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Anyone considering a vocation to the priesthood would naturally wonder what seminary life is like. Is it like being in a monastery? Would I be able to get out and about? What if I come to realise it is not for me? What are the rooms like? Would I be able to have friends and family come and stay? Can I take my mobile phone? Will I have access to the Internet? These are all valid questions that need answering.
IS SEMINARY LIKE A MONASTERY?
A monastery and a seminary may be similar in some things but they are not the same thing! The seminary staff and the seminarians themselves all live together in community. They typically pray together and eat together for at least one meal during the day, but that’s it apart from the more formal arrangements surrounding studies and assessment.
Each seminary also has a structured way of life or a ‘Rule’ as St. Benedict called it for his monasteries. It is devised around the Four Pillars of Formation laid out by Blessed John Paul II that are considered in the next section. The ‘Rule of Life’ at the seminary is designed to help the community run smoothly but also aid in the formation of the seminarians. A regular programme of common prayer, meals, academic classes, ministry and formation helps the community to grow as Christian men and discern God’s will for their lives. Being open to the way of life is part of the process of discernment and allows God to form us as he wants us. It also teaches us a lot about ourselves as well as each other.
That being said, each seminarian is also encouraged to have personal time/space for recreation and social interaction. In addition the community often come together in a social aspect for football tornaments, theatre outings, quiz nights etc. You won’t necessarily get that at a monastery!
WOULD I BE ABLE TO GET OUT AND ABOUT?
Seminary is not a prison. Often seminarians are encouraged to go out and get some personal space, discover the local area etc. Every seminary has a ‘day off’ where the seminarians are free to do as they please. Most usually start off with a lay in! But even on the day off, it is important to keep to the rule of daily prayer.
It is possible to take up activities suitable to the life of a future priest as long as they do not distract from the Rule of Life and hinder the discernment process.
WHAT IF I COME TO REALISE IT IS NOT FOR ME?
The important thing to remember is that every man that walks through the door of a seminary is there to do one thing, discern what God is asking of him. From the moment you step through the door of the seminary you have to remember ‘This is what God asks of me right now. I trust that why I am here is for my own good and serves my baptismal call to hoilness. Thy will be done.’
People leave seminary for numerous reasons and some even return at a later stage. There is no shame in making the personal choice to leave. If anything, it shows integrity an humility to recognise that the priesthood is not the right way once you have entered seminary. Your seminary experience will leave you a richer person.
WHAT ARE THE ROOMS LIKE?
A good environment is essential to the discernment process. All the seminaries provide seminarians with reasonable standards of rooms. Each seminary is different in what they can offer, for example, not all have ensuite facilities, but at a basic level they are comfortable.
At a minimum you would be provided with a room furnished with a bed, a desk, a chair, a bookshelf, a wardrobe, washbasin and some form of curtains/blinds for the window. Most seminaries allow the seminarians to redecorate their rooms with prior approval. Most seminaries also allow you to have a television in your room provided you are sensible with its usage and have an appropriate license.
The residential hallways are areas which deserve special consideration. A seminarian’s room is one of the few areas where privacy and a home environment can be maintained. Seminarians often undertake activities in their room which require quiet, prayer, serious thought, study and sleep. Therefore, a real concern for developing an atmosphere of quiet should become an important consideration. Remember everything is at the service of discernment.
WOULD I BE ABLE TO HAVE FRIENDS AND FAMILY COME AND STAY?
It is important that a seminarian feels supported in what they do. All the seminaries usually have regular guest days where you can invite people to stay over. Seminaries usually recognise the importance of friends and family by holding gatherings throughout the year.
CAN I TAKE MY MOBILE PHONE?
Communication is an essential part of human life. Seminaries do not typically stop their students from owning a mobile phone. However the practicality of having a mobile phone will include issues such as cost and seminary location. You will need to pay the mobile phone bill yourself as a personal expense. Most seminaries have accessible landlines in accomodation areas to enable students to recieve calls.