bring God’s word to believer and unbeliever alike, to preside over public prayer, to baptize, to assist at marriages and bless them, to give communion to the dying, and to lead the rites of burial. He will also perform works of charity in the name of the bishop or the pastor. From the way he goes about these duties, he will be recognized as a disciple of Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served. After inquiry among the people of God and those in charge of his training, he is ordained a deacon by the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration by the bishop.

At the end of his seminary training, a seminarian is called to be ordained a priest by his bishop. A priest is called to be a preacher of the Word, presider at the celebration of the sacraments and leader of the community. As a trusted co-worker of the bishop, he makes a promise of respect and obedience to his present bishop as well as his successors immediately before his priestly ordination. he is ordained a priest by the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration by the bishop.


  • Describe the ministries of reader and acolyte. Have you read or been a server at Mass? What has that experience been like for you? How do the Rites of Institution of Acolytes and Readers enhance these functions?
  • Have you had any transitional deacons serve in your parish? What has been their role?
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