Preparation for Orders

The preparation for Holy Orders is a long process. It begins well before seminary, as a man deepens his relationship with the Lord, and begins to wonder if He might be calling him to be a priest. Formal preparation begins with seminary—which for most of us, started five, six, or seven years ago. Here, endless hours were spent in the classroom, exploring pastoral opportunities, learning to minister and celebrate the sacraments, and above all, developing a close relationship with the Lord in prayer. Though we are not even close to perfect, at the same time, we are very different from when we first entered.

Leading up to ordination, however, the preparation intensifies. Here are some of the events that will occur in the months before ordination:

Application for Orders. During his time in seminary, the seminarian has been discerning whether God is calling him to the priesthood. At the same time, the Church, too, has been discerning the man’s vocation—just as it takes two people to consent to a marriage, orders requires both the seminarian and the Church to consent to the ordination. Each seminarian will meet with the faculty at the seminary about his preparedness for the diaconate. If they determine that it is suitable, he is given permission to apply to his bishop for ordination. If the bishop feels he is fit and ready for orders, he will “call” the candidate to orders.

Prayer. The deacons-to-be send out formal requests to religious communities to pray for them as the ordination day approaches. Many of these communities respond with promises to do so. Furthermore, many family and friends throughout the world join in praying for them.

Fraternity Weekend. In the spring, the class takes a weekend together for a time of fraternity. It is a chance to enjoy each other’s company before everyone heads home for the summer. We have come a long way together, and truly appreciate the support we have received from each other over the years. Priestly brotherhood is something that should begin in the seminary, so we see chances like this as indispensable to our future ministry.

Summer Assignment. The deacon candidates return home for a final summer assignment before ordination. Usually, this is spent as a kind of “apprenticeship,” where the seminarian learns about the daily workings of a parish. This includes learning how to lead baptism and marriage preparation, understanding the basics of fiscal responsibility in the parish, visiting the sick and dying in hospitals, and developing his own leadership style.

Retreat. In the days immediately prior to ordination week, the class will take a silent retreat to prepare spiritually for the ordination. These quiet moments in prayer with the Lord are indispensable, and much appreciated in light of the coming pressures of ordination week.