The following comes from a July 23 story in the Angelus, online news source for the Los Angeles archdiocese. It was written by Father Steve Davoren, director of the archdiocese office of Vocations, and his associate director, Father San Ward.
Something good is happening in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the area of priestly vocations. In the Office of Vocations, we are continually receiving inquiries via telephone, email and social media from young men (and sometimes not so young men) every day. There is great reason to be optimistic and hopeful.
The challenge for us in the Office of Vocations is to be cognizant of an ever-present reality — the need for both quality and quantity of candidates for the priesthood. Certainly we have a great need in the archdiocese for many, many more priests.
But what the Church does not need is just anyone to become a priest. Rather, we need those who are truly called by God and recognized by the Church to have an authentic priestly vocation.
Our previous article, “Priestly Formation and the New Evangelization: The 4 Pillars of Formation” (July 4), dealt with the four essential dimensions of priestly formation in the seminary. We need well-rounded, holy men of prayer and study and learning who demonstrate the capacity to serve God’s people well as parish priests. Thus, while a great quantity of new seminarians is a primary goal, the quality of each candidate is also of supreme importance.
Therefore, not all the men who inquire about the priesthood make it to the seminary. Most who call us are men of deep faith and service in their parish and other archdiocesan ministries. Some who call us are sincere in their desire to be priests, but suffer from certain psychological pathologies or other character flaws that disqualify them as viable candidates.
Still others have canonical impediments, substantial personal debt, criminal records, significant health problems or other issues that also similarly disqualify them. These men are still called to be active members of the Catholic Church but unfortunately the painful lessons of the past 10 years have taught us valuable lessons of how to better prescreen candidates for the priesthood.
The current procedures and policies to evaluate candidates for the priesthood were in place long before the clergy abuse scandals of our recent past. We both applied to and were accepted as seminarians for the archdiocese years before the scandals and went through a very thorough and comprehensive application process and review, as intensive and comprehensive as any law enforcement agency in the country.
This process included a criminal and financial background check, fingerprinting, a psychological examination, a full physical exam, a pastor’s letter of recommendation, academic transcripts, a letter of release or recommendation from previous seminaries attended or the religious order(s) that one belonged to (if applicable), interviews and evaluations by the Office of Vocations’ assessment team, and finally interviews by the admissions committee of the seminary….
Questions that we ask include, but are not limited to, the following:
— How long and how seriously have you been discerning a vocation to the priesthood?
— What is your motivation to be a priest? Are you making this decision freely or are you being pressured in any way?
— What experiences do you have in serving God’s people in parish and/or Archdiocesan ministry?
— Tell us about your level of education. Are you ready for the study of philosophy and graduate-level theology studies?
— How is your physical health?
— What do your family and friends think about your vocation?
— In what ways do you feel ready to live a chaste and celibate priestly vocation? How do you understand celibacy?
— Tell us about your prayer life. How and when do you pray?
— Do you accept the magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church? Why or why not?
— Have you considered other vocations or careers? Religious life? …
To read the entire story, click here.