Q. I know that a person must be a Catholic, a male, and unmarried to be ordained a priest. What else is required for ordination?
A. The Church teaches that, for sacramental validity, a baptized male is able to be ordained to the sacred orders of deacon, priest, and bishop. To be ordained a priest in the Catholic Church, a man must ordinarily be at least 25 years old, have completed appropriate seminary training, and already been ordained a deacon.
A man should only be ordained when he freely chooses to become a priest, without undue coercion or pressure. He must demonstrate maturity, psychological and physical health, and a capable intellect.
Ordinarily, in the Roman Catholic Church, a man must be unmarried in order to be ordained a priest. However, in the Eastern Catholic Churches—for example, the Ukranian and Byzantine Catholic Churches—married men may be ordained priests. And in certain circumstances, such as when married Anglican pastors convert to Catholicism, married men may be ordained priests in the Roman Catholic Church. The tradition of being unmarried, or celibate, dates back to the earliest days of the Church’s history. The Roman Catholic Church maintains that tradition, because unmarried priests are free to give themselves fully to the needs of Catholics, without any encumberances or obligations. In every part of the Catholic Church, no priest is eligible to be ordained a bishop unless he is unmarried.
The ordinary requirements of seminary training involve personal, intellectual, pastoral, and spiritual formation. This usually involves six to eight years of philosophical and theological study; regular participation in the Church’s sacramental life, experience in pastoral settings, and spiritual direction.
Above all, the Church says, for a man to be ordained, he should posses true faith, which is the animating principle of his life, and he must have a zeal for souls—he must be willing to make many sacrifices, in charity, for the salvation of every single soul. Becoming a priest means becoming a servant, and leader, for a whole community. It is a great privilege, and a great responsibility. The Church invites young men to prayerfully consider whether they might be called to priesthood—and invites all Catholics to encourage young men to consider this holy vocation.
As young men in our diocese prepare for priestly ordination, may we all pray for their souls, and for their sacred ministry.
Write to Ask the Register online or at 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.