How do you become a Seminarian for Parramatta Diocese?
Some people who are thinking about the priesthood contact the Diocesan Vocation Director directly whereas others share first with a Parish Priest/ University Chaplain etc who can then refer them to the Vocation Director for a chat.
This is a really important step and many have talked about how free they felt once they shared about their thinking with a trusted person. Parramatta’s Vocation Director is Fr Warren Edwards and you can get in touch by sending Fr Warren an email.
Fr Warren will always make a point of asking how you’d prefer him to make any further contact with you. For example, it’s understandable that some people inquiring haven’t said anything to family or flatmates etc so he wouldn’t ring a landline. Mention of this is just to say that your inquiry is considered sacred and confidential.
In Parramatta Diocese, as well as initially meeting one to one with Fr Warren, opportunities for inquiry gatherings occur earlier in the year. This is where men can come along to listen to some input from a few Priests and Seminarians of the Diocese and enjoy a meal etc. But let’s say someone’s overseas at that time or doesn’t make an initial inquiry until late May. That’s fine. We have a very conscious understanding that there are a host of life circumstances and so we don’t expect that ‘inquiry’ will happen for everyone in the exact same way. What’s important is that there is enough time for ‘discernment’, in light of that particular person’s circumstances and background, if he is seeking to join our Holy Spirit Seminary community in the next year.
Discernment refers to the process of deeper reflection, with support, regarding one’s vocation. After ‘inquiry’, men will be invited into ‘discernment’ where it is considered suitable. In Parramatta Diocese we offer a range of activities including dinner evenings, reflection afternoons and overnight retreats. The overnight experiences are most often at our Diocesan House of Prayer; Mount Kurrajong. Typically, during the discernment phase, those involved develop a good sense of brotherhood. It’s probably important to mention too that some join the discernment phase at different times according to circumstances. Eg: Some might enjoy being involved in this across the year, from the Feb-March start of discernment activities. Another might only make connection a bit later. As mentioned earlier, what is important is that there is enough time for each individual’s discernment and for the Diocese’s discernment about him becoming a seminarian.
As the discernment activities proceed, some will come to a confident sense that they want to proceed to the seminary the next year. Others will decide to take more time or another direction. That’s the purpose of discernment. Fr Warren has the support of some other Priests who together form the Diocesan Vocations Committee. These Priests participate in various of the discernment activities too and those in discernment get to know them well. There’s plenty of friendship, guidance and support as needed. Those who wish to proceed to the seminary the next year and who Fr Warren and the Vocations Committee Priests discern as having a good possibility become known as ‘Aspirants’. Aspirancy is in the last quarter of the year. It is a time when supportive gatherings and contacts continue but the activity is cranked up with things such as:
the writing of an autobiographical reflection
provision of various documents/reports; academic, baptismal, medical etc
support references etc
Recommendation and Acceptance
The final step of this process is for the Priests of the Diocesan Vocations Committee to make a recommendation to the Bishop that the particular person be accepted to begin in our Holy Spirit Seminary community. The aim is that there not be shocks at the last minute! If Fr Paul and his support Priests of the Committee discern that you’d be better to pursue another direction or take more time…they won’t leave it until December to talk you through this! We don’t want you feeling like someone under a spotlight waiting for the decisions of the authorities! Rather, we want to walk with you in your discernment and support you to find your next steps of truth and purpose in God’s mission!
Under most circumstances, the Bishop will accept the recommendation of his Vocation Director and Committee Priests after reflecting through the assembled documents/reports etc. But as the leader of the Diocese, the authority of acceptance into the Seminary is his. There are times when his perception, other information or other current factors in the Diocese lead him to not accept or to delay the recommendation. The bottom line though is that through the months of this inquiry, discernment and aspirancy time, we want you to know that we see your journey as sacred. We want the best for you as we also address the needs of the Diocese.
A final pre-Seminary wordIt might be helpful to add that some people remain part of our discernment processes or in touch with the Vocation Director for more than a year. For example, you might be in the second year of a Uni course with every intention of finishing it before any possible step towards being a Seminarian. Or you just might want to get a connection happening. Know that you are welcome!