What are all the requirements that lead to the priesthood?
While there is no set “list” of requirements, it is only my opinion that you should seriously consider the following.
1. Pray. Strive to discern whether the Lord is calling you to the priesthood. Ordination is not something we should seek; rather, it should be a response to a calling from Our Lord. Without prayer and those moments of quiet reflection, we will never discern the “quiet voice of the Lord” as He calls us to accomlish His will. Of course, all of this should be done within the framework of a rule of prayer and regular participation in the liturgical services and Sacraments, the feasts and fasts, and the overall spiritual life which should be developed and expanded day by day. Struggle to focus on what God wants you to do, not on what you want to do.
2. “Test” your vocation. Do not immediately assume that this is what you wish to do for the rest of your life. Try other things. Take courses or read books in disciplines completely unrelated to the priesthood while, at the same time, take courses or read books on history, philosophy, religious studies, civilization, the arts, communications, grammar and writing, and the like. Consider other options based on your talents and gifts as you strive to discern that to which God is—or is not—calling you. At the same time, read and study Scripture, the writings of the Holy Fathers, the lives of the saints, the history of the Church, doctrinal and devotional writings, and general surveys of Orthodox Christianity. Discuss your readings with your pastor/Father
Confessor, and never be afraid to ask questions. Always remember that there is no such thing as a stupid question, but being afraid to ask questions can indeed be stupid. Cut through any personal pride by being willing to seek clarification for those things which seem difficult to grasp.
3. Get involved in the life of the parish, not only by attending services—which is of paramount importance—but also by working with others in lay ministries, by offering your time and talent to various projects and programs, by serving on the parish council or other action groups, by assisting with Church school, by attending adult education programs, by participating in diocesan assemblies and other gatherings outside the parish, by singing and/or chanting at services, by visiting the homebound or hospitalized, and by engaging in fellowship and building friendships with the other members of the parish community. Doing these things will help you to discern your strong points and your weak points, your interests, and so on. It will also help to
prepare you for things that can not always be taught in an academic setting or class room. Since most priests spend their lives in parishes, a solid and positive experience of parish life as a lay person—even a “positive experience” of the “negative side” of parish life—is absolutely essential before entering seminary.
4. Build a strong relationship with your pastor/Father Confessor. Allow him to mentor you. Tell him that you are thinking about the priesthood. Accept his words of encouragement as well as discouragement. Seek his guidance and direction and advice. Ask him to share his experiences with you. Offer to assist him in any way he would deep appropriate. Also, it is a good idea to get to know your bishop on a personal level. Speak with him about your desire to serve the Church. Ask his advice and guidance as well. Allow your pastor/Father Confessor and bishop to discourage you as well, for this is a part of testing your vocation. [When others try to discourage us, it often forces us to take a more intense look at that which we are seeking or, as mentioned above, responding to. It is also critical to discuss any impediments that may become obstacles to ordination.] Be honest and open with them with regard to your marital status, background, expectations, and any moral or ethical issues which may be of concern. Seek their advice in overcoming any obstacles or dangers or doubts which can jeopardize your spiritual life and growth before moving on.
5. Contact the seminaries. Ask for literature about their programs, courses, day-to-day life, expectations. Read these resources carefully and prayerfully. Share them with your family, your pastor/Father Confessor, and others whose advice you value highly.
6. Arrange to visit the seminaries. Spend a few days there. Observe classes, talk with faculty and students, attend services, and in general try to get a “feel” for the school and all it has to offer. Attend programs offered by the seminaries for individuals considering the priesthood. Both St. Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA and St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY sponsor one or two-day programs for individuals interested in theological studies.
7. Enroll in a seminary. Take your studies seriously, but don’t take yourself as seriously as you may be tempted to. Soak up as much “information” as you can, but not at the expense of spiritual “formation.” Avoid “ecclesiastical gossip” and “politics,” recognizing that such things can only drag you down and even harden you, not only to the priesthood, but to the Church as well. Focus on God and on ways to discern that to which He is calling you. I think it is also important to be involved in the fellowship that the seminary provides, building friendships that should last a lifetime. Allow the faculty to mentor you, and get to know clergy in parishes near the seminary. They, like the pastor/Father Confessor “back home,” are an invaluable resource, especially in gaining insights that are not easily taught in an academic setting.
8. As the end of your “seminary career” approaches, consider once again if you have a genuine calling to the ordained ministry. If you feel that you do, discuss this with your pastor/Father Confessor, the seminary clergy, your bishop, and your family. They will guide you further, as appropriate to your situation at that point of your life and study. If you feel that you really
should not seek ordination, consider the many ways you can serve the Church as a lay person. While the Church always needs more priests and deacons, it also needs educated lay persons to serve as lay and youth ministers, teachers, choir directors, educators, administrative leaders, parish council members, and the like. There is nothing wrong with attending seminary and then serving the Church as a much-needed lay minister, and the Church certainly could benefit from theologically trained and spiritually formed lay ministers and leaders. What I have written reflects my personal opinion on this topic, and there are certainly many other things that those who have had more experience than I have might wish to add. But I hope that this at least offers food for thought, and that you will ponder these ideas carefully, prayerfully, and seriously, and seek similar advice from others. The decisions you make will literally affect you for the rest of your life.