What is seminary life like?

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My application for seminary formation was officially accepted July 4, 2016, and I received a phone call from Father Joel D. Jaffe, then vocations director, to congratulate me. God willing, nearly six years from that date, I will be ordained a priest.

While six years of seminary may seem like a long time to someone on the outside, every one of those years is needed in the formation of a priest. Not having an inside perspective, many people are curious about what happens in seminary, and the question that I have been asked most is, “What is seminary life like?”

I wish the answer was as easy as laying out a very detailed and often very full calendar of events, but it isn’t.

In many ways, life in seminary is easily compared to college life (or graduate school), with one overriding exception: everything is done with the priesthood in mind. We are in formation to become healthy, happy and holy priests so that we can live the call that God has placed on our hearts. We study so that we can come to know and love God and better serve his church; we play sports and celebrate, and we read to grow as well-rounded men of God; and most importantly, we pray to grow our union with God.

Much of our time is spent in class, working on assignments and preparing for exams. The academic schedule fills much of our time and for good reason — we have a lot to learn. We also share meals together, play sports, celebrate together at house parties, form book clubs, have movie nights and more.

Our years in seminary, and the summers in between, also include pastoral assignments at parishes, schools, nursing homes and other ministries. This year, I am teaching CCD to second-graders at a parish near the seminary. Every week, I get to join a parish full of joyful volunteers in the formation of the church’s youths, all of whom are eager to learn and are brimming with enthusiasm. Few things have been more confirming to my vocation than these opportunities to walk in the life of the priest.

Through it all, the most essential thing that our lives should be founded on, ordered around and shaped by is prayer. Nothing is more central to the path to the priesthood than the seminarian’s life of prayer. Through prayer we discover our vocation, we are drawn to pursue it, and we continue to be formed as future priests. Because of this, we attend Mass daily, we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we pray the rosary, we pray a Holy Hour, we pray through the Scriptures. No matter what — we pray.

This the life of a seminarian. And while the journey to the priesthood is always unique to each individual who is called, it is always shared by our brothers walking along the path. Keep us in your prayers, and please be assured, we are praying for you.

Witherow, who is from Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville, is in his first year of theological studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. 

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018