I am a recent convert to Orthodoxy and am very interested in pursuing a vocation to the priesthood. I am in my mid-40s, a college professor, and have a Ph.D. I have heard very generally about the OCA’s “Late Vocations” program, but cannot find any really specific information about it.
I aware of courses given in the Extension Programs of the OCA Seminaries, and of the Antiochian Archdiocese’s St. Stephen’s Course.
I am fully prepared to do everything it takes, but need guidance as to what the initial steps really are. I also know that there are various impediments to ordination—for me a major one might be that I have been Orthodox only for a short time?
The best way to prepare for ordination in the Orthodox Church is, of course, to study at an Orthodox seminary. Priestly formation not only involves academics, but also a day-to-day life experience, participation in the daily cycle of liturgical services, regular interaction with seminary professors, staff, and peers, etc.
In cases where there is no possibility whatsoever of studying at an Orthodox seminary, mature individuals may consider pursuing a late vocations program. The best way to begin exploring this would be to seek the advice of your parish priest, your spiritual father, and ultimately your diocesan bishop. Ultimately, one must have the blessing of his diocesan bishop to initiate participation in the late vocations program.
It is only my opinion, but I think that it is wise for a person, especially one contemplating the late vocations program, to have been Orthodox for at least three years before beginning a program—including enrollment in seminary.
One of the best “classrooms” is the parish. There one not only learns the dynamics of pastoring individuals, leading a community, and organizing the plethora of programs, ministries, and evangelization efforts, but one also experiences and learns from the liturgical cycle as observed on a parish level—of course, assuming that one’s parish has a rather full liturgical life.
Further, by waiting a designated period of time, one may more clearly “test” his vocation.
The St. Stephen’s Course is not designed to prepare individuals for the priesthood; rather, it is directed at laypeople interested in broadening their understanding of the faith.
Thus, the best advice I can offer is to ultimately discuss your intentions and potential vocation with those mentioned above. Only they can fully assess your particular situation and offer appropriate guidance. I hope this helps.