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Screening and Application

The screening and application process can seem overwhelming at first glance. Please know that Fr. Walsh and our vocation office will assist you during the entire process.

The Initial Screening Process  |  The Application Process  |  The Post-Acceptance Screening Process  |  FAQ’s

The Initial Screening Process

The screening process begins before a man applies for entrance to a seminary. Potential candidates must demonstrate an appropriate level of maturity and an understanding of the commitment that priesthood entails. Of particular interest to the diocese are areas such as: family of origin, education, socialization, psychosexual history, spiritual life, social life, vocational history, debt issues, physical and emotional health, and canonical issues. Through discernment group meetings, various discernment activities held at St. Isaac Jogues House, retreats, diocesan events and discussions withWith Fr. Anthony Ligato, potential applicants are screened. The decision to proceed to the application process is a mutual decision between the candidate and Fr. Anthony Ligato.


The Application Process

The application process to become a candidate for priestly formation (seminarian) involves submitting an application package which includes the following.

Application form – The applicant provides information including family history, educational background, military experience, employment history, health history, and vocational history.  Three essays are also required which discuss personal gifts, a personal account of the applicant’s life and spiritual life.

Graduate school, college and high school (if not yet graduated from college) transcripts – Transcripts verify the applicant’s degree, give evidence of his intellectual ability and help determine his readiness for graduate-level theological study.

Four interviews with members of the Vocation Board – The members of the Vocation Board (Bishop Sharfenberger, three vocation directors, priests, religious and laity) provide additional evaluations of the applicant.  The interviews with four board members last approximately one hour each.

Four Letters of Reference (including one from his pastor) – Each reference is asked to complete a questionnaire regarding the applicant’s competence, emotional maturity and relationships with other people.

Certificates and documents – The applicant must provide certificates for Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and parents’ marriage.

Psychological testing and evaluation – Applicants complete a battery of psychological tests and interviews.  A clinical history, psychosocial history, psychosexual history and clinical interview of alcohol and drug history are completed for each applicant.  Additionally, the following tests are administered: John Hopkins University Test for Alcoholism, projective tests, Rorschach Ink Blot Test, Clinical Multiaxial Inventory III (Millon), Travistock, Spiritual Inventory and Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST). Each applicant is interviewed by licensed psychologists familiar with the qualifications and demands of the priesthood.  A comprehensive psychological report is submitted to the Vocation Board.

Criminal background check – A professional firm is employed to conduct a complete background search of the applicant.  Driver license check, employment credit report, social security trace, sex offender check, and county, state and federal criminal searches are among the information gathered.

Letters of release – Four letters of release are required of the applicant so that medical and psychological information can be shared with the Vocation Board and seminary.

Photo – A recent photo of the applicant is required.

Physical examination A complete physical examination is required of the applicant by a physician of his choice to assure that his physical health is adequate for the rigors of seminary studies and the life of a priest.    

Contact with former seminary, religious community or diocese – If an applicant has ever applied to, been accepted or rejected by, or been dismissed from another seminary, religious community or diocese, he must permit the release of all relevant information concerning his departure from the previous program.  The previous diocese, religious community or seminary will be contacted for pertinent written information and oral conversations with the appropriate institutions.

Contact with former employers – Former employers are contacted to determine the character of the applicant.

Once all of the above information has been gathered, it is presented to the Vocation Board for evaluation.  After careful review and discussion of the data, the Vocation Board makes a recommendation to the Bishop for or against admitting the applicant as a candidate for priesthood.

There is no way to predict or ensure an individual’s future behavior in advance.  However, the diocese’s application process aims to gather sufficient information to determine that a man has the character, background, maturity and abilities to begin preparation for priesthood.

The Post-Acceptance Screening Process

The initial screening and application processes are vital but represent only the beginning of an ongoing assessment of the seminarian.  Each seminarian is observed and evaluated on an ongoing basis for the entire duration of their seminary training (4 to 6 years following college).  For example, following each year of seminary study, faculty and supervisors submit a written evaluation of the seminarian to the Vocation Board.  Further, written evaluations of the seminarian’s summer assignments are also submitted to the board by the seminarian’s supervisor.

This annual review process provides an opportunity to either endorse a man’s continued preparation for priesthood or to indicate he is not suited for priesthood.

This lengthy screening and application process follows the directives of the Church, who asks that a candidate for priesthood demonstrate spiritual, physical and mental health in order to serve God’s people well.  The following is from the Program for Priestly Formation (#512, 513 and 517).


The Catholic Church requires that an applicant to the seminary “give evidence of an overall personal balance, moral character and proper motivation.  This includes the requisite human, moral, spiritual, intellectual, physical and psychological qualities for priestly ministry.”  Therefore, applicants must undergo a thorough screening process, including personal interviews, evaluations from pastors and others who know the applicant, review of academic records and psychological examination.

Screening and Application FAQs

Q. How long does the application process take?
A. Two months provides a comfortable time frame for one to complete the entire application process (Under ideal conditions, the application process can be completed in a shorter time period). 

Q. What happens after the application package is completed?
A. Once the application package has been fully completed and submitted, the application package is forwarded to the members of the Vocation Board who meet once a month (except July).  Generally, the board votes for or against admitting an applicant the month following receipt of the application package.

Q. When does an application need to be received?
A. Most seminarians begin a new year of study in late August.  Therefore, a completed application package should be submitted by the end of May of a given year in order to begin study in August.  An applicant could also begin study in January and, in this case, a completed application would need to be received by the end of November.

Other questions??   Send Fr. Anthony your question(s).


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