Is the life of a priest boring?

Priests have one of the most exciting roles in the world! They stand with people in the most profound moments of life: at weddings, baptisms, comforting the sick and dying and everything in between. While there can be slower days, these can also be transformed by a single phone call. If you're called to be a priest, trust that you will feel fulfilled and happy!

Do you have to be really holy to be a priest?

No priest who ever lived was worthy! Of course you are not ready to be a priest now; this is what the years of seminary training are for. Give your weaknesses to God and trust that over time, you will grow in virtue.

What about the whole celibacy thing?

Celibacy is a big "yes!" instead of a burdensome "no!" The promise of celibacy means that a person promises not to get married. This means that you say "no" to marriage in order to say a greater "yes" to Christ and his Church. Instead of giving yourself to one individual, you are able to be a shepherd for the whole family of the Church. In this way, a priest is a spiritual father to the children he has baptised, the families he has blessed and helped on their way, the sick he has comforted, the young people he catechises and helps to grow, and the poor he assists.

Well, aren't priests lonely?

Priests can be lonely, just as often as people who are married, single or consecrated religious. We try to nurture significant relationships between our brother priests so we can fill our human need for closeness to other people and, of course, we pray. Priests have friends just like anyone else but also develop friendships amongst those they meet and minister too. There is, however, a real difference between simply being alone and feeling lonely.

Let's say I go through the whole process. What would I study?

A seminarian spends six and a half years getting to know the Church. The first year is what’s known as a spiritual year with less focus on academic studies and more focus on developing a solid prayer life and understanding what it means to be a priest. After this, he spends the next years learning how to think and reason like the Church (philosophy), learning about her past stories (church history), her laws (canon law), the Word of God (scripture), how her members celebrate (liturgy) as well as learning to know and understand the Church (theology). This study isn’t just an intellectual exercise but a holistic encounter with God through learning with the intention of going on to apply this in priestly ministry. A seminarian’s fifth year is spent entirely in a parish learning about priestly ministry by being present as well as building relationships with God’s people. Seminarians also put their studies into practice through a variety of experiences of pastoral ministry including in hospitals, hospices, prisons, schools, rest homes and disability centres. This work experience helps them further discern their calling as shepherds and spiritual fathers.

What kind of work does a priest do at a church? Does he just pray all day?

Ask ten different priests about their schedule, and you will receive ten different answers! Like most professionals, how a priest spends his day ‘at work’ is not necessarily a standard answer. Because priests are individuals with distinct talents and interests, a day can look different for any priest, even those that live in the same house! A priest doesn't spend all day behind a desk or in prayer. Rather, daily life can involve an exciting assortment of activities, like visiting classes in the parish school, planning for parish projects, marriage preparation for an engaged couple, funerals, baptisms, recreation, homily preparation, counselling a troubled parishioner, phone calls, e-mails and finally some reading and relaxation. Flexibility is a must!

Is that all a priest can do with his gifts and talents?

No, diocesan priests can be chaplains in high schools, universities, prisons, hospitals or even the armed forces!

Where do I get more information?

You can contact Fr. Rob O’Brien, the diocesan Vocations Director. He’s been in your shoes and is always keen to talk with men who are discerning the priesthood. You can reach Fr. Rob via email at fr.robrien@gmail.com or on (09) 630 3956.

Will I be pressured to become a priest if I meet with Fr. Rob?

Of course not! Discernment is an on-going process and Fr. Rob simply wants to hear your story. If you meet with him, it can only open new doors to the future and give you a chance to ask more questions. Feel free to call confidentially, and ask any question you like. Give as much or as little information about yourself as you choose. It’s a normal part of a vocation director’s job to talk to guys at all levels of discernment.

Can I leave the seminary if I decide it’s not for me?

Absolutely – the Church definitely doesn’t want to ordain anyone who’s unwilling.

Can I still keep in contact with friends outside the seminary?

Yes. Having friends outside of the seminary is healthy.

How old do I have to be?

Auckland Diocese accepts seminarians anytime from a few years after completing secondary school, although a man is expected to have done something during that time such as completing a tertiary qualification / apprenticeship or working. Candidates in their late twenties and thirties – or even older – are common. Even if you’ve just finished school, you should still feel free to get in touch with Fr Rob.

What do I need to have studied?

Auckland’s seminarians and priests come from a wide variety of backgrounds and walks of life including accountancy, law, engineering, IT, business, carpentry and teaching. Many enter after university, some after a few years in the workforce, while others enter after more than a few years of working. These experiences all contribute to the unique make-up of the priesthood and to the individual ministry of each priest. Applicants should have obtained at least NCEA level 3 (or its equivalent) and/or show that they have the ability to cope with the demands of tertiary study.