The call to the priesthood or consecrated religious life is one that takes much discernment and prayer. During this process, a person will naturally have many questions – both spiritual and practical. One of the most common questions people have when discerning a vocation is: what is the formation process like? What steps will I need to go through to answer my calling?
While the formation process varies from order to order, and is different for the consecrated life of a brother than it is for the priesthood, there generally tends to be the same basic steps. The following steps are what we, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, follow in our formation process.
STAGES OF FORMATION
Postulancy is the first stage of formation. This is a period of living in community, whereby the candidate experiences our way of life and prepares for entrance into the novitiate. The postulant’s knowledge of Catholic doctrine, the vowed life, our apostolate and spirituality are fostered during this period. The postulancy is for a period of nine to twelve months.
The novitiate is the second stage of formation and lasts for one year. The beginning of the novitiate is marked by the joyful occasion of receiving the Franciscan habit as well as a new religious name and title. The time of novitiate is for one to be more thoroughly instructed in the way of life and the works of our community, while at the same time cultivating that union with Christ which must be the wellspring of every apostolic activity.
The period of temporary vows begins when the friar makes his first profession of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and binds himself to observing the Rule and Constitutions of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word. During this time, the goal is to perfect the formation begun in the novitiate, thus preparing for final vows. The friar renews his temporary vows once a year, generally from four to six years, while continuing to be engaged in the various areas of our apostolate.
It is also during this period that priesthood candidates take their philosophy courses in our House of Studies before beginning theology in the Seminary. Philosophy courses are also available for permanent brother candidates who show an interest.
When a friar makes his final profession of vows, he consecrates himself to God for the whole of his life. When a friar pronounces his perpetual vows, he should have reached the degree of spiritual and affective maturity required, so that the religious state to which he is committing himself, in a stable and certain manner, may really be for him a means of perfection and greater love.
Brothers discerning and pursuing the priesthood begin their formation/education at the St. Joseph’s House of Studies in Irondale, Alabama. There they study philosophy for two years. The program is accredited through the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico. After, the friar is sent to Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Friars with an undergraduate degree begin four years of intense graduate theology studies and those without bachelor’s go into the two-year pre-theology degree completion program. Following the third year of theology, the friar is usually ordained a deacon. At the conclusion of seminary academics he is ordained to the priesthood.
Since 1987, when we were founded by Mother Angelica, as a community of priests and brothers we have sought to live an authentic renewal of consecrated life in the Franciscan tradition. Living in obedience, without anything of our own and in chastity, we share a common life of prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament and in Total Consecration to the Mother of God.
If you are a single man between the ages of 21-35 who is discerning a calling to religious life, and particularly to a community focused on evangelization, we invite you to learn more about our community.