Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know God is calling me to be a priest?

It is never simple to know what God wants for us. Usually, He does not give us a grand sign like a burning bush or knocking us over with lightning. Generally, God’s will comes to us in quite moments of stillness – moments of reflection and prayer. If you are attracted to church and enjoy being at Mass and celebrating the sacraments; if you find the idea of helping others through service gives you a good feeling; if being involved in your faith life has brought you joy, then these are good signs that God might be calling you to a life of deeper service in the Church. Prayerful discernment is the key.

Isn’t the life of a priest lonely?

Priests promise a life of celibacy. Simply put, this means that a priest does not marry. Therefore, one of the sacrifices of priesthood is the blessing of a family. However, the priest’s life is not one of constant loneliness. Because it is a life of service, priests are around people most of the time. In his ministry, a priest is invited into the lives of his people at key moments – birth and baptism, marriage and family, suffering and death, joy and sorrow. God blesses the priest with the gift of the family of faith.

What does a priest do, other than celebrate Mass on Sunday?

A priest’s life is pretty busy. During the week, he can do everything from visit the sick in hospitals, homes and nursing homes, talk to school kids in class, respond to e-mail, make sure the heating bills are paid, celebrate daily Mass, to prepare a weekend homily, attend parish meetings and counsel those who need help. In addition to the “business” of the parish, priests also get time for themselves – to relax, read, play sports, vacation, and many other things that everyone else gets to do.

Do priests really take a vow of poverty?

That depends on what sort of priest one is. The common promises of all priests are prayer for the People of God, celibacy, and obedience (to one’s bishop or superior). In addition to that, priests of religious orders often take a vow of poverty in which they give up personal possessions as a way for freeing themselves from these cares and in imitation of the poverty of Christ.

Diocesan priests (most parish priests here in Baltimore) do not take this vow. However, they are expected to maintain a certain simplicity of life as a way of helping themselves be focused on what is truly important: service to God’s People, the Church.

Diocesan priests receive a basic salary and can own things like cars, clothing and iPods – although these things should not be sought after to be accumulated. It is possible for our possessions to possess us, so we must always be aware of how we live and what that says to others about the life of the Gospel.

What is the difference between a diocesan priest and one of a religious order?

Diocesan priests belong to a diocese – that is, a geographical area comprised of parishes and people and headed by a bishop. They promise respect and obedience to their bishop so as to cooperate with him as a minister to the people. Diocesan priests generally stay in their diocese, but may be sent elsewhere for a time by their bishop for the good of the Church. Usually, diocesan priests live in the parish rectory and can live with other priests in the parish or alone.

Religious order priests belong to a particular community that follows the teachings and model of their religious founder. As noted above, they take vows that follow the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. They also live in community, together with other members of that religious order. In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, there are many religious orders serving our local church, such as the Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Josephites, Redemptorists, and many more.

As a priest, will I get to see my family?

Since diocesan priests serve their local community, if one’s family is local it is very easy for them to visit and spend time with their families. However, even if one’s family is not local, priests get the opportunity to visit with them on breaks, days off and/or vacations. So, yes, you do get to see your family.

Religious order priests can be sent anywhere the order deems they should go. It is harder for them to regularly see their families, but they still have opportunities to do so.

Will I be happy as a priest?

Yes! Priesthood is a life of joy and service. If God has called you to this life, then He will help you find happiness in your vocation. If you are not called to Priesthood, then you will probably not be happy. It’s the same with marriage: if you are not called to be will a person and you marry them, then you will probably be miserable. The key is prayer and discernment. There will, of course, also be challenging days and times. These are part of any vocation. Again, prayer is key. Also, having good friends to share struggles with is helpful in navigating these tough times. Struggle is part of life, but God wants us to be happy – and that is an encouraging thought!

How do I become a priest?

Men become priests through a process called “formation.” This is a period of study, prayer and preparation that is guided by those trained to do so in seminaries. Our “Formation Program” page has in-depth information on this process. Generally, the process takes six or seven years, depending on when one enters the program.

Are there requirements to apply?

Yes, there are a few:

  1. Residency – a candidate should be familiar with the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Generally, to serve the people here in the diocese it is helpful to have spent some time with them here. Candidates should be American citizens or at least have a student visa issued by their own country to begin the program.
  2. Age – a candidate should be no older than 50 years. While God can call at any time, this requirement is a practical one to ensure the proper amount of time for formation, as well as to assure that the candidate is physically healthy enough to carry out ministry for a significant time before retirement eligibility.
  3. Education – a candidate should have graduated high school or have a G.E.D. before acceptance into the program. A college degree is generally necessary to begin theological studies, but this can be accommodated in most cases.
  4. Health – a candidate should be in good physical and emotional heath before acceptance. The rigors of ministry can place both physical and psychological strains on a priest, so he should be able to manage these stresses. During application, a candidate is required to undergo both a physical exam and a psychological evaluation.

The Office of Vocations is happy to answer any questions one might have about Priesthood in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. We can be reached at 410-547-5426 or