How to Become a Catholic Priest

Three Methods:Entering the Clergy at a Young AgeBecoming a Priest Later in LifeRosary Prayer

Becoming a Catholic priest is a serious decision. If you feel God's calling and believe that a life of celibacy and devotion to God is for you, this may be the path you are meant to make. The life of a Catholic priest is a calling to serve God as well as those in need around you.

Method 1
Entering the Clergy at a Young Age

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    Meet the basic requirements. In the Roman Catholic Church, a priest must be male and unmarried. Many Eastern Catholic Churches will ordain married men, generally in their native country.
    • Although there are no formal requirements or bans, anyone with "homosexual tendencies" must generally "overcome" these for at least three years before ordination.[1]
    • You must be at least 25 years old to become a priest, but this is rarely an issue unless you complete your studies unusually early.[2]
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    Get involved at your parish. Before you even think about going to college or to the seminary, it's a good idea to get started helping out at your parish. The longer your history as a practicing Catholic in good standing, the easier it will be to enter the priesthood.
    • Get to know your favorite priest. Tell him your interests in joining the seminary and see if you can assist him during services or when he goes to visit sick members of the church or participates in area activities.
    • In addition to altar services, help out with singing and reading. Getting thorough knowledge of the books and hymnal will make everything much easier down the road.
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    Assess your beliefs. Becoming a priest is not a decision to take lightly -- it is a path that takes years to complete and is not for the faint of heart or belief. If you at all see yourself doing anything else, priesthood may not be for you. These sources of insight may help you make your decision:
    • Pray for God's assistance in discerning your situation.
    • Participate in mass regularly, developing a relationship with your parish's clergy.
    • Ask for advice from a vocational director or any trusted mentor within the church.
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    Attend college (recommended). A bachelor degree typically makes it easier to enter seminary, and reduces the length of seminary studies by a couple years.[3] A degree in philosophy or theology prepares you best, but a degree in any subject can demonstrate your dedication and ability.
    • While in college, get involved in your campus' ministry. Use this time to attend retreats, help other students, and connect with your new parish or diocese.
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    Enter a seminary. Apply to seminaries through your diocese or through the religious order. If at all possible, enter a seminary that awards a Master of Divinity, and is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (if you are in the US or Canada).[4] Ask your parish how to get started.
    • Every school has a different application process. You may need reference letters, proof of church involvement, a certain GPA, and a statement of interest, to name the basics.
    • The questions may cover physical health, emotional well being, conformity of behavior with Catholic tradition, and broad knowledge of Church doctrine.[5][6]
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    Excel in seminary school. In seminary, you'll spend your years studying philosophy, Latin, Greek, Gregorian chants, dogmatic and moral theology, exegesis, canon law, and church history, just to get you started. Program length varies based on prior education and the amount of time you can devote to it, but a typical student enrolls in four years of graduate-level theology, and zero to four years of undergraduate philosophy and/or spiritual years.[7]
    • You will also be attending retreats, conferences, and workshops as regular aspects of your training. You'll be guided on meditation and solitude and be given adequate time to hone your public speaking skills.[8]
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    Become ordained as deacon. After completing seminary, a bishop may call you to Holy Orders and ordain you to the ministry. You will now serve as a deacon for at least six months.[9]
    • Don't worry too much about whether you will be ordained. If there are issues that could prevent your ordination, you will likely discover them during seminary.
    • If you are not chosen to be a priest or you leave seminary early, you may be able to request a refund of the tuition. The response depends on seminary policy and your financial situation.
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    Enter the priesthood. Depending on your country's tradition, you may enter the priesthood after a relatively short term, or choose to remain as a deacon permanently.[10][11] There are multiple forms of priesthood, which you will learn about in detail during seminary:[12]
    • Diocesan priests serve the Church in a geographic area. This includes parish priests, chaplains, and religious teachers, among others. They promise celibacy and obedience.
    • Religious priests join the global community of a religious order or congregation, such as the Benedictines or Franciscans. These priests make formal vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, with some variation among different orders.

Method 2
Becoming a Priest Later in Life

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    Learn the requirements of specific communities. The Catholic Church does not set a maximum age on ordination. However, specific dioceses and religious communities do not accept applicants above a certain age. when there is a limit, this is usually in the range of 40 to 55 years.[13]
    • You must be male and unmarried. Widowers are accepted, but typically not within a year or two of the spouse's death. Divorcées must apply for annulment. Some Eastern Catholic Churches have different regulations, and (rarely) a married man ordained in another faith may convert and become a Catholic priest.
    • Homosexual tendencies and acts are judged on an individual basis, but generally make it much harder to enter the priesthood.
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    Consider your life experiences. Parishioners may feel more comfortable with an older priest who shares more of their life experiences. In particular, the priesthood needs individuals who demonstrate human, intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral qualities.[14] If you can demonstrate these qualities in at least one or two areas, you are much more likely to be accepted by a seminary, have your financial burden sponsored, and eventually become ordained.
    • Educational and career experience may help, but your personal life can be a source of strength as well. For example, teaching, providing emotional and spiritual guidance, or contributing to your community can all help prepare you.
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    Enter seminary. Seminary provides rigorous education at a graduate level, which may be daunting if your school years are deep in your past. Talk to mentors in the church to find seminaries that cater to older students.[15] You may also find a seminary specializing in counseling, teaching, or another area that fits your life skills.[16]
    • You may enter seminary without a bachelor's degree, but it will be more difficult to get in, and the length of your education will typically increase to eight years.
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    Become ordained. After you complete seminary, a bishop can ordain you into the Catholic ministry. You will first serve as a deacon for at least six months. After this service, you may be ordained as a diocesan priest serving a parish or other local area; or take vows and live in a religious community.

Rosary Prayer

Rosary in English

Rosary in Latin


  • The terms "vocation" and "discernment" may come in handy: A "vocation," according to the Church, is a calling. Everyone has a universal call to be holy, but each person in a different way--vocations include religious life, priesthood, single life, and marriage. "Discernment" is the life-long process of figuring out God's will through prayer and spiritual direction. Discernment takes a lot of patience.
  • You may suspect you are called to the priesthood shortly after conversion. This is not uncommon, but you may wish to talk with mentors in your church about the possible vocation.
  • You do not need to be 100% certain about your vocation to enter the seminary or novitiate.
  • Because of recent scandals, background checks are becoming more and more stringent. Your criminal record will be researched, with an emphasis on criminal sexual behavior.


  • The Catholic Church is a global institution with many traditions. It's best to speak to a local priest to find out more about this process in your region.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Catholicism | Occupations