A few months ago, I was at a gathering with brother priests and one of the young men helping at the dinner approached me when he heard that I am the vocation director for the archdiocese. The young man, a teenager, explained that he was thinking about the priesthood and was applying to a diocese outside of New York. When I asked him where he was from, he explained that he was from New York but had been in contact with another diocese. He said that he felt very strongly that the Lord is calling him to be a priest and he wanted to begin seminary as soon as he started college and since New York does not have a college seminary he wanted to go to a diocese that did.
I explained that New York has a college seminary and if he wanted to know more about it I would be happy to set up an appointment for him to visit. The young man was very pleased to learn this since he would prefer to stay in New York than go somewhere else. I went on to explain that since he was still in high school, he could join our Cathedral Prep program so he could discern more formally and meet men like himself who were the same age and seeking God's will in their life.
In light of this conversation, I thought that it might be helpful to explain what is available here in the archdiocese for men who are discerning. From a high school perspective, there is Cathedral Prep. For years there was Cathedral Prep High School in the archdiocese, but when that closed the Prep became a more informal program for young men who were thinking about the priesthood. The Prep meets once a month at St. Joseph's Seminary from Friday evening to Sunday morning. During the weekend, the men have a holy hour, Mass and catechesis, and they are also able to use the gym and enjoy the grounds during their free time. There is also a period of study hall since the men have homework to complete or tests to study for from the different high schools they attend. During his senior year, a student can begin the process of applying for the college seminary if he chooses to do so. They typically will enroll in St. John's University or Fordham University and will live at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, Queens, while attending classes at the university, majoring in philosophy. Most of the men in the Prep will not attend college seminary right after high school, but they have been given the proper tools of discernment to continue to uncover God's will.
One of the things we see in studies on seminarians and priestly vocations is that more men are entering seminary later than those that went before them. Many of today's discerners were not part of the Prep but came to the college seminary after receiving their undergraduate degree. Some do so after working for a few years. For these men, the college seminary is a two-year process during which they live and study at Douglaston and pursue a master's degree in philosophy. The Program of Priestly Formation put out by the bishops' committee clearly states that a man must have two years of formation in the college seminary before he can be considered for major seminary. These years allow for more discernment and formation focusing on human, pastoral, intellectual and spiritual formation.
Cathedral Prep and Cathedral Seminary House of Formation are just two of the many opportunities young men in the Archdiocese of New York have to discern God's will. Through prayer and taking advantage of what is available here, those that feel a call to the priesthood can be greatly assisted in their pursuit of God's plan for them.
Father Argano is director of vocations for the archdiocese.