2: SEMINARY FORMATION PROGRAMS (Four Areas of Formation)
    4: INSTALLATION OF MINISTRIES (Lector and Acolyte)
    5: CALL TO HOLY ORDERS (Diaconate and Priesthood)


    Baptized, confirmed and practicing Roman Catholic men with a desire to serve God and His people as a priest here in the Diocese of Arlington must possess the following general qualifications:

    1. Faith in, and love for Christ and His Church.

    2. Good moral character.

    3. A high school diploma with favorable academic abilities.

    4. Emotional balance and maturity.

    5. Good physical health.

    6. Psychological readiness and capacity to pursue a sustaining, life-long commitment.

    7. A deepening habit of prayer and a balanced devotional life.

    8. Maturity to recognize and the willingness to respond to the needs of others.

    9. Readiness to serve in the manner to which he is called by God, through his Bishop.

    10. A developing spirit of detachment that helps him be in the world but not of the world.

    11. Freedom to enter this state in life.

    12. Be between the ages of 17-55 (A previously obtained undergraduate college degree is required for those between the ages of 50-55.)

    13. Does not have personal financial liability, i.e. car or personal loans, credit card(s), etc. verses personal assets that exceeds $3,000; nor have total outstanding college student loan debt that exceeds $60,000.

    14. Have some familiarity with the Diocese of Arlington and the people with whom the candidate feels called to serve here as a future priest, i.e. by living (past or present), working or studying within the diocese. (On a case by case basis, consideration will be given to those who do not meet this criterion only after they have seriously considered the possibility of serving in their home diocese with the consultation of their home Bishop and/or Vocation Director.)

    15. Not suffer from a disordered sexual orientation, i.e. not consider oneself to be homosexual.

    16. If the candidate has previously been dismissed from another priestly formation program or from an institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life, he must wait at least two years prior to being considered for the priestly formation program in the Diocese of Arlington.

    17. If the candidate is a recent convert to the faith or has recently returned to the regular practice of the faith, he must wait at least two years prior to acceptance into the priestly formation program in the Diocese of Arlington


    Criteria for Non-U.S. Citizens or Non-Permanent Residents

    If a candidate is not currently either a citizen or permanent resident of the United States he must also meet the following:

    1. Live on a self-sustaining basis within the Diocese of Arlington for at least two years prior to entering the seminary.

    2. Have legal status or lawful presence here in the United States prior to beginning the application process.

    3. As circumstances warrant, be able to obtain and maintain an F-1 Student Visa, a R-1 Religious Worker Visa, or T.P.S. (Temporary Protected Status) Visa.

    4. Be able to converse and write in English at a level acceptable to the seminary formation program as determined by TOEFL scores. 

    5. Avail himself, on an as needed basis and at the discretion of the Bishop/Director of the Office of Vocations, of some form of ‘U.S. Cultural Adaptation Program’ which could range from seminars or coursework at the seminary to a pastoral year assignment within the diocese.


    Criteria for those who are divorced and who have recieved a canonical decree of nullity

    While applicants for the priesthood whose marriages have been annulled may have the canonical freedom to pursue the priesthood, the presumption is normally against acceptance. It is important to ascertain if and how previous obstacles to a marriage commitment might create a possible scandal or affect the man’s viability as a candidate for the priesthood.  For such men, an opportunity to apply for seminary formation will only be considered if the following additional criteria are met:  

     1. The marriage ceremony did not take place within the Diocese of Arlington.

    2. The candidate has never resided with his former spouse in the Diocese of Arlington.

    3. The former spouse does not presently live, nor intends to live in the Diocese of Arlington.

    4. All children, from the marriage, are at least 21 years old and are not financially dependent upon their father.

    5. The gentleman has settled and concluded all financial obligations pertaining to the marriage.

    6. Documents regarding the civil divorce and tribunal decree, i.e. Acta (official documentation and evidence for the canonical decision) are properly made available to the Office of Vocations for a thorough review, to ensure the reasons and circumstances that serve as warrants for the declaration of nullity.

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    Guided by our overall diocesan goal to nurture and develop holy and well formed priests, the virtue of honesty becomes a critical component of the assessment and application process for any potential seminarian candidate.  If a potential seminarian candidate is not completely honest with every aspect of this process, then the process will cease immediately.  If, subsequent to acceptance into our formation program it is discovered that the seminarian had not been completely honest with every aspect of the application process it will be cause for immediate dismissal. 

    This assessment and application process or sequence of events generally encompasses the following:

    Initial Contact

    • Through the recommendation of a faithful priest, religious or lay person, and/or
    • By letter, e-mail or phone call of inquiry, and/or
    • By active participation in the annual vocations retreat or another discernment group activity.

    Formal Interview

    Once contact is established, a formal interview follows between the Director of the Office of Vocations and the potential candidate in which the following topics are discussed.

    • Personal health and well-being.
    • Family and employment history.
    • Religious and educational background.
    • Vocation discernment up to that point.

    Application Process

    After the interview, the applicant then gathers the following:

    • Completed Diocese of Arlington Priestly Formation Application Form, including three head-shot color photos.  (Photos paid for by the applicant)
    • Contact information for requested letters of recommendation.
    • Two copies of requested personal sacramental records and parent’s marriage records.
    • Two original copies of High School and, if applicable, undergraduate/graduate college official transcripts.  (Paid for by the applicant)
    • Recent physical examination with completed patient/physician’s form provided by the diocese.  (Paid for by the applicant)
    • Psychological evaluation report. (Paid for by the diocese)
    • An F.B.I./fingerprinting and state(s) sex offender and criminal history background checks.  (Paid for by the diocese)
    • Completed Confidential Release Form.
    • CompletedPolicy Questionnaireregarding theDiocese of Arlington Policy on the Protection of Children/Young People and Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and/or Child Abuse, as well as a completed Acknowledgement of Receipt Form found on the last page of the policy.
    • Participation in a one-day VIRTUS:Protecting God’s Children™ Program for Adults held during the summer for all newly accepted seminarian candidates.
    • Signed Universal Code of Conduct Acknowledgement of Receipt Form
    • A (4-10) page written autobiography.
    • Two (2-4) page written essays.

    Application Review

    After the candidate submits all the information and necessary paperwork as outlined above, the Director of the Office of Vocations, after careful review and consultation with the Bishop’s delegate for Clergy, determines if the process should continue. If his decision is favorable, he then recommends the candidate to the Bishop and discusses with the Bishop a possible seminary placement.


    After the Bishop reviews the applicant’s file, the Director of the Office of Vocations notifies the applicant of the Bishop’s initial decision of acceptance or non-acceptance.  Final acceptance by the Bishop is contingent upon the seminary’s acceptance.  If the Bishop grants initial acceptance, the director also informs the applicant of the particular seminary where he is being considered to begin his formation.  He then completes the required seminary application which is compiled with previously submitted material and is forwarded, by the Office of Vocations, to the seminary.  After review, the seminary will write the candidate informing him of their decision of acceptance or non-acceptance.  From time to time the seminary may contact the candidate to request additional information.  Applicants are expected to promptly respond to, and satisfy such requests.  If an applicant is not accepted either by the diocese or the seminary and he wishes to apply to another diocese or a religious order, when that diocese or order requests a copy of the applicant’s Diocese of Arlington application file, a notarized written letter of permission to release the entire file must be drafted and signed by the applicant then forwarded to the Director of the Office of Vocations before such a release request can be honored.


    Individual circumstances may adjust or vary the sequence of events outlined above.  The general necessary time frame to compile and complete all required application material is between two to four months.  Applicants normally receive word of acceptance or non-acceptance within two months of submitting a completed application, but generally no later than the first week of July.

    The application process is intended to encourage the candidate to realize that his vocation does not simply enjoy a personal dimension but rather flows from the Church and toward ministry within the Church.  Through personal interaction with the Bishop, pastors, other priests, Office of Vocation personnel and fellow seminarians, the new seminarian will experience more fully the knowledge that he has a specific identity as a candidate for the priesthood for the Diocese of Arlington.

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    STEP 2: SEMINARY FORMATION PROGRAMS (Four Areas of Formation)

    In view of the confidence extended to the seminaries where its seminarians are matriculating, the Diocese of Arlington entrusts a significant part of the priestly formation of its men to the formation programs presently utilized by these seminaries. Seminarians are expected to cooperate fully with all aspects of these formation programs while they are studying at the seminary as well as when they are on breaks away from the seminary.   

    Entering a seminary is not a definite decision to become a priest.  Rather, the seminary is designed to help one make that decision by means of human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation.  A candidate need not be absolutely positive, but should give serious thought to his decision to enter by seeking information and advice.  He should avail himself of the guidance of competent people, evaluate his motivations, and above all, pray to the Lord for light, courage and strength to actively discern and explore the possible vocation to which he is being called.

    • For those without an undergraduate bachelor degree, studies for the priesthood ordinarily include up to four years of college seminary and four years of theology seminary studies
    • For those who have already earned an undergraduate bachelor degree, studies for the priesthood include one or two years of pre-theology, a possible spirituality year and four years of theology seminary studies. 

    A candidate accepted by the diocese will, during the course of his formation, attend the following institution(s) (i.e., college seminary or theology seminary) as designated by the Bishop. (See Other Links: Seminaries)

    College Level

    St. John Paul II Seminary
    Washington, DC

    Pontifical College Josephinum
    Columbus, Ohio

    Casa Sacerdotal de Stabat Mater / Universidad San Dámaso
    Madrid, Spain

    Pre-Theology and Theology Level

    Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary
    Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

    Mount Saint Mary's Seminary
    Emmitsburg, Maryland

    Pontifical College Josephinum
    Columbus, Ohio

    Theological College at the Catholic University of America
    Washington, DC

    Mount Saint Mary's Seminary
    Emmitsburg, Maryland

    Pontifical North American College
    Vatican City State, Europe

    Blessed John XXIII National Seminary
    Weston, Massachusetts

    Casa Sacerdotal de Stabat Mater / Universidad San Dámaso
    Madrid, Spain

    Four Areas of Formation

    Human • Spiritual • Intellectual • Pastoral

    Formation, as the Church understands it, is not equivalent to a secular sense of schooling or, even less, job training. Formation is first and foremost cooperation with the grace of God. In the United States Bishops’ document The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, a reflection on Saint Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 3:17-18 leads to a description of formation. ‘The apostle Paul marvels at the work of the Holy Spirit who transforms believers into the very image of Jesus Christ, who himself is the image of God. This grace of the new covenant embraces all who have joined themselves to Jesus Christ in faith and baptism. Indeed, it is sheer grace, all God’s doing. Moved by that grace, however, we make ourselves available to God’s work of transformation. And that making ready a place for the Lord to dwell in us and transform us we call formation."

    The seminary and its programs foster the formation of future priests by attending specifically to their human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation—the four pillars of priestly formation developed in (St. John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation) Pastores Dabo Vobis (I will Give You Shepherds). These pillars of formation and their finality give specificity to formation in seminaries as well as a sense of the integrated wholeness of the different dimensions of formation

    (Copyright USCCB Program of Priestly Formation (5th Edition; #68 & 70)

    Parish and Summer Assignments

    Seminarians should use good judgment in all their activities and associations while away from the seminary.  One should neither jeopardize nor bring dishonor to their vocation by placing themselves in compromising situations.  The Eucharist is the center of Christian spiritual formation and during all seminary breaks, Mass should continue to receive primary emphasis in the life of the seminarian.  Daily participation at Mass should be practiced by all seminarians whenever possible.

    Seminarians maintain their seminary spiritual directors while on seminary breaks.  However, while away from the seminary, especially during the summer, they should feel free to receive the Sacrament of Penance from any number of confessors, (National Shrine, Franciscan Monastery, or priests of the diocese) while maintaining the spiritual director at the seminary as their sole source of spiritual direction.

    The eight week summer assignment normally begins the Monday after priesthood ordinations. 

    Summer After Summer Assignments
    First College None (Possibility to work at Catholic Charities or Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception) 
    Second College None (Possibility to work at Catholic Charities or Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception) 
    Third College Parish + Summer Assignment Orientation
    Fourth College Institute for Priestly Formation (I.P.F.)
    First Theology Parish + LU 
    Second Theology Spanish Studies Abroad
    Third Theology Parish (Deacon) + LU 
    Fourth Theology First Priesthood Parish Assignment
    Summer After Summer Assignments
    Pre-Theology I or Spirituality Year Parish + Summer Assignment Orientation
    Pre-Theology II Institute for Priestly Formation (I.P.F.)
    First Theology Parish + LU 
    Second Theology Spanish Studies Abroad
    Third Theology Parish (Deacon) + LU 
    Fourth Theology First Priesthood Parish Assignment

    Summer Learning Units Program (LU):

    The Summer Learning Unit Program seeks to give a broad overview and ‘hands on experience’ of various offices and ministries within our diocese.  The total program spans two parish summer assignments and encompasses all of the offices and ministries of the diocese.  Learning Units normally occur on Wednesdays between 10:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Actual days and times may vary depending on the particular unit. Summer Assignment Orientation is for those seminarians just completing Pre-Theology I or Third College, and is held the Wednesday of the second week of summer assignments. The Seminarian Learning Unit is for those seminarians in their second summer parish assignment; and the Deacon Class Learning Unit is for those in their third summer parish assignment.  All Learning Units being the second week of the summer assignment and run for six weeks.

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    Installation of Ministries: Lector and Acolyte

    Seminarians petitioning for Lector, Acolyte, Candidacy or Ordination to the transitional diaconate or priesthood do so in accord with the norms of the Code of Canon Law, the Program of Priestly Formation, and the requirements of the seminary they are attending.  The Bishop accepts the seminarian’s various petitions only upon favorable recommendations from the Seminary Rector and the Director of the Office of Vocations.  Each particular seminary initiates and facilitates the proper documentation required by the Code of Canon Law.  The usual progression of reception of ministries varies depending on the formation program of the individual seminary.  Ordinations in the diocese are noted as follows.

    Admission to Candidacy   -   Varies from First Theology -to- Third Theology

    Ministry of Lector   -  Varies from Pre-Theology I -to- Second Theology

    Ministry of Acolyte   -  Varies from Pre-Theology II -to- Second Theology

    Ordination to Diaconate   -  Early June after Third Theology

    Ordination to Priesthood   -  Early June after Fourth Theology

    Ministry of Lector or Reader

    Lector is one of the ministries adapted to present day needs in the Latin Church, otherwise known as Reader.  A lector is appointed to read the Word of God in the liturgical assembly.  Accordingly, he reads the lesson from Sacred Scripture, except the Gospel, in the Mass and in other sacred celebrations; recites the psalms between the readings in the absence of the psalmist; presents the intentions for general intercessions when the deacon or cantor is absent; and may also direct the congregation in song.  If necessary he also assumes the responsibility of instructing any of the faithful called upon to read the Scriptures in any liturgical celebration.  

    Ministry of Acolyte

    Acolyte is a ministry to which a man is specially appointed by the Church to assist the deacon and the priest.  His duty is to attend to the service of the altar and to assist as needed in the celebration of the Mass.  He may also distribute Holy Communion as an Extra-Ordinary Minister of Holy Communion at Mass and to the sick.  An acolyte may be entrusted with publicly exposing the Blessed Sacrament for adoration but not with giving benediction.  He may also, to the extent needed, take care of instructing other faithful who by appointment assist the priest or deacon by carrying the missal, cross, candles, and similar functions.  

    Call to Holy Orders: Diaconate and Priesthood

    Following the successful completion of the necessary spiritual preparation, academic studies and pastoral formation requirements, a seminarian may petition the Bishop in writing for ordination to the transitional diaconate and subsequent ordination to the priesthood.   Each of these petitions must be sent, by the seminarian’s Rector to the Bishop along with a report letter of recommendation from the Rector and the seminary formation team.  Seminarians must remember that they are never guaranteed ordination merely because they have completed their seminary formation or obtained a theological academic degree.  To be ordained, a seminarian must be called by the Bishop (in writing) to the Order of Deacon or Presbyter. A Call to Holy Orders Letter is sent directly to the seminary with a copy forwarded to the seminarian.  Candidates for ordination are not to send out ordination invitations until they have received their Call to Holy Orders Letter from the Bishop.  

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