Questions asked about Priesthood

What does a priest do all day?

What a priest does with his day is so varied and complex that only a few examples can be given here. Prayer, work, and leisure are all necessary for a healthy life. We try to make sure we have a balance of all these.
In the area of work (ministry), most diocesan priests work in a parish, although a few may be involved in specialised ministry such as hospital chaplaincy or youth ministry

A day in the life of a priest can be very unpredictable, but also interesting, challenging and fulfilling. Our ministry centres on meeting the needs of people: the sick, dying, young, old, angry, hurt, lonely, bereaved, hungry, excited, and happy. We share with them our understanding, encouragement, and support. We rejoice, cry and feel with them. Such events can be painful and rewarding, tiring and moving.

What personal qualities are needed to be a priest?

  • Someone who desires to grow in his relationship with God through prayer and service, who is caring and compassionate, warm and inviting, has a concern for people of every age, language, and walk of life, especially the poor and needy.
  • Someone who has leadership qualities and potential, who is self-assured while being respectful of other ministries and gifts in the Church.
  • Someone who is committed to the Church and its teaching and is open to serving the people of God in the Archdiocese of Wellington.

How important is prayer in the life of a priest?

Because we have chosen a way of life which says by its very nature that God is most important, prayer has a central role in our lives. Prayer is being with the Lord whom we love and is as necessary for us as communication is for any two persons who expect their relationship to continue. Can you imagine having a best friend to whom you never spoke?

Since prayer is so important, priests try to spend a significant amount of time in prayer every day. Part of that time is with others, at Mass and possibly in a prayer group or with other priests or parishioners.  Prayer at other times is alone, involving spiritual reading and in quiet contemplation/meditation. Probably the main benefit of prayer is that it makes us more sensitive to God’s activity in the people, events, and circumstances of daily life.

Is prayer always easy for a priest?

Definitely not! There are lots of times when we don’t feel like praying, just as there are times we don’t feel like doing other things that are basically important to us, for example, an athlete doesn’t always feel like practicing; a student doesn’t always feel like studying. However, in the cases mentioned, because the prayer, game or studies are important, we act on motives deeper than feelings, and persevere because we are committed to God and the people of God.

Our efforts aren’t always perfect, but we are so convinced of our deep need for God that we keep trying to pray, no matter how we feel. We believe that God sees and responds to our attempts to pray.

Do people act differently when they know you’re a priest?

Some people treat us differently because we are priests. However, we do not want to be respected or rejected just for our life-style, but this does occur at times.

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

We take one day off per week. Obviously, because priests are unique individuals, we won’t all choose the same types of recreational activity, and we don’t necessarily choose the same activity every time. Some of the more common choices are sport, movies, TV, reading, sharing with friends, enjoying the outdoors.

Do priests get paid?

Priests receive an allowance to pay for expenses such as clothes, books, entertainment and holidays. Basic necessities are provided by the parish where he serves.

The amount of money made by a priest is not really important. We have chosen to live simply, without accumulating a lot of material possessions, in order to enable us to focus our lives more easily on Jesus, and to serve the people of God.

What is the difference between a diocesan priest and a religious order priest?

A diocesan priest lives and ministers in a particular geographical area called a diocese, which is led by a bishop. He does not belong to a religious community or order.  He lives celibately and promises obedience to the bishop.  Through ordained ministry, a priest proclaims God’s word and celebrates the sacraments.

A religious order priest (such as a Marist, Dominican or Franciscan) is one who is a member of a religious community in the same way that brothers and sisters belong to a particular religious community.  Unlike a brother or sister, a religious priest celebrates the sacraments as an ordained minister.  He is not a priest of a particular diocese, but can be involved in a variety of ministries in many different places.

Why do men become priests?

A man becomes a priest because he feels he has been called by God. Many priests say that they always wanted to help people and that after much prayer and discernment they came to believe that they could do this as an ordained priest.  For them it was the way to respond to God’s love and to share God’s love with others.

How do you deal with the reaction of family and friends when you say you want to become a priest?

Most of us are fortunate in having families who encouraged us to do whatever would make us happy in life. They supported our choice without pushing us and in supporting us, asked probing questions that made us think more deeply about what we were choosing.

Our friends’ reactions varied a lot, from ridicule, to making bets on how long we’d stay, to refusing to talk about our choice, to quiet support, to high enthusiasm. Obviously, some of those reactions are hard to take from good friends whose opinion you value. Sometimes we were pretty discouraged about our choice because of the reaction of our friends, and were grateful for the ones who said, “Do what’s best for you.”

How long does it take to become a diocesan priest?

It generally takes about six and a half years from the time you enter the seminary.

How does a man become a priest?

Becoming a priest involves several stages. While these vary slightly depending on your life experience and previous study, the following stages generally apply:

  • Contact: A man who is interested in the priesthood, but still searching for the answer to the question “What does God want of me?” contacts his parish priest, or vocations director.
  • Accompaniment: After some initial chats and reflection about priesthood, a period of accompaniment occurs as the aspirant is guided by a priest in discerning the call to priesthood. This period usually takes at least one year. During this time he begins the process of interviews and meetings with the members of the diocesan vocations team. 
  • Seminarian: Priestly formation is undertaken at Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland. 
  • Transitional Diaconate: About 6 months to a year before ordination to the priesthood, the seminarian is ordained to the Transitional Diaconate (so named because the seminarian is in transition to the priesthood, and to differentiate from the Permanent Diaconate). The man makes promises of celibacy and obedience to his bishop.
  • Priesthood: After much study, reflection and prayer, the man is ordained to the priesthood by receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders.

What vows do diocesan priests make?

Diocesan priests do not make vows like religious order priests do. Diocesan priests freely make solemn promises of celibacy and obedience to their bishop.

Are priests ever sexually attracted to other people?

Yes, we are. Nothing happens to us at the time of entering the seminary that eliminates normal human needs, feelings, or desires. As celibate people, we choose to channel these feelings and express our love for others in the wide range of means other than those physical expressions that are proper to marriage.

Do priests ever wonder about marriage and children?

Yes, it’s only natural that at times priests consider the beauty of family life. However, we also recognise the beauty and happiness of our own life-style, and make a free choice to remain celibate for the reign of God.

Are priests superior to lay people?

No. Priests are not superior to lay people. All vocations are a gift from God and are equally valuable.

Can priests retire?

A retirement age from active parish ministry applies to priests, although when a priest retires from active ministry depends on health and other factors. We can retire from active ministry, but many are involved in part time ministry. We cannot retire from the priesthood and we do not retire from our love for people.

Why has there been a decline in the number of men entering the priesthood?

The reasons are many and complex. Some factors are the rapid pace of change in our world, the unwillingness of many to make a permanent commitment to any person or cause, the misunderstanding about the changes in priesthood in recent years, and the many opportunities for ministry now available to lay people.

What about all those stories of priests abusing children? 

Sadly, some priests have fallen short of the ideal of the priesthood, which is for a priest to be a pastor after the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd. The very small number who have fallen short of the ideal get much more publicity than all the others who have faithfully served the people of God and tried to have the mind and heart of Jesus.

Why is celibacy so important?

To underline the importance of what they “preach”, priests are asked to put their lives where their mouths are. That is what celibacy is about. It is a way of saying “what I want you to know about God’s love for you is so wonderful that I am prepared to stake everything for it.”

Do priests honestly enjoy their life?

We do! It brings us great satisfaction and deep happiness to work with people in the many ways we do. As ministers of the Good News we touch the very centre of people’s lives. Trying to communicate the fantastic love Jesus has for us, seeing others grab onto that love and live it, really keeps us going. Sure, there are times of discouragement, frustration, and fatigue. Everyone has those. But many priests will tell you that if they had their life to live over again, they would choose the same life.