Seminary Admissions Board formed to assure good candidates

COLUMBIA—A small group of priests, women religious, deacons and lay people has a new role to play in evaluating the men who wish to become priests for the Diocese of Charleston.

Seminary applicants will now be evaluated by an 11-member admissions committee led by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.

Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, vicar for vocations for the diocese, said the Seminary Admissions Board will help determine if a man is ready, and offer a recommendation to the bishop. “The bishop alone accepts, delays or declines an applicant,” Father Kirby said.

He said the members reflect the different regions of the state. Each person was selected for a specific skill or perspective that can be useful in the evaluation process.

The first meeting was held Oct. 15 at St. Joseph Church in Columbia.

The board includes: Father Kirby, chairman; Msgr. Richard D. Harris, vicar general; Father Ronald R. Cellini, vicar for priests; Father Teofilo Trujillo, Hispanic vocations consultant; Franciscan Father Patrick Tuttle, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville; Deacon Joseph F. Cahill, director of the vocations office; Sister Jane Livingston of the Daughters of St. Paul; Kevin Hall, a Columbia attorney; Dr. Stephen Platte of Aiken; Mary Ann Fey, a counselor from Columbia; and Keith Kiser, headmaster of St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville.

Father Kirby said they will meet four or five times a year. The group will go over each man’s file, including references and an autobiography that each applicant must write, and then meet with each candidate.

The board does not evaluate whether a man is called to Holy Orders, Father Kirby said, but simply if he is capable and ready for seminary formation. Also, the team does not make policy for the vocations office, decide on the application process or determine which seminary to attend.

“The work of the board is meant to assure that healthy and good candidates are chosen for the seminary,” the priest said. “In light of recent events in the church worldwide, the selection and formation of good candidates is of utmost importance and requires extreme diligence on the part of the church.”

In order to be accepted into formation, candidates meet with the vicar for vocations two or three times, and then begin an application process which can take from four to six months. They are then evaluated by the board and finally by Bishop Guglielmone.

Fey said it is a serious responsibility.

“The challenge is to be prayerful and open, and a good listener,” she said.

“At my school, I’m responsible for making decisions about who will be admitted, and that’s a serious level of responsibility,” Kiser said. “This is even more so.”

“I think it’s great they’re getting such a cross-section of people and taking a well-rounded approach,” Sister Jane said. “It’s wonderful to be able to collaborate with the Holy Spirit in helping those who are discerning God’s call in their lives.”