Seminary FAQ

Learn more about the seminary and application process to be admitting into the USOCC. We truly are open to all who have a calling from God.

Seminary Frequently Asked Questions

Who can receive ordination in the USOCC?

Any confirmed* and practicing Catholic over the age of 21, regardless of sexual orientation,
gender/gender identification, or marital status, who believes that the sacraments should be
open to all people regardless of their own gender, sexual orientation, or marital status.

Priests may be married at the time of application or may marry after ordination. Our priests
may be gay or straight, male or female. Priests may be divorced and remarried.

If you are not currently Catholic and have never attended a Mass, but feel called to serve as a
priest, contact us. It is required that you attend a local Roman or Old Catholic Church for three
months before you make an application for ordination. If you feel called to the priesthood, it is
imperative that you understand your primary ministry: to offer the sacraments to God’s people.

*Those called who are not yet confirmed in one of the Apostolic Churches (Roman Catholic,
Old Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican) can apply for the ordination process before they receive
confirmation. We will provide confirmation during your studies.


I know I want to apply. What is my first step?

Under the vocations tab on the website, choose “Seminary Application” and find the application at the bottom of the page. Look it over and fill it out thoughtfully, taking as much time as you feel you need. There is a packet included in the application with a checklist of paperwork and assessments that must also be provided to us. Use the checklist as a guide. We will inform you if you’ve left anything out of your application.

Email the completed form and all paperwork listed on the application checklist
to: vocations@usocc.org

The Director or an Assistant Director will help you through the process.


I’ve turned in my application. What happens from here?

In general, the application process moves in the following order (variations for individuals may
occur):

  1. Application submitted, including all paperwork and required donation for background
    check ($25, the only expense for applying)
  2. Background Check Performed by office
  3. Online Psychological profile
  4. Await decision of the Vocations Council

If accepted….

  • A comprehensive Psychological evaluation with our licensed professional via Skype.*
  • Online seminary entry exam (for placement in theology courses)
  • Enrollment in seminary classes (more information below)
  • A spiritual director is assigned to you and spiritual direction begins and continues through to ordination.

Adequate performance in and attendance of Classes, continuing training, conference calls, spiritual retreats, etc.(all long distance)

During the process, regular attendance at mass and confession at a local Catholic or
Anglican is parish required.

Once you’ve met the required expectations, the ordination process will begin. The timing of
your ordination(s) is dependent upon your satisfactory advancement in formation and
education, your spiritual preparedness, and your liturgical practicum evaluations. The Bishops are presented with reports from the Dean of Students, the Dean of Academics, the Vocations Director, your Spiritual Director, and your Liturgy Instructors. After this, they vote on whether you are ready to be received into Holy Orders, first as a deacon and then as a priest.

There are three steps in the reception of Holy Orders: Minor Orders, Diaconate, Presbyterate.
These are explained below.

* The psychological examination normally costs several hundred dollars, but the church offers
it for free to those accepted into the program. Under extraordinary circumstances, a local professional may be required at the applicant’s expense.


How much does the seminary cost? Are there any other expenses in applying?

The seminary is free for those accepted into the formation process for USOCC priests.
The only expense for those seeking ordination in the USOCC is a $25 donation to cover the
cost of your background report. There are no costs beyond that and the travel required to get
to the bishop who will ordain you.


Is the seminary entirely online or will I have to travel?

Both.

The educational component of the seminary and other spiritual training is entirely online/long
distance. All classes are offered online and assignments are turned in digitally. Some classes are
taught live via Skype while others are done via online discussion. You will also be given
independent reading assignments.

All of that can be completed long-distance from anywhere in the world.

However, the ordination process requires at least two trips to one of our Bishops to receive
Holy Orders.



What are Holy Orders and what is involved in ordination?

Your journey to the priesthood includes 3 steps: Minor Orders, Diaconate, and Presbyterate.

The first step is Minor Orders. The Bishop, during a ritual set within the mass, confers on a
candidate the Office of Acolyte and Reader. This event often takes place towards the beginning
of one’s seminary training. It gives the recipient the ability to assist at the altar by holding the
missal, bringing forth the water and wine, lighting the candles, etc.
One also receives the Office of Reader, which confers the ability to proclaim the first two
scripture readings and the psalm during the Liturgy of the Word.

The second step in Holy Orders is the Diaconate. This is an actual ordination. You will receive
the Sacrament of Holy Orders and will be ordained a deacon in the church. It is at this point
that you become Catholic Clergy and receive a special portion of the Holy Spirit.

The ministry of Deacon is vital to the church. A Deacon may confer two of the 7 scriptural
sacraments: Marriage and Baptism. The deacon may also participate in the mass by assisting
the priest, leading the people in prayer, proclaiming the Gospel and giving the homily.

The deacon wears a stole, the sign of Holy Orders, and wears the clerical collar, a public sign of
the ministry of the church. One may decide to remain a deacon permanently and not proceed to
the priesthood.

Once a deacon, a candidate continues their studies until they have been fully trained in all of the
functions of the priesthood. Ordination to the Presbyterate, or becoming a priest, is also the
Sacrament of Holy Orders.

It is during your ordination to the priesthood that you receive valid Apostolic Succession and
can confect the Eucharist during mass. As a priest, you will, by the work of the Holy Spirit and
the will of the Father, speak the words that Christ set down for this purpose. It is during your
prayer that the bread will, in your very hands, become actually, truly, literally, and in reality
the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Eucharist must be the driving force, the peaceful comfort, and the quiet strength of your
journey toward the priesthood. It sustains us all as we love and serve in a broken world.


How long does the ordination process take?

It depends on the individual.

Every person comes to us at a different point in their theological education and liturgical
training. One applicant may be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest while another isn’t yet a
confirmed Catholic. Many come to us with some form of theological education while many
others come to us with no background in theology.

Because we receive so many candidates from different backgrounds, some may move towards
their ordination to the diaconate more swiftly than others. Candidates already in possession of a
Master of Divinity may only need some Catholic instruction, spiritual formation, and liturgical
training.

However, as a rough guide, the seminary is structured into monthly courses and takes 18
months to complete from start to finish. That means a candidate with no formal theological
background can expect to study for the priesthood a total of 18 months. Should they complete
their work and formation satisfactorily, they will be ordained to the diaconate at about the 9
month to 1 year mark.

The length of time your training takes is also dependent on the church’s determination of your
spiritual preparedness and maturity.


Will I receive a degree from the seminary?


Yes. Upon completion of your studies and your presbyterate ordination, St. Mary’s will confer
upon you the degree of Master of Divinity. This degree is accredited by the American
Association for Higher Education and Accreditation but may not be recognized by state and local authorities as an accrediting institute. Religious degrees are not required to be accredited and it does not affect the validity of its use in ministry.

As we grow and obtain physical offices and central locations, we may look into regional accreditation. This requires a great deal of staff, time and money which can be put to better use at this time.


I’m not Catholic, but I really feel pulled towards the Catholic priesthood. What do Ihave to do to enter the seminary?

If you have never attended mass or have not completed the Sacraments of initiation in the
Catholic Church (Baptism, Confirmation, and/or Communion), you can still apply for entry into
the vocations program and the seminary to study for the priesthood. You will, however, have
some added steps in the process.

You will first have to go through RCIA (the classes offered to those who wish to become
Catholic) and receive all of the sacraments of the church that you are missing up to that point.
If you have been baptized in another Christian tradition, you will only need to receive
confirmation from us. The timing of this will be discussed with the bishop and your ability to
travel will be taken into account.

While you progress in RCIA, we ask that you attend Mass, either at a local Old Catholic
Church or, if none is available nearby, at a Roman Catholic Church. You must attend Sunday
mass for three months before applying for seminary. This will coincide with your RCIA
classes.

It is vital that you feel called to serve at the altar and offer mass regularly. A priest must be
totally in love with the Eucharist, which is his source of strength and the center of his spiritual
life.

At the end of RCIA, if you still feel called to the priesthood, you may formally apply to the
seminary.


I was ordained in another Independent Catholic jurisdiction/church or as a Roman Catholic / Orthodox priest. However, I feel called to serve within the USOCC. How do I proceed?

 

Let the Director of Vocations know that you have already received Holy Orders and the name
of the church/jurisdiction from which you received them. Then fill out the seminary application
as described above and send it to the vocations director. There are questions on the application
that pertain directly to incardination.

At that point, you will proceed through the application process in the same manner as any
other candidate. A background check will be performed, etc.

If you are accepted for incardination and we find that your Holy Orders are valid because they
were conferred by a Bishop with valid apostolic lines, we will contact you and work towards
your incardination. You will only be formally ordained if we find your original ordination was
not performed by a valid bishop.

If you require additional training for the priesthood, it will be offered to you through the
seminary.


In the Roman Catholic Church, a priest is assigned to a parish once they are ordained.
However, the USOCC has no parishes in my state. What will I be doing once I’m ordained?

The USOCC is not as large as the Roman Catholic Church. However, what might seem as a
detriment is actually a huge blessing.

The Old Catholic Church chose its name because of its belief that only the first Seven
Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church were valid. Our ecclesiology goes back to a time
before the first schism, when the church was ruled by a council of bishops, under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit and with the Christ-given authority of binding and loosing (imposing on the
people rules based on interpretation of scripture).

All bishops lead their jurisdictions the way the Apostles each took a section of the ancient
church and appointed successors. The council of bishops leads in union with each other, no one
bishop having more of a say than any other. We do not acknowledge the preeminence of the
Bishop of Rome (the Pope) nor his infallibility. We govern and shepherd just as it was in the
ancient church. See, the Council of Jerusalem in Acts recorded in Acts 15.

The United States Old Catholic Church, as part of this tradition, is very much a First Century
Church in a 21st Century world. We are a church on an evangelical mission to bring the Good
News of God’s unconditional love and acceptance to ALL people, regardless of race, culture,
gender identification, sexual orientation, or marital status. We offer all sacraments to all people
because God is “no respecter of persons.”

This missionary spirit gives each newly ordained priest a divine opportunity to forge a ministry
in their area, in consultation with the Ordinary of the Diocese in which they minister. One may
feel called to chaplaincy or to an online outreach or to youth ministry or to the life of a parish
priest. In every instance, a priest may speak to the bishops and gain permission to begin a new
church ministry or mission in their area.

Just like the first century, our church is exploding with activity and potential through its
missionary efforts. It is a time of tremendous creativity and spirit-filled zeal.
Your bishop or the College of Bishops may assign you work for the larger church on a part-
time basis. However, with regard to the public ministry that you choose, you will have much
more flexibility and input in those decisions than Roman Catholic priests have.
Most of our clergy have full-time jobs and families, making church ministry and assignments
something that must take into account our other responsibilities.

Essentially, your greatest passion and the church’s greatest need will meet and it is that place
where God will want you most. Your ministry will be an ongoing conversation between you,
the bishop, and the Holy Spirit.

PLEASE BE AWARE THAT YOU WILL SERVE THE CHURCH FROM WHEREVER
YOU ARE IN THE WORLD. THE USOCC DOES NOT
RELOCATE PEOPLE FROM OTHER COUNTRIES TO AMERICA FOR EITHER
SEMINARY OR TO SERVE IN A PARISH!

Please do not contact us with the intention of having us relocate you to America. We do not do
so the way the Roman Church does. The travel you must undertake to go to
one of our bishops for ordination must also be at your own expense. We are a mission church.

Wherever you are planted in the world, your ministry will be centered there. If you intend to
apply for US citizenship on your own in order to come to the US, that is perfectly fine.
However, we cannot offer any financial, housing, or employment resources for you.


Will I be required to perform Same-Sex weddings? What about other sacraments for gay or divorced people?


We reject all doctrines of exclusion and so must you in order to become a USOCC priest.
You may refuse a request to perform a sacrament only if:

1. You cannot physically perform the rite (travel, scheduling, illness, work load, lack of
resources, cost, etc.);
2. Those requesting the sacrament are not able to receive it (such as a couple where one spouse
is legally married); are making inappropriate demands you are uncomfortable with (such as
material changes to the Rites of the Sacrament itself); or if you have misgivings about the
intent of those making the request.
3. Those seeking the sacrament are not properly disposed to receive the sacrament and its
grace (age, lack of a pre-requisite sacrament, mental impairment, etc.)
If you find 2 and/or 3 to be the case, discuss it with your bishop.

HOWEVER, you may NOT refuse any sacrament to ANYONE who requests it simply
because of their gender identification, the gender identification of their partner or
spouse, their sexual orientation, their marital status, their race, their culture, or their
family if the only obstacle to offering the sacrament is your opinion of the same.
So if you believe that marrying a transgender couple would trouble your conscience, PLEASE
do not apply to the USOCC.

There are other jurisdictions that do not offer sacraments to those traditionally excluded from
them by Rome and we wish you well in seeking out such jurisdictions. However, no USOCC
clergy may discriminate or withhold a sacrament from a properly disposed person who requests
it for any of the reasons listed above.


I have questions not answered here.

If you have other questions, you are more than welcome to email the Director of the Office of
Vocations at: vocations@usocc.org. They will answer your questions as soon as possible.


 

Again, thank you both for your interest in us and for your desire to discern the Holy Spirit’s
calling for your life. We look forward to hearing from you soon.