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Priest FAQ


Are priests happy in their vocations - in their lives and in their work for Christ?

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Most priests are happy in their vocations and fulfilled by their ministry.  A recent independent survey taken of diocesan priests in the Diocese of Toledo found the following results:

The priesthood is life-giving to me                                96.7 % ("strongly agree" or "agree")
I am fulfilled as a priest                                                 96.7
I would recommend the priesthood to a young man     90
I have a great assignment                                             91.8
I feel close to my brother priests                                  77.3
I have intimate friendships                                            91.1
I want to help foster vocations in my diocese              94.4

In a day and age when roughly 50 % of couples who enter into marriage wind up choosing divorce, the recent data regarding the state of priestly happiness and fulfillment is nothing short of astonishing.

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Do you get time off, and what do you do in that time?

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In the Diocese of Toledo a priest receives one day off each week and up to one month of vacation annually.  Obviously, because they are unique individuals, they will not all choose the same types of recreation or the same activity every time.  Some of the more common choices are sports, movies, reading, sharing with friends, TV, and enjoying the outdoors.  In addition, diocesan priests are required to make a five-day annual retreat, either alone or with brother priests.
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Do you have to be a virgin to enter the priesthood or consecrated life?

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While it is not an absolute requirement for a person to be virgin, if a preson has fallen, it is necessary that the person now be living chastely. He should properly order his passions and demonstrate by his actions his ability to live celibately.
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Do you lose your freedom as a priest?

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A diocesan priest makes a formal promise of obedience to his bishop.  This pledge of loyalty binds the priest to his bishop in a manner that ensures that the needs of God's people will be met.  Freedom in priestly life and ministry changes in a way that is not unlike children becoming a part of parents' lives. The best parents always take their children into account.  So, too, a priest considers others first when making decisions: namely, the people entrusted to his care, and his bishop who is responsible for the entire diocese.
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Does a priest earn any money?

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Diocesan priests receive a modest salary from the parish (or other Catholic institution) they serve. Ordinarily, priests receive room and board, limited professional expense reimbursement, and health care insurance. Thus, their modest salary is more than sufficient for their personal expenses. Out of it they buy their clothes, automobile (and auto insurance), vacation costs, taxes, and charitable contributions.

Diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty like religious order priests. Nevertheless, they are encouraged to live a simple lifestyle and be generous to the poor. The black clerical clothes typically worn by a priest are an outward sign of the modest standard of living that is proper to priestly life and ministry.

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How long does it take to become a diocesan priest?

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It takes four years after college or eight years after high school, the same as for many professions. There is no certain age to start preparing for the priesthood. Some people go to high school seminaries; others enter the seminary after high school, after college, or after they have been working for years.
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How often does a priest have to pray?

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Every day!  Prayer occupies a central place in priestly life and ministry.  Think for a moment of praying in terms of a close friendship.  Can you imagine not speaking to your best friend regularly?  A priest discovers that prayer - personal time with Christ Jesus - provides the source of strength, enabling him to be about the business of Heaven on earth.  The Church in her wisdom knows how vital it is for the priest to be a man of prayer.  One of the promises a priest makes at his ordination is to pray daily for God's people.

Of course it is not always easy to pray!  Just like an athlete does not always feel liking practicing or a student doesn't feel like studying, or a wage earner does not feel like working, so too there are times when a priest does not feel like praying.  Like parents who must rise in the night to care for their children, so too do priests receive the necessary grace to honor their commitment to pray. 
  

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Is prayer always easy for you?

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Definitely not! There are lots of times when we don't feel like doing things that are basically important to us; for example, the athlete doesn't always feel like practicing, a student doesn't always feel like studying, the wage earner doesn't always feel like working, etc. However, in all the cases mentioned, because the activity in which we participate is important, we act on motives deeper than feelings, and do what we know need to be done.
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What about personal debt; do I have to pay off all my bills before I decide to enter into the priesthood?

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The most common mistake is to hold off making a decision about your vocation until you have paid off all your bills. Although dioceses and religious orders vary in their policies, you need to make a firm commitment in favor of your vocation. Be resolute and passionate about hearing God's voice in our noisy world. You will discover that as soon as you make the decision to clarify God's calling, your needs will change along with your spending and saving habits.

The key is to say "yes!" to God and to yourself. Wish no more than this: to do God's will. Then, make it so in your life.

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What does a priest do all day?

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A priest labors each and every day to build bridges between Heaven and earth.  He brings God to people and people to God.   Every day is different and brings with it new opportunities to make real contributions in lives of people and families and advance God's Kingdom.

In the Diocese of Toledo most priests work in one of our 159 parishes.  Priests celebrate Mass daily and administer the Sacraments regularly: hearing confessions, anointing the sick, baptizing the young and old, witnessing marriages, burying the dead and comforting those who mourn.  Priests preach God's Word from the pulpit, teach God's ways in the classrooms and extend God's mercy to all whom they encounter.  It is a busy, varied, rewarding life that demands physical stamina, mental discipline and spiritual maturity.

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What if I feel unworthy to be a priest?

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You are in good company!  No one is actually "worthy."  We do not earn God's call.  Jesus said, "It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last." (Jn. 15:16)  With the call comes the grace to respond generously and wholeheartedly and to enter a lifelong transformation into likeness to Jesus Christ.
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What if I have made mistakes in my life?

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A man need not be a saint to be a priest, though a priest ought to desire to become one.  The ability to seek God's forgiveness and the capacity to accept divine mercy demonstrates growth in holiness.  Simply put, some mistakes are more serious than others.  A spiritual director is often of great assistance to help a man discern his readiness for priestly life and ministry.
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What is the difference between a brother and a priest?

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A brother is a layman who commits himself ot Christ by the vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience; who lives in a religious community, and works in nearly any job: teacher, cook, lawyer, etc. Brothers are not sacramental ministers.
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What is the difference between a diocesan priest and a religious priest?

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A diocesan priest belongs to a body of priests (called a presbyterate) who are members of the same diocese and, therefore, under the leadership of the same bishop. The Diocese of Toledo serves over 330,000 Catholics living in the 19 counties that collectively form the northwest quadrant of Ohio.

A religious order priest belongs to a specific congregation or community that is bound together by a common mission. Unlike diocesan priests, religious order priests take a vow of poverty and do not own items individually. Most often, religious order priests specialize in a certain type of ministry, such as education, social services, health care or foreign missions.

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Will I have to give up friends and family in order to follow a call to priesthood or consecrated life?

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No. In fact, friends and family are a very important support for priests, sisters, and brothers.  They are encouraged to take part in family celebrations and events and to find ways to support family members through their prayer and presence.  However, the demands of the People of God or a religious community get priority in terms of your time and energy.  In this sense, you "let go" of family and friends.  Remember Jesus' promise in the Gospel according to Matthew:  "And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life."  (Mt. 19:29)
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