Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Applying for Priesthood: Timetable

A couple of anonymous comments recently have asked about the timing of the Selection Conference. For example:
When is the cut off date for entry this this year to the seminary courses starting in September? My understanding is that there is an assessment weekend in London in April/May.
I thought it might be useful to explain the procedure for applying to the seminary.
Initial Contact
If you think you may have a vocation to the priesthood at some time you need to make contact with the Vocations Director of your diocese. If you don't know who he is you can either ask your parish priest (recommended) or get his details from the UK Priest site on the links bar (also recommended).
It is important not to delay contacting the Vocations Director. Amongst other things he has to process all your paperwork (baptism certificates, references, application forms and the like). This can take several months. He also has to get to know you sufficiently well to be able to give you a reference. All this takes time.
Formal Application
As you get to know each other better the question will arise naturally about making a formal application ormally this would be made by the end of the Christmas (Michaelmas) term. There are a number of important considerations here:
A student in his last year at university would be well-advised not to wait until after Finals before contacting the Vocations Director. If you apply too late it is unlikely that you will be able to start that same year;
Furthermore, you have to allow the Vocations Director time to get to know you;
Finally experience has led us to become more cautious about putting someone forward for the Selection Conference. If in the past there was a tendency to let a man go forward unless there were signs he didn't have a vocation, now most vocations directors would be looking for positive signs of a priestly vocation before sending someone to the Selection Conference. There are three reasons for this: 1. the Vocations Director's recommendation carries a lot of weight with the Selectors who presume he has done his job properly, 2. we would prefer to delay an application rather than have someone turned down, 3. it is not fair to admit someone to the seminary unless we are sure they show signs of a potential vocation.
The Selection Procedure
The last post was about what happens at the Selection Conference and I won't repeat that here. At Wonersh the Conference usually takes place some time in April. The paperwork has to be with the seminary several weeks, indeed about a month, beforehand. It usually takes at least a month for all the paperwork to come together (for example, references can be quite slow in coming in). Hence most Vocations Directors would like to make a start by the end of December and certainly not later than the end of January.
Apart from the Selection Conference there are various other interviews that need to be arranged. One of these is a psychological assessment. There are relatively few approved places where this can be carried out and they quickly get booked up in advance.
The Meeting with the Bishop
At the end of the process, after the Bishop has had time to receive and digest all the various reports there is in most dioceses a formal interview with the Bishop. At some point after this interview the candidate will hear whether or not he has been accepted and usually where the Bishop would like him to study. This interview may take place in May or even as late as June.
Starting Seminary
Depending on where you are sent, the term usually begins in September or October but new seminarians start early. Those who study abroad might also be expected to join the other new men for a language course in July or August.
Conclusion
I hope you can see from what I've said that it is very important not to delay contacting your Vocations Director. Don't leave things till the last minute. In my next post I'll let you know some of the things we offer in Southwark that give men thinking of priesthood a chance to explore without making any commitments and also give the Vocations Director and the Archbishop a chance to get to know you long before the deadline for making an application. Every diocese will be offering something but it's up to you to find out...

1 comment:

Mark said...

Father, it's incredibly propitious you should post this. I was thinking about these very questions, and then someone recommended I email you... did I maybe send you an email without knowing it!? ;-)

I am lead to believe there is a very similar set-up here, but am going to be talking to our Archdiocesan Director of Ordinands whom I happen to know.

I look forward to the next post too. I would like to know how to understand myself, how to measure 'readiness' in the future in a practical way.

Thanks again, Father.
Best wishes,
Mark