Procedure to Become a Priest

Question

Dear Father,
I am a twelve year old an I wish to be a priest. I was wondering if perhaps you could tell me a procedure which would help me do so.


Answer

Dear friend,

Thank you for writing, and I was happy to hear that you are interested in becoming a priest!!

In order to become a priest, you should enter college after you graduate from high school. You will need to obtain a Bachelor Degree in some field that interests you, although I would strongly suggest that you major in a subject that would be related in some way to your further studies for the priesthood, such as history, philosophy, religious studies, communications, English, or even general studies.

After you graduate from college with your Bachelor Degree, you would then enroll in St. Tikhon Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania or St. Vladimir Seminary in Crestwood, New York, not far from New York City, where you would spend three more years pursuing theological studies which would lead to a Master of Divinity degree.

As an alternative, you could enroll at St. Tikhon Seminary immediately after you graduate from high school and pursue your studies for a Bachelor Degree concurrently with your seminary studies. St. Tikhon Seminary has a program by which you take some classes at the seminary and other classes at a nearby college. St. Tikhon Seminary also has a non-degree program you may wish to pursue.

You may wish to visit the web sites of both seminaries at http://www.svots.edu and www.stots.edu, where you will find a lot of information about the courses, requirements for admission, etc. If possible, you may also wish to visit the seminaries and attend some of the special programs they offer. For example, St. Tikhon Seminary has a vocations weekend for individuals interested in seminary studies, while St. Vladimir Seminary has an annual high school and college retreat in December, and often has special events for individuals interested in seminary studies. While you may have to wait a few years to participate in these things, it would not be a bad idea to keep abreast of what the seminaries have to offer, especially if you live near them.

Graduation from seminary does not necessary guarantee ordination to the priesthood, however, as this is ultimately the decision of your bishop.

While you are still in high school, it would be a good idea to help out around your parish as much as possible, which I am sure you are already doing. In addition to serving in the altar and helping the priest with services, you may ask him if you can help him in other ways. Maybe he will let you accompany him when he visits the hospital or blesses homes. You will learn a lot of practical lessons in this way. It is also a good idea to help with the singing and reading at the services, especially at Vespers or Vigil and the lenten services.

It is very important for priests to know how to conduct services and how to construct some of the services, which can sometimes be quite complicated. When I was your age, I helped with the singing and the reading, especially at the Saturday night Vigil service, and this helped me a great deal to learn the order of the services—a sort of “on the job training.” It also familiarized me with the various books that are used for the services, which can also be complicated at times!

It would also be a wonderful idea if you got to know your bishop and let him know of your desire. You can always ask him, as well as your parish priest, how you could help out in order to increase your practical knowledge and understanding of what the priestly life is like.

And, of course, it is very important to pray about this and to ask for God’s direction. Sometimes, when we are younger, we have a desire to serve God in the priesthood, but we can often become distracted, especially in high school. So, by praying to God for guidance and for help in keeping focused on becoming a priest, combined with getting more and more involved in the life of our parish and in helping our parish priest in his ministry, we can keep our “vision” alive! And don’t let anyone discourage you when they say, “the life of a priest is much, much too difficult.” Most priests I know are quite happy and genuinely excited about their ministries, and while there can be financial struggles, the other benefits of serving Our Lord are much more rewarding, believe me!

Finally, don’t ever hesitate to talk about all of this with your parish priest, who will be more than happy to offer you the proper guidance and direction—as well as correction, when necessary! Pray, study, offer your time and talents to the Church, and work hard, and God will take care of the rest!
, OCA Communications Office