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Frequently Asked Questions
How can I think I am worthy of a Church vocation?
This is a very common concern among people discerning life as priests, sisters, and brothers. The truth is that none of us is worthy of the vocation we have been given. If you think about it, none of us is worthy to speak the name of Jesus or call upon the Holy Spirit. We are sinners, and God knows this. It is precisely the Good News that God has conquered sin and death and has made us His people. It is completely God’s grace that allows us to answer His call. No, we are not worthy in our own power; we are worthy because God has made us worthy of His service. This is a beautiful, humbling, and vital truth realize.
How can anyone live with all the sacrifices it takes to follow the call?
It is true that God sometimes demands a great deal from those He calls to Church vocations, but to be honest He asks a great deal of everyone. The Christian life is difficult, but living it is amazingly rewarding. The same can be said for Christians who live as priests, sisters, and brothers. They live celibate lives, which come with challenges, but they discover beautiful new ways to love. They live simple lives, or even lives of poverty, but though they give up much, they receive so much more. The truth is that when we live in God’s will, we never truly go wanting.
My family is skeptical of my call to this vocation. What does that mean?
The answer to this depends on each person’s situation. The people in our lives can be good guides, and we should listen to the voices of those God has given us. However, people have many different motivations for saying what they do. Often our loved ones, especially family members, do not understand the beauty of a life lived in service of the Church. Many times the sacrifices required for living a celibate life of simple living may seem too much to ask. So, the voices around us need to be seen in context. If you cannot makes sense of someone’s input, the best thing is to take it to Spiritual Direction and prayer.
I am currently in a relationship, but may feel the call to a Church vocation, what should I do?
This happens more often than you might think. The most important thing is to be honest with your significant other about what you are discerning. Being in a relationship will typically not stop you from talking with vocation directors. You can talk about the basics of your discernment and even get a spiritual director. Many of the vocation retreats and reflections are reserved for single people, because usually those events are for people who are further along in the discernment. Still, you should keep communication open. You and your significant other may even be able to discern together.
Can I enter a Church vocation if I already have a career?
Many people enter Church vocations as a so called “second vocation.” People who come in from a career in the lay world offer a richness of experience to their communities and dioceses. There are sometimes age limits for entering, but these limits are set by the individual communities and dioceses.
On Diocesan Priesthood
How long does it take to be a priest?
In general, the process for the dioceses in the United States involves a 4 year graduate program in Divinity. Some people have to take a couple years of pre-requisites, some have to get an undergraduate degree, and some have to study for language proficiency; each of these processes adds extra time. Also, many dioceses require a pastoral year, which involves hands-on, in parish training. So given this, formation could take anywhere from 4 to 10 years. Candidates coming right out of high school or those without an undergraduate degree should be prepare for a longer formation. It is important to remember that it should take some real quality time to be trained to care for the souls of God’s people.
Do diocesan priests take vows?
No. Diocesan priests are sometimes called “secular” priests because they differ in their character from religious brothers. While they do not take vows, diocesan priests make promises to their bishop. They promise to be obedient to the bishop and his successors, to live as celibates for the sake of the Kingdom, to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Church faithfully and prayerfully, and to consecrate their lives to Christ the High Priest, shaping their lives to His.
Can you be a priest and a brother?
Yes. Communities of religious brothers have priests in their community, or are sometimes communities of priests only. In this life however, one is called to live their religious charism, but live it as a priest. However, not all brothers are priests. Consecrated men are a significant and necessary part of the Body of Christ, and are called by God to live their vocation as brothers for the good of the Church. In this way, both religious men and priests work together to build up the Kingdom.
How much do priests get paid?
The answer to this question varies from diocese to diocese, but the general rule is this: You will not get rich being a priest, but you will not go hungry. God’s people are incredibly generous, and they love their priests. If you feel called to diocesan priesthood, money should not be a deal breaker. Trust in God; He will not leave you wanting.
Do diocesan priests get to have a community?
Community for a diocesan is different than it is for a religious. The priests of a diocese are all brothers, working together for the good of the diocese (often alongside the religious order priests who live and work in the diocese). Priestly fraternity, or the sharing, fellowship, and support of one’s priest brothers, is a beautiful and vital part of the life of the diocesan priest.
On Religious Life
How long does it take to be a sister, brother, or religious priest?
Different communities have different processes. However, in general there are three stages to formation. First, there is postulancy, where one inquires with a community to see if he or she is called to that community. Formation begins with novitiate, where the novice learns about their community, their history, charism, ministry, spirituality, and rule of life. At some point the candidate will take vows. There are simple or temporary vows – which have to be renewed every so often – and there are perpetual or permanent vows – which are for life. The particular community will have their candidate go through some formation during these stages. Some communities have a few years of formation before perpetual vows, some have as many as nine or ten years, depending on the ministry and needs of the community. In addition, men who study for priesthood along with their community formation will have a longer formation time because of the requirements of priestly formation.
Do religious get to have a life?
Absolutely! The call of religious life is to live as an example for the world of a truly fulfilled life. So in this sense, “having a life” is the whole point of entering a religious community. Brothers and Sisters, depending on the character and charism of the community, may be found working in various industries, going out together to have fun or celebrate, going to the movies, seeing their own personal friends, caring pets, and doing all sorts of other activities. These activities are part of a balanced life that shows the world a certain way to live in God’s will with joy and vibrancy. Now, some communities live more contemplative lives. Even for these Sisters and Brothers though, their cloistered living is an expression of their life. They are fulfilled by this quieter more solitary life, and this is a gift for them, and for the Church.
Do you pray all the time?
Prayer is the central function of religious life. The prayers of Brothers and Sisters sustain the Church and fill us with God’s grace. Still, any balanced life must include other human activities. The amount of formal prayer in a religious’ life will depend on the character and charism of their community. You can find communities that spend most of the day in prayer and some who come together as a community to pray once a day. Prayer however is a part of every religious’ day. Through their formal prayer (the Liturgy of the Hours for instance), informal prayer, and the way they interact with God’s people, the whole life of the Sister or Brother becomes a prayer.
What is the deal with the habit?
The clothing or uniform that many communities wear is called a habit. This serves as a witness to the world of their way of life, as a reminder for the religious man or woman of the life they have undertaken, and as a way of differentiating the different communities. The habit has changed and developed over the 2000 years of the Church, and it continues to up to today. Whether a community has a habit that covers them head to toe, has a modified habit that looks more like lay clothing, or has other articles to distinguish them, each community has something (a veil, an emblem, a medal, a particular color) that tells the world who they are and expresses their charism.
Do all religious get along with their brothers/sisters?
Religious life is real life. For anyone living in real life there are joys and challenges to living in community. While it might be naïve to say that every religious community lives without friction, there are processes in every community designed to facilitate the unity of that community. So, problems that may arise between brothers and sisters can be worked out in Christian charity and love. Thus, the members involved, and the community at large, can be enriched by the experience. Furthermore, one should never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit and the unifying force of a common ministry in the life of a community.
Can I still visit my family?
Yes. Some communities allow more time away than others, but every community wants their members to maintain a connection to their family ties. Our family so profoundly influences the person we are that to separate ourselves from it would be to split ourselves. This is not desirable. So, have no fear (and let you family hear this too); you will not be cut off from those you love.