What is the Process for Application to Seminary in Scotland?

The Process for Application to Seminary in Scotland (sometimes shortened to PASS) is based round a series of weekend retreats and scheduled meetings that begin the journey to seminary for applicants who wish to enter into priestly formation for priesthood in the dioceses of Scotland. There are at present three weekends in total, the emphasis of which throughout is prayer and discernment as the applicant is invited to consider the Lord’s call to service in his Church.  Normally, these will have been preceded by meetings with a Diocesan Vocations Director, who will assist an aspiring applicant in discerning whether or not the time is right to make a formal application and so begin the process.

How are these weekends arranged?

PASS weekends normally begin on a Friday evening around 6pm. The atmosphere at these weekends is normally one of recollected quiet since there is the need not only to spend time in prayer but also to allow God’s Spirit to be heard. The weekends are also about meeting like-minded individuals who are also thinking about a possible vocation to priesthood and are considering entering seminary. Thus, an important part of the weekends is the time spent socialising with fellow applicants. Applicants in the past have also been grateful for the opportunity to engage with a number of priests each of whom brings his own understanding and approach to priesthood. This is particularly the case with weekend four and it is hoped that as the process reaches its conclusion applicants will have a better understanding of themselves, of God, and of priestly ministry.

The weekends are arranged as detailed below. Each weekend involves some themed reflection, based on the key notions of getting to know God, getting to know oneself and getting to know the Church. There are discussion points, guided reflection offered by various serving priests, time for personal prayer and opportunities to meet on a one-to-one basis with Vocations Directors and others.

It is expected that all applicants attend all of these events, that they arrive in good time for all events and do not arrange to leave until the weekend is finished, (this is normally around 2pm on the Sunday afternoon). Applicants who might wish to attend these weekends must first make contact with their Diocesan Vocations Director (click here for more) who will decide whether to invite the applicant to take part in the process.

Who else is involved?

Along with your Diocesan Vocations Director you will normally be assigned a Spiritual Director. Both of these have a very specific role within the Seminary Application process. Your Diocesan Vocations Director should be your first contact regarding your progress through the application process. Your Vocations Director should be available to help you with the whole process, including the application form, the various elements of paperwork that need to be gathered (e.g. Baptismal certificates, references, PVG certificates, etc) and the tasks that need to be carried out. Your Spiritual Director has a different focus since the core of your discussion with your Spiritual Direction is your relationship with God. Matters shared with your Spiritual Director remain within that forum and the Spiritual Director has no other involvement within the application process.

During the second of the weekends, there will be time allocated to meet with an interview panel.  This is not a group who will decide whether or not you will be accepted for seminary (that decision is rightfully your bishop’s decision to take), but rather will help to explore deeper how you are placed to enter into the various aspects of priestly formation – encompassing the spiritual, human, intellectual and pastoral dimensions the Church lays out. The interview group will present a report to your bishop to help him in his decision, along with your referees and Vocations Director, and to help you reflect on those areas which might require more focus once you move into the Seminary and priestly formation itself.

The Director of Priests for Scotland is responsible for having a general oversight of the process. He is responsible for presenting each bishop with a recommendation, based on what has been gleaned through the Process, regarding the suitability of an applicant to begin training to become a diocesan priest. The Process is, therefore, centred on the individual applicant but must also be mindful of the Church’s need for able priests. In other words, it is not only the applicant who is discerning whether or not he has a call to be a priest: the Church also has to assist in validating whether that vocation is authentic, properly motivated and freely chosen, and whether the individual has the potential to be able to serve the wider Church community as a priest.

So, if I think I might be called to be a priest, when do I start?

The whole Process, from discernment to entry into seminary runs from early in the year until December; the formal Application Process itself, with the associated weekend encounters, runs from September to December. Its purpose is to assist prospective candidates in discerning their future and to prepare them, after suitable assessment, for entry into the seminary process.  Anyone thinking about applying should do so some time before the summer, to allow time for those early discussions to take place, and for the Diocesan Vocations Director to be able to advise on the best way forward, including entering the Application Process.

On successfully completing the Application Process in the autumn months, and being accepted for seminary formation (normally towards the end of the year), applicants will head to the Royal Scots College in Salamanca, Spain, to begin their seminary formation with a “propaedeutic”, or “Initial Seminary Formation” course which runs from January to June each year. Thereafter, the Bishop will decide where the training should take place – normally at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, but sometimes in other seminaries, perhaps in Rome or in England.
Further details can be obtained from the Diocesan Director of Priestly Vocations.

Each weekend begins with arrivals at 6.00pm. Applicants should speak to their Diocesan Director of Priestly Vocations before attending.