How can I support my child during the discernment process?
The main thing is to be understanding and encouraging. Ask how you can assist and support. This question alone will mean so much to your child and will reveal your unconditional love as they strive to pursue the Lord’s will.
Respect your child’s privacy and ask whether you should keep their discernment confidential for the moment.
It would be helpful – both to you and to him – if you were to learn more about his vocation. There are many useful resources on this website to learn more about the priesthood and Religious life. Most of all, pray! Give thanks to God for your child’s life and ask the Lord to assist them with the grace of clarity and courage in following their vocation.
How long would formation take?
Depending on your child’s age and educational background, it could take between six and nine years to become a priest, and seven to ten years to become a Religious Sister. One of the main reasons why it takes so long to become a priest or Religious Sister, aside from all the formation that is needed, is to give a person plenty of time to ensure that it is the right path for them.
What would be my financial responsibility for college education or formation?
Upon acceptance into the seminary, the Diocese of Charleston helps significantly with seminary expenses (ie, tuition, room and board, book allowance, travel allowance, and monthly stipends).
It is the intention of the diocese that the seminarian’s family will assume very little of the costs relating to seminary formation.
Each Religious Community has their own disciplines and policies. It’s good to check with the Vocation Director of the Religious Community that is of interest to your child, and they will be able to give more information.
How often will I see my child?
If your child’s discernment leads them to enter the seminary or convent, their departure will be similar to a child leaving home to attend college or to enlist in the military. There will be an inevitable transition period for each of you. They will most likely make visits home during the holidays and over the summer vacation each year. Religious Communities might have a more strict discipline in this area than diocesan seminary formation programs. Throughout your child’s formation in the seminary or convent, however, they will be encouraged to maintain and develop family relationships according to their formation program. In the diocesan seminary formation program that means periodic visits and frequent communication.
Will my child be happy? Will they be lonely?
The overwhelming majority of priests and Religious Sisters are extremely happy in their vocations. Why? Because they are doing what the Lord intended for their lives. Most priests will cite administering the Sacraments, preaching the Word, and helping people and their families as great sources of satisfaction. Most Religious will site their life of prayer and selfless service as great sources of joy. Ultimately, the source of happiness for any child of God is his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and the priest and Religious Sister is given the privilege of uniquely serving in Christ’s Name. Studies consistently show that those in ministry are very happy and enjoy life.
It is important to keep in mind that there is a difference between aloneness and loneliness. In the life of a priest or Religious Sister, moments of solitude or aloneness are required for prayer, reflection, teaching preparation, and rest. Many priests and Religious experience aloneness without feeling lonely. Further, in the midst of their ministry, priests and Religious Sisters interact with hundreds of individuals a week, and many life-giving friendships are enjoyed.
Still, no vocation, even marriage, is immune to loneliness. Therefore, a priest and Religious Sister must always be vigilant in maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends, brother priests, Religious Sisters and parishioners.
What if my child leaves formation?
It is possible that your son or daughter could spend as few as five days or as many as five years in the seminary or convent, and discern that the priesthood or Religious life is not for him. There is nothing shameful about withdrawing from a program for this reason. The time spent in formation should never be considered a waste. Your child will have grown in holiness, self-awareness, and in personal maturity through the entire process of discernment and their time in formation.