Discernment and prayer are crucial to priestly vocations

CHARLESTON — A priest has to be many things to many people: A teacher, healer, leader and servant. Most importantly, he must be a man of prayer.

Father Richard D. Harris, administrator for vocations, said the first thing a man should do when he thinks he has a vocation is to dedicate himself to intense prayer and listen for the Lord’s answer.

He should first ask if it is God calling him to be a priest, rather than the world or himself,” Father Harris wrote in an e-mail from Rome. “The best person to begin dialogue with about this calling, after much prayer, would be his spiritual director and pastor.”
Father Andrew Trapp, who was ordained in 2007 and is parochial vicar at St. Michael Church in Garden City, said the process of discernment was the biggest challenge for him.

“I had thought about being a priest ever since I was in fifth grade,” Father Trapp wrote in an e-mail to The Miscellany. “But I never thought I could give up being married — being a husband and a father, playing catch with my kids and all that great stuff. God helped me to finally see that he wants me to be a priest and that it is only in following this calling that I will be most happy.”

If personal discernment leads to an affirmative answer, then a diligent process of interviews, questionnaires and spiritual preparation will begin.

  • Step 1: Deacon Joseph F. Cahill, director of the vocations office, said he will take the initial call and ask questions about the person’s background, education and religious activity. From there, the candidate will move to a face-to-face interview with Father Harris.
  • Step 2: The application process will begin next, with an in-depth look into the man’s background, education and medical history. Baptismal and confirmation records are required, along with an autobiography and questionnaires from a number of people on whether the candidate is fit to be a priest. Deacon Cahill said a pastor must provide an extremely positive report for the person to move forward.
  • Step 3: If everything looks good at this point, the man is sent to a diocesan psychologist for two days of scrutiny.
  • Step 4: Father Harris will receive the results of the psychological testing and conduct a second, longer interview. He will then forward all the information to the vocations board, who also questions the candidate. “We have some very thorough, deep people on this board,” Deacon Cahill said. “They’ll bring his strengths and weaknesses to the front.”
  • Step 5: The last person to speak to the applicant is the bishop. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone will take the board’s vote into consideration and make the final decision.
  • Step 6: If the candidate is approved, the bishop will choose an appropriate seminary based on the man’s age, education and professional experience. Deacon Cahill said a seminarian will be in school for five to eight years.


Father Bryan P. Babick, who was ordained in 2007 also, said his toughest challenge was acclimating to the institutional life of seminary after living on his own and working for years.

He described it as a very serious place where life is hurried, and said it is during this transition that many men decide the priesthood is not for them.

While taking their philosophy and theology courses, seminarians advance up a ladder, earning different levels of ministry to reach the point where they are ordained to the transitional diaconate, Deacon Cahill said.

They serve a year as deacons, during which time they still attend school plus work in parishes. Finally, they are ordained as priests, he said.


Serving in a parish presents a whole new set of challenges for these men of God.

“My concern was: How am I going to give these poor souls any wisdom at all,” Father Babick said.

Not only is he younger than many church members, but he is also asked questions about marriage and children. He said he provides a spiritual perspective for which people seem to hunger.

“People have been fantastic and they make it worthwhile despite the challenges,” Father Babick said. “Every day that I wake up is better than the day before.”