Discerning a call to priesthood cannot be done alone. It is important that you speak with somebody who is trained to facilitate you at this initial stage. Vocations Directors are appointed by the Bishop to enable men explore and reflect on their sense of being called to diocesan priesthood. Making initial contact with a Vocations Director is not a commitment to study for the priesthood. It should be seen as you creating a space where you can explore and reflect on your sense of being called.
After an initial contact is made, the Vocations Director will meet with you on a regular basis for discussion and discernment. During these meetings the Vocations Director will ensure that you have a good grasp of the demands of priestly life and of the training involved in studying for the priesthood. It is important to stress at the outset that the selection process takes place within the context of mutual vocational discernment and that non-acceptance of a candidate is not viewed as the candidate having ‘failed’.
Before commencing formation in St Patrick’s College Maynooth as a prospective student you must be nominated by a Bishop. To help you and your Bishop make a judgment as to whether you may have received a call from God to serve as a priest and to assess your suitability to begin training for the priesthood a period of time is set aside for discernment and accompaniment.
It should be recognized that the selection and accompaniment process normally lasts up to a year. This may take longer depending on your journey of discernment and on what commitments you may have. At this stage you and your diocese will not be assessing your suitability for ordination itself, but you will be considering the following:
• Discerning whether or not you may be experiencing a call from God to priesthood.
• Reflecting on your suitability at this time for priestly formation.
• Discernment your ability to make a commitment to the demands of the priestly life.
To enable the process of discernment and accompaniment you will be helped by the facilitation of some key people.
Each diocese in Ireland has a Vocations Director who accompany the candidate, not only through discernment and selection, but also throughout priestly formation up to ordination. The Vocations Director is somebody who is trained in the process of discernment and in accompanying a candidate through a discernment process. The Vocations Director facilitates the process keeping all parties informed at the different stages. Your Vocations Director role includes:
• Advises the Bishop about you and your discernment journey.
• He will be responsible for guiding you through the selection process.
• He normally co-ordinates each stage of the process, ensuring that you are fully aware of what is expected of you.
• During the formal selection process, he will provide you with information about how your application is progressing.
Throughout this process both the candidate and the diocese have full freedom to delay, or halt the process at any stage and this must be respected by all parties.
Click here to find the contact details for the vocations director of your diocese
The following link brings you to a list currently available on Vocations Ireland
The Spiritual Director
Your spiritual life should obviously be at the centre of your discernment. For this reason you would be encouraged to meet regularly with a Spiritual Director, possibly chosen from a number recommended by the Diocese.
Spiritual Direction provides a confidential space where you can discuss and reflect on your sense of vocation.
Being engaged in Spiritual Direction should also enable you to enrich and deepen your spiritual life. It also gives you a space to explore the spirituality of diocesan priesthood. It is hoped that by engaging in Spiritual Direction you will be facilitated to grow in awareness as to where God is calling you in life.
The Selection Panel
Many Dioceses have a panel made up of individuals and agencies who may be involved in the selection process, including of course, the candidate and the diocesan Bishop. The Bishop seeks the advice and expertise of other people and institutions to help him with the selection process. These people will have been chosen because they have some valuable personal or professional insight or interest in the formation of priests. They serve in an advisory capacity, and whilst they may be delegated by the Bishop to act on his behalf in some way, it should always be remembered that it is the Bishop himself who has the final right and responsibility to recognise a vocation to priesthood in his diocese.
Following this period of accompaniment if you and those involved in your discernment feel that you have a vocation to the priesthood then the formal application process can take place. Your Vocations Director will guide you through the paper work, the physiological and medical examinations and the interviews with the Diocesan Selection Panel (if your diocese has one) and the Bishop.
During the period of accompaniment your Vocations Director may arrange for you to come and visit the seminary. This will give you an opportunity to meet men from you diocese who are currently in formation. It will also afford you an opportunity to experience seminary life and speak with some of our formation staff who will be able to address your questions regarding formation.
On different occasions throughout the year the formation staff and the seminarians at St Patrick’s College Maynooth facilitate Open Days and Discernment Weekends all of which are designed to help you and others in discerning a vocation to the priesthood. They are designed to help you in your discernment during your accompaniment period. Your Vocations Director will keep you informed of such events.