Students & Prospects
Common Concerns of Students and Prospects
The following concerns are common questions that people ask about priesthood.
A tri-fold brochure is also available with some of this information. It will open up with Adobe Reader.
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Most diocesan priests are parish priests. They celebrate Mass on Sundays and during the week with their people, hear their confessions, anoint them when they are sick, baptize and marry them, and pray for the dead. Priests preach the Word of God from the pulpit and teach it in classrooms and discussion groups. They listen to their people’s joys and sorrows and promote works of charity. They may work with groups of the elderly, with teen or young adult groups, and with parents.
A diocesan priest may also work full-time with the patients and staff of a hospital or with students in a high school or college as chaplain or teacher. He may be asked to work with inmates and staff in a jail or prison. Some priests are released from service in the Diocese in order to be chaplains to our men and women in the armed forces.
Basic to the ministry of any priest is preaching the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and being available to God’s people. It’s a busy, rewarding life that demands stamina and spiritual maturity.
Most people don’t really understand what the promise of celibacy is. They understand it in a negative sense as being unable to be married, to have marital relations, or to have children. Those things may be true, however that is an insufficient understanding of celibacy. It would be similar to understanding marriage as the inability to marry many people because you are committing yourself to marrying one. Well, we don’t look at marriage that way. We see marriage in terms of gaining a special relationship. The same is true of celibacy. Celibacy is about gaining a relationship with one person, the person of Christ.
Yes and no. No sensible person tries to live free of all responsibilities and obligations to others. Why has Christ set us free from sin and death? Certainly not to live a self-centered life. We have to make choices about how we will use the freedom we have.
In addition, because they want to serve God within the Church, diocesan priests make a formal promise of obedience to their bishop. Their personal integrity is on the line in this promise. It binds them to do what needs to be done, as seen through the eyes of the bishop who is responsible for the entire diocese; they renounce the exaggerated freedom to do always and everywhere what they like or want to do.
On the other hand, diocesan priests can testify that there is great freedom to be creative in the priesthood. Bishops rely on priests along with the laity to suggest necessary pastoral initiatives. A bishop also tries to match his priests with the work that needs to be done. Ordinarily, a priests ends up doing work for which he is well enough suited. The bottom line, however, is service, not pleasing oneself.
Yes, diocesan priests receive a modest salary from the parish or other institution they serve. Since priests are ordinarily provided with room and board and a limited expense account as well, their salary (which is taxable) is sufficient for their personal expenses. Out of it they buy their clothes, automobile, pay for personal expenses and contribute to the charities of their choice. While diocesan priests do not take the vow of poverty that religious order priests take, they are encouraged to live a simple lifestyle and to be generous to the poor. The black clerical clothes typical of priests constitute an outward sign of this modest life.
You’d better or your well will run dry! You cannot be a faithful priest, useful to the Lord, if you try to go it alone. You need the help and support of brother priests and other people but most of all you need God’s grace. You dispose yourself to receive His help by turning to Him frequently in prayer. The priests who are truly happy and effective among God’s people are the priests who are faithful to prayer.
Surprisingly, a diocesan priest must often fight for the time for personal prayer. He is often called upon to lead others in public prayer, especially the Mass and the other sacraments of the Church. These are genuine times of prayer for him as well as them — but like every Christian, the priest needs some time each day to spend alone with the Lord. His busy ministry sometimes makes this very difficult but it is something he must strive to keep fresh in his life, lest he lose sight of the One who called him to be a priest in the first place and the One who alone can sustain him.
The Lord took his apostles apart for some rest after they had worked very hard preaching and healing (Mark 6: 31-32). Diocesan priests work hard, too, and the Lord takes them apart from time to time to rest. In the Diocese of Syracuse, priests get one day off each week and have up to a month for an annual vacation. It is also wise for them to have special interests to turn to for relaxation in the course of a normal day of priestly work, just as they should find time for prayer.
Just as importantly, diocesan priests are asked to make an annual retreat in order to experience, in the calm and quiet of the retreat atmosphere, the loving presence of their Lord. These times of retreat are blessed times of spiritual renewal for the priest, just as they are for other believers.
The overwhelming majority of priests are extremely happy in their vocations! Why? Because they are doing what the Lord intended for their lives…for their vocation. Most priests will cite administering the Sacraments, preaching the Word, and helping people and their families as great sources of satisfaction. Ultimately, the source of happiness for any child of God is his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and the priest is given the privilege of acting in the person of Christ at key moments in the life of the Church. Studies consistently show that priests are very happy in their ministry, in far higher percentages than those studied in virtually any other life work. One recent and exhaustive study of the priesthood was done by Msgr. Stephen Rossetti (a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse!), who published his findings in the very readable Why Priests Are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests.
There are challenges in the priest’s ministry and there are struggles. However, in the end it is very satisfying to do the work of God!
The Diocese of Syracuse accepts candidates for the college seminary program and major-theologate (post-college seminary studies). There is no upper age limit. Each candidate will be considered individually.
There is a group of young men doing just that. They are part of a College-Affiliate Program where they continue their studies at the college of their choice, but remain connected with other young men from the Diocese of Syracuse who are discerning priesthood by making retreats and being part of days of reflection during Christmas and Summer breaks. Contact Fr. O’Connor for more information.
Common Concerns of Parents
The following concerns are addressed by priests of the Diocese of Syracuse and their parents
A tri-fold brochure is available with all of this information. It will open up with Adobe Reader.
When printing, you may need to select “Fit to Margins” in the Print Options, so that all of the text will be readable.
“Absolutely not! If anything, it draws a tighter bond between parents and son. Sunday afternoons I spend with my mother. We have dinner together with my siblings.” – Fr. John Manno
“No, you’re not! You’re going to have more of them, because all their friends become your friends too. They all came to our house and called us mom and dad.” – Mrs. Edna Scardell
“My relationship with my parents has grown stronger since I’ve become a priest.” – Fr. Greg Kreinheder
“Very much so! (Celibacy) . . . allows me to give my whole self to my ministry.” – Fr. Joseph Scardella
“I’m not unhappy. I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. The sense of fulfillment precludes any sense of loss. Marriage isn’t easy either.” – Fr. Michael Galuppi
“He’s happy in what he’s doing. We all have our challenges, but it’s a blessed life.” – Mr. Gary Kreinheder
“I really enjoy the families with children. I love kids and even though they’re not my own, I have a sense of being their father, to care for them. I love them dearly.” – Fr. Greg Kreinheder
“When I see him with the little kids around the altar and being with the confirmation kids, I think it’s as fulfilling as having his own. Instead of having just his own children, he has hundreds of children!” – Mr. Ken Galuppi
“If parents see their son happy and active, it may fulfill their desire.” – Fr. John Manno
“The joy I have in the fact that he’s called to be a priest supersedes the joy of grandchildren. I have other grandchildren too.” – Mrs. Kathy Kreinheder
“As for having grandchildren, he’s my only child, so it’s a loss. I’m not going to be experiencing (grandchildren). That void I fill with him, and the rest of the family, my nieces and nephews and all their children.” – Mr. Ken Galuppi
“It’s important to realize that it’s not an immediate commitment. I went to college seminary after high school, Wadhams Hall, the last graduating class (’02) before it closed. I had nine years to discern if this is a commitment I can make for life.” – Fr. Greg Kreinheder
“When you go to seminary, you don’t sign a bottom line to become a priest. It’s an opportunity to discern, and you have several years to do it. When couples are getting married, they might have an engagement of one or two years, and that’s a lifetime commitment. Seminary has excellent preparation for the vocation; your spiritual director, mentors, brother seminarians all help you discern; they ask tough questions and make observations.” – Fr. Michael Galuppi
“If the man is not sure, he can go to college and go on in the world and see if the call persists. One priest I know left seminary several times and came back several times and then came back and stayed. He knew nothing else would make him as happy. Nine years is a lot of preparation. They have time to discern.” – Mrs. Kathy Kreinheder
“I think the scandals will take some time for the (bad) image to fade. I was in seminary during the scandal, so I was in a sort of protective bubble. I wasn’t out on the front lines, taking the hits. Since I’ve been ordained, I haven’t seen the distrust. We are our own best self-advocates. We’re small in number, but we’ll be around for a long time. We do things like the Men in Black basketball game to help people see the priesthood in a different way.” – Fr. Michael Galuppi
“My experience has been that, while there is some sense of negativity that’s come about, the majority of people love their priests very much. If anything, it’s taken us down from that pedestal. We’re real people. I think the ‘diminished image’ calls priests to be respected not just for their title (of Father) but for giving their lives and serving as a priest.” – Fr. Greg Kreinheder
“You don’t look back on what’s been done, you make your own life and reputation.” – Mrs. Edna Scardella
“My parents said to me, ‘We want you to be happy, and if you want to be a priest, go for it, embrace it.’ I think many parents want their kids to get a good education and then get a lucrative job and be happy. We may need to let go of some expectations of what happiness is. Jesus said, ‘if you want to be the greatest, you have to be the least.’ There is real joy in service.” – Fr. John Manno
“If your son wants to be a priest, listen to him! And watch out – you’re in for a wild ride – but it’s wonderful. You’ll get to experience things you never would have otherwise. You’ll meet many more people, and more doors will open for you.” – Mr. Gary Kreinheder
“My role model was Father (William) Brown at Immaculate Conception in Fulton. Six vocations came out of his parish. I’m reading (Fr.) Steve Rossetti’s book, ‘The Joy of the Priesthood’ now, and I agree with him: if we want more priests, we have to have happy priests. Even if someone is not 100 percent sure, give it a shot! If you feel an inkling of a call, don’t be afraid to answer it. The unknown is always frightening, but when you put yourself at God’s disposal, wonderful things happen.” – Fr. Joseph Scardella
“Go to Mass every week. Say your prayers. Pray for them. My husband and I pray the Rosary.” – Mrs. Edna Scardella
“Pray! Pray for a vocation in your family. A family that prays and a good parish that prays is important.” – Fr. John Manno
“John didn’t go to Catholic school, but we went to Mass every Sunday and holy day. He was adamant about being an altar boy at age eight. I would say, encourage your children to be what they want, what will make them happy. If priesthood is what he wants, encourage him! I remember before John was ordained a deacon, I said, ‘Is that what you really want to do? Are you sure?’ and he said, ‘Yes,’ so we were behind him all the way.” – Mrs. Mary Manno
“It’s the parents’ responsibility to foster a relationship with Christ, who is the primary vocations Promoter. Also, parents need to teach by example.” – Fr. Greg Kreinheder
“Go to church every week and be active in parish organizations. Keep Christmas traditions. For us, Catholic school was important too.” – Mr. Ken Galuppi
“My dear young people, I wish to share a word about vocations. First of all, my thoughts go to your parents, grandparents and godparents. They have been your primary educators in the faith…Let us always appreciate that is it in families that vocations are given life.”
– Pope Benedict XVI, to seminarians and young people at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie), NY April 19, 2008.