Priesthood for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester | 585-278-6334

Discerning Tools


Photo Credit: Catholic Courier & Mike Crupi

It’s a difficult decision to consider the priesthood, but more men consider the priesthood than you know. Below are questions which are designed to help you discern whether or not Christ is calling you to be a priest.

What should you do if you feel God may be calling you to priesthood?

“If some of you hear the call to follow Christ more closely, to dedicate your entire heart to Him, like the apostles John and Paul, be generous, do not be afraid, because you have nothing to fear when the prize that you await is God himself, for Whom, sometimes without ever knowing it, all young people are searching.”

-Pope John Paul II (Asuncion, Paraguay; May 18, 1988)

  • Get in touch with the Vocations Office.

  • Talk to your parish priest, campus or youth minister, or others whom you trust.

  • Pray often – ask God to reveal the plan for you. If you don’t already pray the Liturgy of the Hours you may want to begin doing so.

  • Get involved in your parish as an altar server, lector, Eucharistic Minister, greeter, singer, musician, etc.

  • Check out our Ten Exercises to Help Figure Things Out.

  • Join a discernment group (contact the Vocations Office for details).

Can I live a celibate life?

This is a key question. Check out this “Celibacy Quiz” and video on “Why Celibacy?” featuring ROC seminarian – now Father – Peter VanLieshout.

What are your 'Ten Exercises to Help Figure Things Out'?

These are excellent ways to discover God’s will for your life. Try doing one a week. Check them out here.


This is a common struggle among men discerning the priesthood. Whether you get married or become a priest, you are still going to be lonely at times, attracted to other people, etc. It’s all about growing up and realizing that the grass is not greener on the other side. Our world needs people with commitment and discipline; so does our Church. Finding yourself unable to make a decision is not an indication of healthy discernment or trust in the Lord’s plan. It’s not fair to God, nor to the girl you may be stringing along.  Make a decision and go with it; then see where God leads you…make a commitment!

Do you ever think about being married with children?

It’s only natural that at times priests consider the beauty of family life. However, we also recognize the beauty and happiness of our own lifestyle, and make a free choice to remain celibate. There are wonderful experiences and blessings that are unique to our calling, and they help us stay focused on God.

Is that really YOU, Lord?

It starts with a feeling.  It may come during Mass some Sunday.  It may be on an evening walk by a lake or forest.  You may have had this feeling as you watched a priest touch someone’s life by his words.  The feeling is, “Maybe this is for me,” and the thought occurs, “Is that YOU, Lord, calling me?”

You might be surprised how many young men are feeling this possibility in their quiet moments.

There is no better place to explore God’s plan for you than in the silence of prayer on a daily basis. Pray every day, asking God for guidance. Don’t ask yourself, “What do I want to do with my life?” That’s the wrong question!  Rather, you should be thinking and asking, “Lord, what do You want me to do with my life?” And, listen for the answer! Listen with your heart, not just your head.

Where should I pray?

Try the Abbey of the Genesee, Mt. Saviour Monastery, Notre Dame Retreat House, the Carmelite Monastery, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of Sacred Heart Cathedral, or your local parish. These are all “ROC” specific places in our diocese.

How will I know if this is God calling me? I don't want to be fooled.

You aren’t the first one to ask these questions!  The Diocese of Rochester offers several opportunities to join others who are discerning. The Diocese also offers young men an opportunity to experience God’s promptings for their path in life. It’s called pre-theology, and it takes place over two years at St. John’s Seminary in Boston, MA. St. John’s Seminary is a place to live with other young men who are having the same thoughts that God might be calling them to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

Can't I be whatever I want?

Yes, you can search for that authentic “want”, but how do you know what you really want? To be truly happy, our Christian vocation is to answer the Lord’s call. It’s not easy to find our heart’s desire in a world filled with choices and opportunities (remember when you wanted to be a lawyer, a doctor, a professional athlete?).  However, with prayer and patience, you will experience a re-occurring and

peaceful feeling that one particular path is the one that God has invited you to travel. This path will bring you to true happiness.

Who should I talk to about my feelings concerning priesthood?

Many men feel uncomfortable talking about feelings of priesthood with family and friends. You may be unsure as to what these feelings mean. It’s difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t had the same experience. Try these things:

  • Choose a person whom you feel will best understand your feelings. It’s a necessary and helpful step to confide your feelings to another person. It keeps you from being isolated, with only your own thoughts to guide you.

  • Talk to your pastor, a minister in your parish, a campus minister, etc.

  • Find a good book on discernment (we can help you with that).

  • Contact us and inquire about discernment groups and events.

What are some characteristic of men who consider the priesthood?

Statistics show those considering the priesthood are:

  • More educated than ever before

  • Men of fidelity who want to be challenged and encouraged to follow Christ with an undivided heart

  • Prayerful and have a love for the Eucharist

  • Motivated to teach the truths of the Catholic faith

  • Caring men who have a genuine concern for others

  • Understanding of the importance of sacrifice and service to others

  • Men in Christ, men of the Church, and men for others

  • Musicians, teachers, engineers, artists, etc.

What should I do if I am in college and thinking about priesthood?

If you are at least 20 years of age and have completed 2 years of college, you may want to consider speaking with the Vocations Director about applying to St. John’s Seminary. If you are getting ready to begin college or working on your degree, there are college seminary programs available as well.  Sometimes a young man will desire to begin his formation while obtaining his undergrad degree (see ‘Our Seminarians‘ – Aaron Kelly).

Keep in mind the education requirements for entering major seminary:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution

  • Minimum 30 hours of approved philosophy courses

  • Minimum 12 hours of approved religious studies

  • Of course, full initiation in the Catholic Church is also a requirement. That is to say, you must have received the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation.

Tell me more about St. John's Seminary. How long does it last? What does someone do there? Does it cost anything?

The pre-theology experience at St. John’s Seminary lasts 2 years.  Residents generally take philosophy courses (philosophy is the field of study that helps a person reflect on God; it leads to theology).

Along with these studies, St. John’s Seminary helps one learn to pray.  Group discussions help you hear from others about their experiences of God.  Spiritual direction with a priest helps each individual find the signs of God working in his life.

Lastly, each student is introduced to a parish where he becomes involved in ministries and activities to see how parish life feels as a possible minister of the gospel.

And, oh yes…it’s free!  Room, board, and tuition are supplied by Bishop Matano and the people of the Diocese of Rochester.

Are you sure St. John's Seminary will help me know if it is God calling me to consider priesthood?

Yes!  We are sure.  Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you.”  If you enter St. John’s Seminary open to hearing God’s word to you and if you give yourself fully to the life lived at the college, you will know what your next step in life needs to be.  You may discover that God is calling you elsewhere in your vocation.  Or you may discover that God is calling you to the next step leading to priesthood (seminary).

What if I want to enter St. John's Seminary?

Talk to us!  Call the Vocations Office (585-328-3210) or email (  We’ll put you in touch with one of our Vocation Directors who can help you with many of your questions and concerns.  Remember…you’re NOT signing up; you are inquiring, fact finding.  There is no pressure.  The Holy Spirit will guide you through this inquiry period.

What are some vocation stories?