Entering seminary is not an easy decision, especially in the 21stCentury. To enter seminary in this day and age involves radically reorienting one’s life around Christ and living as a “sign of contradiction” to our world. This difficult decision is further compounded by what the seminarian “gives up” upon entering seminary, the options he forgoes, and the opportunities he relinquishes. When a man chooses to enter seminary after high school, this difficulty even greater.
While the average age of a seminarian upon entry to the seminary system has risen steadily over the last few decades, I believe there is a great benefit and (dare I say) an advantage in entering seminary after high school, rather than after college. One’s college years are among the most formative years of a young man’s life. During his college years, the seminarian is more formable, malleable and impressionable than someone who has already graduated and charted out a course for his life. This is especially important in developing good habits of human formation, where the seminarian is called to make himself a bridge for others to Christ, rather than an obstacle. Formation is absolutely essential in this endeavor if a man is to conform his person to the person of Jesus Christ.
Finally, I believe that the sacrifices associated with entering seminary after high school help a young man embrace the life of sacrifice necessary to thrive as a priest. Each of us priests must die to self; each of us must say no to various things, some more difficult than others. From my own experience, making the commitment to enter seminary after high school was the most impactful way in which the spirit of sacrifice was imprinted on my heart. I pray that more young men have the courage to enter seminary during their most formative years and give their youthful hearts to Christ.
Fr. John Schneier is a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He was ordained in 2017.