Discernment: Sacred Ministry

The Orthodox Old Roman Catholic Communion welcomes interest and invites applications from mature men interested in discerning a vocation to the permanent sub-diaconate, diaconate or priesthood. The minimum age for ordination is twenty-four (24) there is no upper age limit. All applicants must be in good health mentally and able physically to exercise a ministry.

The Communion does not offer stipendiary positions, all our clergy are “non-stipendiary” meaning that they must be financially self-sufficient and are either (self/) employed, retired or members of religious institutes (shared economy), unless Parishes are able to support their priest themselves. Expenses are sometimes covered by congregations, but applicants should be aware that no accommodation or salary will be provided by the Church to them.

Clergy are not required to be celibate, married and single men alike are welcome to apply. There is a bar to marriage post ordination to any of the degrees of major Holy Orders i.e. Subdiaconate and above. All clergy are required to be chaste i.e. faithful to their spouse, or modest in the development of their personal relationships. Celibacy remains an option for clergy i.e. to remain single and chaste, and many of our clergy live such a consecrated life whether by vow or condition.

The Communion will only ordain men into the Sacred Ministry who have an existing ministry, one in detailed concept or for a religious institute (e.g. the Oratory of St John Vianney). The Communion does not ordain for other denominations and will not re-ordain or sub-conditionally ordain existing ministers without Incardination, if such action is deemed necessary or desirable.

After a process of discernment an applicant may become a “seminarian” and be enrolled on the Seminarian Formation Programme, this is the same whether for permanent sub/diaconate or priesthood. A minimum of three/four years before ordination to the diaconate may normally be expected, and a further six months to a year before priesting. Previous ministerial experience and academic qualifications relevant to theology may be taken into consideration though this is at the discretion of the Formation Rector. All costs of tuition and course materials are to be borne by the student (though some assistance can be provided for the un-waged or those on low income).

The following criteria are required in support of any application for Formation/Incardination:

You must be Christian…

First and foremost, we expect our clergy (like the Apostles) to be followers of Jesus. Non-Christians, no matter how learned or eloquent, need not apply. We expect our clergy not only to believe in Jesus as the living Son of God, but also to have acted upon that belief by giving their lives to Christ. That means a conscious effort to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, adopting his attitudes and (inasmuch as possible) following his example. All of us fall into sin occasionally, but those who are habitual, unrepentant, public sinners are not suited for ordination. Needless to say, those who are pedophiles or abusers are unacceptable. This Church is a pedophile-free zone, and we intend it to stay that way. Likewise we will not ordain those who are blatantly promiscuous, regardless of their sexual orientation. Similarly, those who are dishonest will not be accepted. There have been too many charlatans in too many churches parading as men of the cloth. To be ordained is to be set apart to serve. This means following the example of Jesus as he washed the feet of the disciples at the last supper. It means at least trying to follow him in all things.

This in turn requires that one be as familiar as possible with the One we are to emulate. This requires familiarity with the Scriptures, especially the Gospels. Applicants should have gone beyond just reading the Gospels to a deep and prayerful study of them, absorbing the words of Christ and reflecting on their application to our lives and the lives of those to whom we minister. Whether this was done in a seminary setting, in weekly Bible study sessions, or in private is immaterial (although interaction with others studying the same passages can be extremely valuable). What’s important is that our clergy have an insight into the mind of God through familiarity with the words and actions of Jesus.

You must be an Orthodox Catholic…

Secondly, since we are an Orthodox Catholic Church, applicants should be “Catholic” Christians. That means that in addition to the common Christian beliefs contained in (for example) the Nicene Creed, applicants should have an appreciation of the Apostolic Succession, should believe that the seven sacraments are a means used by God to impart grace, and should believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. (Note that this does NOT require acceptance of the legalistic formulations in the relatively recent Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.) Since one of the primary duties of Catholic clergy is the administration of the sacraments, there’s no sense becoming a Catholic priest if one does not believe that sacraments can really “do” anything. Likewise, why become a priest if one believes that it doesn’t make any difference and that it doesn’t empower one to make Christ present for his people at the Mass? Likewise, it would be hypocritical to seek the sacrament of Holy Orders if one believes that this act cannot confer grace nor empower or change one.

You must be called…

The third requirement is that this Catholic Christian person has received and accepted a call to the ordained ministry. There are many wonderful ways for Catholic Christians to serve God’s people in “un-ordained” ministry. This includes teaching, volunteering at soup kitchens, counseling, even preaching. While opportunities for preaching are greatly expanded by ordination, they exist for others as well. A desire to preach, by itself, should not be considered a good reason for ordination beyond the Diaconate. The office of deacon is valued highly in the Church. It predates the Christian priesthood and should in no way be considered subordinate or inferior. It is different. Those who feel they are being called to ministry must at some point decide if they are being called to ministry as a priest, a deacon, or a layperson. Just because some churches require you to be a priest in order to do almost anything in the church doesn’t mean we have to follow that same practice … and we don’t. Being a counselor, for example, requires lots of education, training, and experience, but it doesn’t require Holy Orders.

The call to ordained ministry as a Sacred Minister is essentially a call to administer the sacraments and to evangelize. “Go therefore and make disciples of those in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Unless one has a desire to celebrate Mass for God’s people, he should not seek the priesthood.

You must be educated…

The fourth requirement is education. In order to fulfill their duties as confessors, counselors, and homilists, members of the clergy must be educated. The normal expectation is that candidates for ordination will have the equivalent of a University Arts degree plus two to four years of seminary. Fortunately, we have great latitude in judging the equivalence of one’s education and experience. A young candidate fresh out of college may be asked to complete a couple of years at an approved seminary. An older candidate, perhaps with an advanced degree in another field and considerable familiarity with theology may be judged to have the required educational level, lacking only a few specific courses. A candidate who has twenty years teaching church history may well be judged to have satisfied the educational requirement completely.

You must be trained…

The fifth requirement is sufficient training so that the candidate is equipped to properly, reverently, and inspirationally celebrate Mass, perform weddings and funerals, deliver outstanding homilies, and administer the sacraments. The Formation Course is designed to give both theological and liturgical training and to fully equip the candidate for Catholic ordination. No man will be ordained who has not completed academic Formation sufficient for the Formation Faculty and Examining Chaplains to recommend him to the Bishop for Ordination. Every candidate is expected to complete the programme of study set him by the Formation Faculty. Though a small denomination with limited resources, we intend all our Sacred Ministers to be competent and professional Clerics, fully conversant in theology and philosophy of religion, with sufficient knowledge of Canon Law and absolutely confident in Sacramental intention and liturgy as well as those disciplines necessary for effective pastoral ministry.

Formation: Reception into the Church

It is necessary for those wishing to be ordained in the Communion to first become formal, registered members of the Church before proceeding to Seminary Formation or Incardination. Candidates previously members of either the Roman Catholic, Old [Roman] Catholic or Orthodox Churches will be required to produce evidence of their Baptism/Chrismation and/Confirmation; for such candidates, a simple Profession of Faith will be required, made before a Priest duly delegated by the Bishop.

Candidate’s from other Churches must provide evidence of their Baptism/Confirmation and depending on the Church which administered those Sacraments, may be required to receive Conditional Baptism and/or Confirmation; if this be the case, a Priest duly delegated by the Bishop may perform the Rite of Conditional Baptism/Confirmation prior to receiving the Candidate’s Profession of Faith.

The Reception of Candidates should ideally take place before an offering of the Mass, so that the Reception may conclude with the Candidate’s reception of the Holy Communion.

The formal Reception of participants as members of the Communion, if the tutor(s) and participants agree that is in the best interests of an individual participant, will take place on completion of the Pre-Formation course at a time and place mutually convenient to a participant and a Priest appointed by the Bishop to Receive them.

Reception by Incardination

Incardination is the process by which a Cleric or Sacred Minister becomes Canonically part of a Catholic Church or jurisdiction. Every Catholic cleric belongs to a particular church, this has been the case for centuries since the earliest Church Councils stipulated that every Ordained man should belong to a particular church community and a particular Bishop. In every Catholic jurisdiction in the world, East or West, Sacred Ministers be they deacon, priest or bishop belong to a Church in this way.

In the Communion, Ordination means “belonging to” and “obedience” i.e. the cleric is recognised as a member of the Church and is entitled to the privileges and rights that pertain to his status in Canon Law and at the same time is beholden to certain responsibilities and ultimately subject to his ecclesiastical superior, the Bishop. Catholic tradition and order dictates that a cleric and particularly a Sacred Minister can only act sacramentally on behalf of a Bishop, incardination provides this cover.

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