frequently asked questions

What is a vocation?

A vocation is a calling from God to do or to be something. It comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means to call.

How old do I have to be to join seminary?

Oscott College will accept seminarians as requested by dioceses at any age; some of our seminarians are still teenagers and some are well into their 60’s. However, some dioceses may have their own upper and lower limits for accepting candidates for the priesthood. Please contact your own diocesan vocations director to find out more.

Are there lots of rules to living in seminary?

This may depend on your perspective. There certainly are rules and most aspects of life at the seminary are governed by a timetabled or a process. This might not be a very big transition if you are moving from a family home, but it may be difficult to adjust to if you have lived independently for a long time.

Is it possible to join seminary without being accepted for a diocese first?

All seminarians accepted by Oscott College and any other seminary must be sponsored by a diocese or religious order. Just as it is not possible to be an ‘independent’ priest, it is not possible to be an independent seminarian.

Is it easy to leave seminary?

All seminarians are free to leave at any time. Of course, advise may be offered by the formation staff to help each seminarian to discern what God’s will and the Church’s will is for them, but each person remains free to choose. Each year some seminarians do decide that God is calling them elsewhere and to leave, this can be a source of joy when a man feels he has discerned God’s will for himself.

Is it possible to become a priest if you are married?

The long standing tradition in the Latin part of the Catholic Church is that priests do not get married but remain celibate for the Kingdom of God. In the United Kingdom there are priests who are married, but they have received a special dispensation from the Holy See because they were clergymen in Protestant churches prior to becoming Catholics and being ordained as Catholic priests.

Can seminarians stay in touch with friends and family?

Seminarians not only can but also are encouraged to stay in contact with friends and family whilst in the seminary. Very often they may live quite a distance away which might make regular face to face contact difficult, but there are no restrictions placed on outside contact. Perhaps one minor exception to this is during the retreats and days of recollection where seminarians are expected to keep silence and switch off all electronic devices! Silence for the sake of communication with God is never a wasted sacrifice.

How academic is seminary formation?

During the ‘typical’ 6 year formation programme here at Oscott the seminarian will be expected to take two degrees; one accredited by University of Birmingham and a second accredited by the University of Louven in Belgium. All of this teaching and learning takes place in house. Academic formation is important, but it is not the most important aspect of formation. Therefore individuals will always be treated as individuals in recognition that men arrive at Oscott from all sorts of different backgrounds and abilities.

I have Dyslexia, does that matter?

Quite a few seminarians at Oscott college have dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. We don’t see formation like a sausage factory where one way suits all; rather, many methods of learning and extra help are available from on-site staff. People who have struggled at school and college quite often find they enjoy study in the seminary.

I'm thinking about priesthood, what should I do?

Not many people think about becoming a priest. If you are thinking about it then that in itself is a sign that God could be calling you to the priesthood. Do not be afraid of where the Lord might be calling you! Discerning your vocation can be challenging, that’s why we have put some helpful information together to help you discover where God might be calling you.

How can I be a priest? I am not worthy.

The only worthy priest is Jesus Christ, the High Priest. Every other priest is unworthy, just as every baptised christian is unworthy of the free gift of being made into an adopted child of God. None-the-less God still calls and we must listen to that call and take it seriously. If you are worried that your sinfulness might bar you from priesthood then the best thing to do is speak to your Diocesan Vocations Director candidly. You may well find that he will remind you that even many of the Church’s greatest saints often had very colourful lives before their conversion.

Will I have to share a room?

Seminarians at Oscott each have their own room, most of which are on-suite.

What is the devotional life like at Oscott?

The house follows a timetable for each day which includes regular prayer but the seminarians also organise many other times for prayer amongst themselves throughout the week. This includes daily Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daily Holy Rosary and occasional night vigils.

I'm thinking of being a priest, can I come and visit the seminary?

We at Oscott are always happy to welcome those discerning a vocation the priesthood.  The best way to arrange such a visit is through your Diocesan Vocations Director. If you live in the Archdiocese of Birmingham regular discernment weekends are held at the college already – Fr Michael Doleman would love you to join one!

What are the requirements of becoming a priest?

To become a priest the Church looks for qualities of a man who could serve as a priest in a parish. These qualities include faith, a desire to grow in prayer and lead others in prayer, leadership, compassion, a heart for service, ability to preach and teach the Sacred Scripture and the Catholic Tradition, and a healthy lifestyle and positive relationships.

What does the process of formation involve?

The Program for Priestly Formation involves growth in four areas: spirituality, human, intellectual, and pastoral. How this looks for each individual might be a quite different. The seminary program involves many opportunities to grow in prayer, healthy relationships, self-awareness, self-care, academic study, and pastoral experiences. Seminary is much more than academic study. Seminarians are being formed into priests who joyfully live the promises of obedience, celibacy, and simplicity.

Why does seminary take so long?

The majority of seminarians spend 6 years in formation at Oscott College. Many of these spend a year prior on a propaedeutic programme. Others often spend pastoral and discernment years in their dioceses. This may seem excessive but two things must be remembered. 1) At ordination the priest makes a commitment of his whole life to a highly counter cultural way of life in our secular society – it is not to be taken lightly! 2) The priesthood is more important and of greater dignity than any other ‘job.’ The priest is God’s chosen vessel for bringing His grace into the world.

What are the signs of a priestly vocation?

Everybody discerns God’s call differently, but if you have experienced some of the following then they are signs that He might be calling you to the priesthood. Have you thought about priesthood for a long time even when trying to put it to the back of your mind? Do you feel an attraction to the Mass and the liturgy? Have people suggested that the priesthood might be for you? Do you have the sense that God is asking you for something more in life? Have you been looking at discernment websites/materials? Do you have a strong desire to help others know the truth?

What about safeguarding?

Safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is taken seriously at Oscott College, both when vulnerable people visit and as part of the formation process for seminarians. Seminarians frequent regular classes to ensure that boundaries are clearly understood and applied on all pastoral placements.

Does the seminary pay me for being a seminarian?

Payment is not given to seminarians by Oscott College. This will be dealt with by your diocese. Similarly, your diocese will pay for your formation at Oscott and you will not be expected to pay any non-personal expenses while you are here.

Where will I be ordained?

Typically men are ordained as deacons in the seminary and as priests are ordained in their own dioceses.

When can I wear clerical dress?

Clerical dress is worn on formal occasions by seminarians who have been admitted to candidacy – typically in the fourth year. After ordination as deacon it can be worn at the individual’s choice.

Will I fit in at Oscott with my spirituality?

Oscott college’s staff and seminarians have a great breadth of spiritualities. There are charismatics and traditionalists. What matters is that we have a close and personal relationship with Jesus and a desire to become holy priests.

Do priests make vows?

Priests who belong to a religious order (e.g., Dominicans, Benedictine, Franciscans, etc.) take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Diocesan priests make two promises- celibacy and obedience. These promises are part of the ordination ceremony. It is also expected that diocesan priests will lead a life of simplicity consonant with the people they serve.

Will I be able to keep my mobile, laptop and car while at Oscott?

Yes, you can. However, don’t forget that it is expected that priests, and therefore seminarians, should live Gospel simplicity.

Do the seminarians do any work in the community?

One of the most important dimensions of formation is the pastoral dimension. Therefore weekly pastoral placements are an integral part of the formation process. This may take place in a hospital, school, care home, prison or RCIA programme. Additionally parish pastoral placements take place for one month every year in the seminarian’s home diocese. During the fourth year the seminarian will spend half a year in the parish on an extended pastoral placement.