Seattle Vocations Blog

Thoughts from priests, seminarians, and religious on discernment
and living out your vocation in the real world.


Seminary Life - Discernment in Seminary

May 18, 2016

As Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Seattle, I speak a lot about discernment – I work with a lot of people who are trying to listen and respond to God’s will for their lives. So how does discernment play out in the life of someone who is discerning as a diocesan seminarian?

It’s easy to think of discernment as something that happens before entering seminary, but the truth is once you’re accepted into the seminary, their discernment continues!  A person’s discernment of God’s will starts well before they’ve made contact with the Vocation Director, it continues during the application process, if they’re accepted, it continues while in the seminary.  

There’s really two dynamics that are taking place in seminary: you as an individual are trying to discern God’s will by being immersed into the seminary formation, while at the same time the Church itself is discerning with you to discover the fittingness of this vocation; your readiness and ability to be able to grow into a man who’d be a quality priest for our church.

If at any time one of these parties decides that this is not what is the best calling for the person’s happiness or the best way to love God and the Church, then the seminarian formation can end. Some men discern while they’re in the seminary that this is not what they’re called to.  Seminary is actually a great place to be able to discern that, since you are provided with so much prayer, formation, advice, and resources.

Sometimes the Church – the seminary, the Archbishop, or the Vocation Director – discerns that perhaps this isn’t the right fit, we can’t see this person growing into some of the different aspects that we need for a priest of the Archdiocese to be a pastor.  In that case we share these things with the individual and in most cases, seminarian formation ends.

That’s part of the formation experience: throughout the course of someone’s seminary formation is to sift out where the truth is in God’s will.  And so if you’ve entered the seminary, there’s no guarantee that you’ll become a priest. This ongoing discernment continues all the way until one is ordained as a deacon, which is kind of the same as taking solemn vows.  You take those promise in the life of the Church of obedience, life of simplicity, and chaste celibacy.  Then some will be, God willing, ordained as a priest.

So the seminary isn’t necessarily a place to go once you’ve finished discerning. It’s actually a place where this process continues.  We continue discerning with someone and the Church is able to observe them.  As seminarians you are able to observe the church and start to see yourselves in different roles in the Church.

- Fr. Bryan Dolejsi, Vocation Director

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