Often men have questions about the application process to the diocese and to the seminary. Here is some information regarding this process.
It is important to note that a man first applies to the diocese. If he is accepted by the bishop as a seminarian, he then works with the diocese in applying to a seminary.
It is also helpful to note that discernment is a mutual encounter. It is both the man discerning whether he is being called to the vocation of a priest for the Diocese of Knoxville and also the diocese (specifically in the person of the bishop, assisted by the Vocation Office) discerning whether the man is a good fit for the diocese.
The practice of the Diocese of Knoxville is that men outside the diocese must have some form of contact with the diocese in order to apply for the diocese (e.g., must have lived in the diocese at one point; have family within the diocese; know a priest, religious, or permanent deacon within the diocese who can attest to the man’s sincerity and worthiness). The diocese believes it important that a man have a connection to the local church in which he might be called to serve as a priest.
After some time working with the diocesan vocation director (Father Joe Reed), a man might express an interest in formally applying to the diocese. At this point the following process begins:
- Intake Interview – The man will meet with the vocation director for an interview in order to provide basic information.
- Background Check – In compliance with the USCCB’s norms established in “Protecting God’s Children,” a thorough background check (criminal and financial) on the man will be conducted.
- Virtus training – If the man has not had this training required by “Protecting God’s Children,” it will be required of him at this point. Training sessions occur on a regular basis throughout the diocese.
- Two essays – The man will be asked to write two essays (each a length of five to 10 pages, double-spaced). One essay will be an autobiography in which the man lays out his life story and faith journey. The other essay will be a reflection on priesthood. The man is asked to reflect on how he views priesthood, what he sees as the blessings and struggles of this vocation, why he feels a call to discern this vocation and priests who have been an influence on him and why.
- Letter of recommendation – The man will be asked to provide a letter of recommendation from a priest, religious, or permanent deacon who can attest that the man is active in his faith.
- Once received, the essays and letter of recommendation are reviewed by the bishop and the director of vocations.
- If he so determines, the bishop then meets with the man applying to the diocese.
- Following from this meeting, if the bishop gives permission, the man then undergoes a psychological evaluation. The diocese contracts with Dr. Malcolm Spica for this service. The diocese covers the costs of this evaluation. (The Diocese of Knoxville requires that a man undergo a psychological evaluation before acceptance as a seminarian and also before ordination to the diaconate.)
- The bishop, vocation director, and Dr. Spica review the results of the psychological evaluation. Dr. Spica and the vocation director will meet with the man to go over the results of the testing.
- With all this information provided, the bishop then makes a decision on whether to accept the man as a seminarian for the Diocese of Knoxville.
- If accepted, the man will then work with the bishop, vocation director, and administrative assistant to the bishop in applying to a seminary. The bishop determines which seminary the man will attend. Each seminary has its own application process. A man in need of an undergraduate college degree will apply to a college seminary or (if age warrants) a seminary that works specifically with older men in preparation for priesthood. A man with a college undergraduate degree or higher but lacking the philosophy and formation requirements will apply to a seminary with a pre-theology program.
- Due to the complexity of the application to a seminary and the timeline that the seminary itself works with, mid-May is the deadline for applying to the diocese for the possibility of entering the seminary for the following fall semester.
- Seminary costs – The diocese covers the full costs of seminarians in theology and pre-theology. The diocese asks college seminarians to cover as much of their costs as possible (making use of scholarships and grants). The diocese will work with each college seminarian to help cover any costs that are needed.
- Men who were previously seminarians for another diocese or within a religious community will need to provide a letter of reference from their previous seminary and diocese (or religious community) stating that the man left in good standing before the process outlined above will begin.
- Age – The Diocese of Knoxville does not have a specific age limit for candidates applying. We look at each candidate on an individual basis but in all things we strive to be good stewards of the resources of the diocese. Years of possible service is a factor the diocese considers in accepting a man as a seminarian or not.