Preparation for Priesthood

There are several paths to priesthood, depending on one’s prior studies, one’s personal preferences, the guidance of one’s bishop, and the requirements of seminary formation laid down by the Catholic Church.

Houses of Study / Seminaries

The majority of Irish seminarians today study at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. This is the National Seminary for Ireland.

Some students for the priesthood study at colleges abroad, e.g. the Pontifical Irish College, Rome.

In Seminary

Seminary formation is concerned with the personal, spiritual, emotional and academic formation of the candidate for priesthood. The programme followed is designed to cater to the overall development of the person as well as providing the seminarian with the skills and knowledge required to be a priest.

A typical day is comprised of time for prayer, lectures, study, recreation, personal time, etc, and is not unlike the timetable of most third-level students. The significant extras for a seminarian are planned times of prayer, the fact that the seminarian resides with the seminary community and is accountable to and supported by the seminary staff.

Financial Cost

The Diocese of Cork and Ross holds a fund for the education of seminarians and post-graduate studies for priests of the diocese. The fund is generously supported by the people of the diocese who contribute to a diocese-wide collection in September each year. The diocesan education fund provides the major part of the cost of the fees and lack of funds is never a reason to not consider priesthood.

Each seminarian makes a particular arrangement with the Vocations Director regarding the funding of his time in seminary. Typical annual costs in 2005 are €19,000 per student, including full accommodation and board at Maynooth College. The St. Joseph’s Young Priests Society provides a grant of €3,000 which reduces the amount due.

St. Joseph’s Young Priests Society

St. Joseph’s Young Priests Society was founded in 1895 by Mrs Olivia Taaffe, Corofin, Co. Galway.

She perceived the need for groups of lay people to:

  • Promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life through prayer (as Jesus asked)
  • Provide financial assistance to students for the priesthood
  • Promote the vocation of the laity by way of fostering a greater understanding and love of the Eucharist
  • Support members in being Christ’s presence in every aspect of life

Today many such groups, known as branches, exist throughout Ireland. Some are parish based while others are associated with particular workplaces and professions.