When a man feels that the Lord is calling him to the priesthood, he enters into a more formal discernment process where he receives additional information, which may affirm that calling or reveal to him that the priesthood is not God’s vocation for him.
The more formal process begins with a series of meetings with the Director of Vocation Awareness to bring clarity to God’s call and to make an initial assessment of the individual’s situation in life and his abilities. If the threshold requirements established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (link to Program of Priestly Formation, 5th Ed.) are met by the candidate and the director has confidence in the nature of the candidate’s calling to the priesthood, he presents him to the Director of Seminarians for the process of application and affiliation to the Archdiocese. Within the initial assessment, the candidate’s proper level of entry into the seminary program is determined. The seminary responds to multiple levels of human, academic, spiritual, and pastoral preparation and a program is designed to meet the needs of the candidate. The typical entry points are three-fold.
- A candidate enters as an undergraduate. In this situation, a seminarian enters St. Pius X Seminary. The Archdiocese of Dubuque, in collaboration with Loras College, is blessed to have its very own College Seminary. For further information about this Seminary, click on the link: The St. Pius X Seminary Program.
- A candidate enters as a pre-theologian. In this situation, a seminarian has already received an undergraduate degree in a field of study other than philosophy. The academic requirements for entry into major theology are 30 credit hours of philosophy and 12 credit hours of religious studies. If he does not have those prerequisites, he will be invited to join the St. Pius X Seminary Program at Loras College and will live at Vianney House, the house of formation. For further information about Vianney House, click on the link: Vianney House Rule of Life.
Undergraduates and pre-theologians work together in the St. Pius X Seminary program. This program appeals not only to the education of the candidate who is seriously discerning a vocation to priesthood, but also to his formation. He lives in community with other men, attends daily Mass and prayer, goes to formation meetings once a week, and participates in occasional workshops and retreats. He is also involved in a ministry/service activity that provides some form of pastoral experience.
- A candidate enters as a theologian. The goal of the first and second entry points is to be prepared humanly, intellectually, spiritually, and pastorally for major seminary. At this point, a seminarian is called a “theologian.” Major seminary is a graduate level education that builds upon what has been begun in a candidate’s life. The major seminary is concerned about the further development of the candidate’s human, intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral formation. Major seminary is a four-year program that prepares a man to be ordained at the end of his seminary formation. The Archdiocese of Dubuque is currently using Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois.
Prior to a candidate entering seminary, the Vocation Director does a final full assessment of the candidate. Part of this assessment is a review of all of his material by the Seminary Advisory Board and a recommendation to Archbishop Jackels. Archbishop Jackels makes the final decision. A seminarian at this point can be called to candidacy or any time during seminary prior to his diaconate ordination. Once a seminarian is officially accepted by the Archdiocese of Dubuque and enters seminary, the seminarian celebrates liturgical milestones along the way. A seminarian is officially installed as an acolyte and lector. At the end of his third year of major seminary, the seminarian is ordained to the transitional diaconate. Finally, celebrating God’s call and the culmination of his formation, a seminarian is called to be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Dubuque by Archbishop Jackels. The entire formation for the priesthood can take from 4 years to 8 years, depending upon the state in life of the candidate when he begins. For more information on any of the following, click on the following links: