In addition to celebrating the Mass, priests absolve sins, baptize, prepare couples for marriage and celebrate weddings, bury the dead, teach pastor parishes, and commit themselves to a life of service within the Church.
What is the Sacrament of Holy Orders?
This sacrament bestows the graces necessary to be a member of the Clergy in the Church. There are three degrees of Clergy.
A Diocesan priest is one who serves a bishop within a particular diocese. Besides parish work, a priest can be assigned to minster as chaplains in hospitals, schools or convents.
A Religious priest is a member of a community that is committed to a special charism, such as monastic life, missionary work or teaching. They serve a superior.
Military Chaplains are either diocesan or religious priests who are assigned for several years to serve military establishments around the world. They are given this assignment by their Bishop or Superior.
25 is the minimum age for ordination according to the Canon Law of the Church. Since it can take up to nine years of formation, one can enter the seminary right after high school.
Besides good health and academic ability, a candidate for the priesthood also needs a strong prayer life, involvement in his parish, a spirit of service and sacrifice, and a deep love for the Church. He must have talents to put at the service of the Church and a healthy psychological, inter-personal life. This helps determine how genuine the candidate is in discerning God's call.
Celibacy - the commitment not to marry - is seen as a gift that God bestows on those who are called to the priesthood. In celibacy, the Church sees the example of Jesus, which must be reflected in the life of a priest. Through celibacy the priest mirrors the love that Christ has for all, a love that the priest, unattached to spouse and children, can also extend.
Candidates for priesthood study at a seminary. Besides classes, there is a daily life of prayer and weekly pastoral work. During summer vacations, seminarians usually work in a parish of the diocese. Corpus Christi seminarians are presently receiving formation at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana, Assumption Seminary in San Antonio and St. Mary's Seminary in Houston.
The Diocese of Corpus Christi wants future priests to have the best possible education. For College (undergraduate) seminarians, the Diocese will assist the seminarian with costs when necessary. For Theology (graduate) seminarians, the Diocese will pay all educational costs.
After completing a four year college degree with an emphasis on philosophy, there are four years of graduate studies in theology with the probability of a Pastoral Year half-way through the graduate studies. Someone who already has a college degree will need two years of Pre-Theology studies to obtain the required philosophy background in order to begin Theology studies.
Sometimes family and friends can be reluctant at first about a call to the priesthood - even the religious life - but usually they recognize the blessing of having a priest or religious in the family. Growing up we must respect our parents' wishes, but as adults we must follow God's call, even if it is difficult. It is very helpful for the family to know priests or religious personally, such as having them over for visits so they can get some information about the life. Family members can be assured that it takes many years before a man will make the final commitment to be ordained, or a man or woman make the final commitment to fully enter a Religious community.
PRAY - Every day. Just like Moses at the burning bush, we don't hear God unless we stop what we're doing and "go over" to where He waits, to look and listen. Attend Mass, pray especially before the Blessed Sacrament, and pray the Rosary daily.
STUDY - Learn the truths of the Gospel; discover the wisdom Christ has given to his Church. Talk to the priests, deacons, and/or religious in your parish. Find out about the different religious communities. Visit websites on discernment or different religious communities. Explore the issues confronting the Church today.
LOVE - Do not be ashamed to practice your faith and develop a deep love for the Church, the way Jesus loves her. Do not be afraid! Get to know priests and/or religious in the area and see how they did it.
ASK - Again, talk to your parish priest(s), deacon(s) or members of religious communities - nuns or brothers - to help in your discernment. They can lead you to the Vocation Director who can also assist you in your discernment. Seriously ask yourself whether you should be a priest or religious, and see if there are any genuine reasons for saying no.
COME AND SEE - Get involved with different events offered by your parish and the Vocation Office. The Vocation Office hosts monthly discernment gatherings and a discernment retreat once a year. It is good to be with others who are also searching like you. Opportunities are available for young men to visit a seminary for a weekend to see what it's like.
After doing all these things, see what signs you recognize from God. Where is your heart? What brings peace and joy? What is your deepest love?