Students & Prospects
What kind of work do priests do?
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.
Is celibacy difficult?
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.
Do you lose your freedom as a priest?
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.
Do you earn money as a diocesan priest?
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.
Do you have to pray a lot as a priest?
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.
Do priests get any time off?
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.
Are priests happy?
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!
How old do I have to be to enter seminary?
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.
What if I am not ready for seminary, but I want to continue discerning while at college?
There is a group of young men doing just that. They are part of the Fisherman’s Club which is an initiative sponsored by the Diocese of Syracuse that reaches out to young adult men who are thinking about the priesthood. Contact Fr. Hage for more information.
Where do I find information about the Permanent Diaconate?
Click here for information regarding the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Syracuse.