Fr. John Henderson
Fr. John Henderson
During this season of gift giving just passed, we took time out to reflect on God’s great gifts to each and every one of us. A vocation is one of the greatest gifts from God. Marriage, the union of two people is a gift. Living a life of poverty, chastity and obedience as a religious sister or brother is a gift. Remaining a single lay celibate is a gift. And of course being ordained to the clergy is a gift.

God calls and it is the Church who verifies the call. It is more than just a mere feeling. If marriage is just a feeling one has, the union will never last. If it is just a feeling to be a priest, it will never last. It is true that there is a stirring in the heart of each individual, a desire, “I want to be a Benedictine or Dominican etc.,” “I want to be married,” “I want to be a priest.” The Church, however, says “Yes, this marriage is truly a call from God,” or “Yes, this man is called to be a priest."

I want to focus on what an applicant for priesthood must do in order to be accepted by the Archdiocese of Portland.

First, the applicant must be a member of a particular parish and involved in parish life. Attending Mass and building strong relationships is important. The pastor must give his recommendation that this person would be a good priest.

Second, the applicant must fill out an application which includes an autobiography as well as two articles: "What does priesthood mean to me?" and "Why do I want to be a priest?" If the applicant is from another country, then he is asked to write a third article, namely, "Why do I want to come to the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon?"  With this application, he must turn in his entire academic history. He also must show that he was baptized and confirmed.  

Third, the applicant must see to it that several individuals beside the pastor write letters of recommendation, indicating that the man is suitable for priesthood.

Possible individuals include a teacher, a friend, an employer and even a parent.

Fourth, the applicant has a complete physical as well as an extensive psychological evaluation from a qualified psychologist. The psychologist gives several tests as required by the archdiocese. He also reports on the applicant's sexual history and his ability to live a celibate life.

Fifth, the applicant has an interview with the vocation director as well as each member of the admissions committee. He also has an appointment with the archbishop.

The admissions committee then gathers with the vocation director and archbishop to discuss recommendations as well as concerns.

Finally, the applicant will go through a thorough background check before being accepted to the Archdiocese of Portland. Once accepted, he then must apply to a seminary. The seminary then does its own series of tests to decide on acceptance.

The seminary is a place of learning as well as a place to continue the discernment process.

It is always my prayer that this gift is embraced and that each of us follow God's call.

For men considering priesthood, Archbishop John G. Vlazny's annual vocations retreat is set for Jan. 25-27 at Our Lady of Peace Retreat House in Beaverton.

Those who want to attend should check with their pastor for details.

The writer is vocations director for the Archdiocese of Portland.