Diocese of Hallam Vocations Service
“You did not choose me but I chose you.
And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” John 15:16
The Diocese of Hallam Vocations Service seeks to offer encouragement and support to those who wish to discern whether they might have a vocation to become a secular priest in the diocese or who wish to consider joining a religious institute or community.
Are You Interested?
In the first instance, you should discuss your interest in priesthood or Religious Life with your Parish Priest, with another priest who knows you or with a Religious sister or brother. If the one in whom you confide encourages you to take things further, you should contact the Director of Vocations, supplying a letter of support from the one in whom you have confided. If you have identified a particular Religious Congregation to which you feel attracted, you may wish to contact the Congregation directly. If you are unsure about which Congregation you would like to look at, the Director of Vocations may be able to help.
It is always good practice to subject inspirations that seem to come from God to a formal process of spiritual discernment. The Director of Vocations runs a group called ‘Discerners’ to help those who feel a call to secular priesthood or religious life to reflect on and deal with what they are experiencing.
The group meets monthly at The Catholic Chaplaincy. Each meeting lasts for about 3 hours and includes an informal meal, a short talk with discussion and a period of quiet prayer and adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Participants are encouraged to ask a priest or a member of a religious congregation to accompany them on their discernment journey. They also have occasional one to one meetings with the Vocations Director.
Journeying Towards Priesthood with The Diocese of Hallam
Anyone applying to be a candidate for priesthood in the Diocese of Hallam would normally have been a member of ‘Discerners’ for a minimum of 1 year. Most of our candidates come from within the area covered by the diocese. Those who apply from outside the diocese would usually have lived within the diocese for a minimum of 1 year and have participated in ‘Discerners’ meetings.
When a potential candidate, with the support of his accompanist and the Director of Vocations, takes the decision to apply to become a candidate for priesthood in the Diocese of Hallam, the formal application process begins. This includes completing the application form, submitting baptism and confirmation certificates along with the names of 3 referees, undergoing a full medical examination by a qualified practitioner, submitting an up to date DBS (Safeguarding) certificate and participating in a psychological review at a specialist institute. If the candidate has been married, his partner’s death certificate or a decree confirming that the marriage was annulled must also be submitted. The final stage of the application process takes place at the formal interviews with the bishop and other members of his interview panel.
For those who are accepted to become candidates for priesthood in the Diocese, the minimum period to be spent in formation and training is 7 years. The Formation programme begins with a preparatory year known as the Propadeutic Year. The bishops of England & Wales are agreed that this part of the Formation programme should take place at The English College, Valladolid, Spain. The Propadeutic Year empowers candidates to make the transition from secular life and prepares them, upon a positive recommendation from Valladolid, to engage fully with the rest of their seminary Formation programme.
Candidates who are more mature in their experience of life may be considered, at the discretion of the bishop, for a shorter programme of Formation which is undertaken at the Beda College in Rome. Candidates may only be admitted to this programme if they are 30 years of age or more. However, it is important to acknowledge that the programme is not suitable for every candidate who is 30 or more years of age.
The seminary Formation programme is built upon 4 pillars: spiritual, pastoral, academic and human formation. In order for a candidate to proceed to ordination, he must satisfy the seminary by engaging successfully with each of these areas of his Formation towards becoming a priest. For further information about the seminary programme, visit one of the websites listed below.
The minimum age at which ordination may take place is 27 years.
Websites of The Seminaries for England & Wales
St. Alban’s College, Valladolid, Spain www.sanalbano.org
Allen Hall, London www.allenhall.org.uk
Beda College, Rome, Italy www.bedacollege.com
St. John’s Seminary, Wonersh, Surrey www.wonersh.org
St. Mary’s College, Oscott, Birmingham www.oscott.net
Venerable English College, Rome, Italy www.vecrome.org
Supporting The Diocese of Hallam Vocations Service
Vocations ministry in the Diocese needs your active support spiritually and financially. Here are some of the ways in which you might support and promote vocations:
- Place vocations to priesthood, diaconate and Christian marriage on your list of prayer intentions.
- Form a group to meet regularly at your parish church or in your home to pray for vocations and for those in Formation or Engagement in preparation for the vocation that they are seeking to follow in life.
- Ensure that a prayer for vocations appears regularly in the General Intercessions at Sunday Mass.
- It currently costs a minimum of £250,000 to bring a candidate through Formation to priestly ordination. Please give generously to collections for the Priests’ Training Fund and, if you are making a will, consider making a bequest to the Diocese of Hallam PTF. If you receive an unexpected ‘windfall’, think about making a donation to the Priests’ Training Fund. Perhaps you could form a group to raise money towards the cost of training our priests.
“I am the vine, you are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,
Because apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Director of Vocations:
Bishop Ralph Heskett CSsR
75 Norfolk Road ,
Sheffield S2 2SZ
Telephone: 0114 2787988
Email: [email protected]
We are all used to the idea of deacons being ordained on their way to the priesthood, but the order of Permanent Deacons was only re-established by Pope Paul VI. It is something new for all of us and we are all still trying to understand how this new ministry relates to our church life.
In essence the deacon has three aspects of service to his ministry. These are Charity, Word and Altar. It is in this space that deacons live their vocation. It is not an exclusive space however as we are all called to service in these 3 areas - it is what makes us Christian, and is the fulfilment of our Baptism when we were anointed as Priest, Prophet and King. The experience of vocation, discernment and ordination do however give a permanent sign to the Church of the importance of these three ministries.
This vocation is not a right, something to be earned or demanded, but a gift freely given by the Spirit to whoever is called. This can often be quite unexpected and a complete surprise!
The fact of ordination by the Bishop makes a permanent and indelible mark on the deacon's life. His life is never totally his own. This is the reality of the ordination; there is always someone else to consider. Something has happened which is irreversible - a reality which is constant in daily life, no matter where he is - with his family, at work, in the street, and in prayer. In a profound way Jesus is inextricably linked with whatever he does.
A commonly asked question is "What is a deacon allowed to do?" Although this is understandable it does restrict the deacon to a series of roles and functions. The deacon is led by the Holy Spirit to serve the community, and not just the parish community, in whatever way the community needs. It is very much a lived vocation - being called forth by the Spirit to imitate Jesus, who was an itinerant preacher who served the needs of those he met. There was no prescribed rite for Jesus to follow. His response to those around him was firmly rooted in obeying the will of His Father, and was discerned through prayer. This attitude allows the deacon to fulfil his ministry of service in whatever way is appropriate; for instance by being a dad and husband, a worker, a neighbour, an activist for justice and peace. In tandem with these ministries are the formal ones that we are familiar with such as minister of baptism and proclaimer of the Gospel.
In Hallam, all the deacons are married and most are in paid work. A few have retired and some have taken up part time chaplaincy posts. The Church expects that deacons who are married to place their marriage and family life first, and for all the rest to fit in around this. It might be busy but it can be done.
Prayer is at the heart of the deacon's life - from this, and to this, everything flows. He commits himself to formal prayer at least twice a day by celebrating the Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church. Other times and forms of prayer are also encouraged.
Becoming a deacon is a long process with a long period of discernment, and study. Men who are married, can become deacons if they are over 35 years old, whereas single men can become a deacon if they over 25 years old.
In Hallam, trainee deacons usually undertake a 4 year programme - the first 3 are spent on the Foundation Theology Degree Course, and the 4th is more specific to the ministries that the deacon fulfils.
If you are called to find out more then talk to your parish priest who will put you in touch with the Diocesan Director for Deacon Formation, Fr Peter D McGuire.