A: The Sacrament of Holy Orders is one of the two Sacraments of Mission within the Church along with Marriage. Both of these Sacraments are for the building up of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. Those who receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders are configured to Christ in special and unique ways. The first Order is to the Diaconate, in which the newly ordained deacon is configured to Christ the Servant. A Deacon’s mission and ministry is primarily one of charity and service. The second Order is to the Priesthood, where the newly ordained Priest shares in the ministry of his bishop in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. The third Order is to the episcopate, where the newly ordained Bishop is configured to Christ the High Priest and in which he receives the fullness of the priesthood in which all other priests participate.
While the number of years varies, depending on the country and religious community, a diocesan priest, such as myself, usually receives at least eight years of post-secondary education prior to ordination as a priest. First a seminarian must study a minimum number of courses in Philosophy, which usually is taken as part of a three or four year Bachelor of Arts Degree. Then a seminarian begins his studies in Theology, which includes a propaedeutic or spiritual year, three years of theological studies (10 months a year, instead of the normal 8 month university year), and one year of pastoral internship where the seminarian spends a year working in a parish alongside an experienced parish priest.
It took me eight years to complete my formation. I entered seminary right out of high school at eighteen years old and was ordained a priest at the age of twenty-six. While the seed of my Vocation was planted when I was a child it wasn’t until I was seventeen following my Search retreat and Camp St. Louis experiences that I seriously started discerning God’s call for my life.