Process to become a seminarian turns over every rock
by Katie Hyde
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Eighteen-year-old Keith Chadwick, from Sacred Heart Parish in Shawnee, has wanted to be a priest since he was six.
So last June, on the very first day he could apply to the seminary, he called archdiocesan vocations director Father Mitchel Zimmerman and asked for an application.
“I think actually the scariest point in the application process was asking Father Mitchel for an application,” Chadwick said. “It was taking that first step.”
“All of a sudden, your whole world changes,” he continued. “Once you enter the seminary, you represent the church to people.”
Every year, young men from the archdiocese like Chadwick apply to the archdiocese for acceptance to the seminary and complete the extensive application process required of candidates.
According to Father Zimmerman, to be accepted into the seminary is not easy.
“I always say to the young men who come into my office, ‘It’s harder to get into the seminary than it is to get into the Secret Service.”
Father Zimmerman says this is due to the series of interviews, applications, essays and psychological exams applicants undergo in a six-week period to determine whether or not God might be calling them to the seminary.
Out of the many young men from the archdiocese who express some interest in the priesthood on average each year, six to 10 will ultimately make it to the seminary.
According to Father Zimmerman, the interviewers “turn over every rock” in a series of three or more interviews with each candidate. Father Zimmerman, director of seminarians Msgr. Michael Mullen and Sister Elena Morcelli, AVI, all interview the candidate separately on matters of family, life as a priest and spirituality.
“We turn over every rock to really serve the guy, so he doesn’t have to worry about keeping any secrets or pretending to be somebody he’s not,” Father Zimmerman said. “Then, he can move forward with great confidence and freedom that he can be himself, and we can tell him with confidence, ‘You’re going to do great.’”
Among those “rocks” overturned are the applicant’s family, friendships, romantic relationships, self-discipline, moral life, spiritual life and relationship with the church. The interviewers also ask the applicants who else can testify that he is being called to the priesthood.
“It’s an investigation to see if the guy has the potential to be a good priest and if God is calling him,” Father Zimmerman said. “We also look to see if the priesthood will be enjoyable for him. Yes, it is an investigation, but it’s more to help the guy.”
According to Chadwick, one of the more daunting aspects of the application process was the battery of psychological exams. However, when the psychologist asked him if he is concerned that he will never be able to marry or have children, Chadwick had a quick answer prepared.
“Just the thought that hopefully, God willing, one day I’ll be able with my own two hands to call down the Holy Spirit and transform simple bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ — that makes all of it worth it to me,” Chadwick replied.
“I think a lot of the world looks at the priesthood and says, ‘Look at all you can’t do — you can’t marry, you can’t have children,’” said Chadwick.
“But as an 18-year-old boy looking at it, I am thinking, ‘Look at what I get to do.”
After the applicant completes the initial interviews and psychological exams, the committee of interviewers then writes a recommendation to the archbishop on behalf of the applicant, requesting that the archdiocese support and sponsor him in the seminary.
If he is accepted, he then applies to the seminary the archbishop has selected for him. He also must agree to all archdiocesan policies, submit to a criminal background check, arrange a medical and dental exam, and supply his sacramental records.
After 12 years of waiting, after weeks of interviews and exams, after much mental and spiritual preparation, Chadwick will enter Conception Seminary in Conception, Mo., this fall.
“I’m a normal 18-year-old boy, just called to something else,” said Chadwick.