By Anne Marie Rodriguez
Umatuna Si Yu’os
The Holy Father in his 2017 message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations said:
“Commitment to mission is not something added on to the Christian life as a kind of decoration, but is instead an essential element of faith itself. A relationship with the Lord entails being sent out into the world as prophets of His Word and witnesses of His love.”
As shepherds of the Church, priests are often looked to as a source of guidance and support in our Christian lives.
The Committee on Priestly Formation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) developed a document called the Program of Priestly Formation (PPF) that provides specific guidelines to seminaries for the formation of priests.
Fr. Richard Kidd, the pastor of the Our Lady of Purification Catholic Church in Maina, is the Director of Vocations for the archdiocese and serves as a liaison to young men discerning the priesthood.
He refers to the PPF as well as the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis (The Gift of the Priestly Vocation) to evaluate the young men who come to him expressing an interest in the priesthood.
According to the PPF, there are four “pillars” that are observed and evaluated: Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Pastoral.
“We want to know about their human side—what type of person they are,” said Fr. Kidd. The duty of a vocations director includes looking at “their ability to communicate well with the parishioners and their ability to communicate the faith.”
They consider the spiritual life of the individual, for example, whether they are prayerful people who are “able to preach [about] God … and encourage those who might think that they have reached a plateau and don’t know where to go.”
He continued, reflecting on the pastoral formation, “Are they able to look at the suffering individual … to meet that person from a pastor’s point-of-view? Can they shepherd those individuals?
“And of course, the last side is the intellectual,” Fr. Kidd said, “Do they have the intellectual capacity to dive deep into 2000 years of Church tradition and scripture?”
After a general assessment of these four pillars, an application process to be accepted as a seminarian for the Archdiocese follows and involves a test to assess the applicant’s ability to read, write, and speak the English language, a criminal background check, verification of high school/college education, psychological examination by a psychiatrist as well as other entrance examinations. “Of course, even with this application process, the applicant must meet with the Vocation Director and the Archbishop for a few interviews and provide letters of recommendation as is standard for in the secular world.”
Once they are accepted as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Agaña, they are sent off for formal studies. The seminary of choice also has an application process that is to be followed, but this process generally mirrors that of the sponsoring archdiocese. It would typically take four to nine years for the seminarian to complete his studies, depending on the seminarian’s post high school education.
When individuals come knocking at the door of the vocations office, Fr. Kidd often finds that there are misconceptions about becoming a priest.
While there are many wonderful aspects about his vocation such as being able to offer Mass, he remarked on the long hours that they work and serve saying, “You are a priest 24/7. You don’t just say, ‘Alright, 5 o’clock, I’m off.’ You’re not off.
“You’re not getting up to minister to these people for a paycheck. You’re getting up to minister to these people because of your specific call to serve, your specific call to bring Christ to them.”
Although Fr. Kidd recalled long, sleepless nights, he reflected on his favorite parts about being a priest, “I love being with the people.”
He noted that one of his joys is “being there for them when they need a shoulder to cry on, when they need a helping hand, or a lending ear.”
As a vocations director, it is Fr. Kidd’s responsibility to promote, recruit and screen men who are discerning the priesthood.
However, he noted that it is not just the responsibility of the vocations director to encourage and recruit these individuals. It is the responsibility of the pastors, parishioners, family members, and friends of an individual to promote and encourage as well. “Most importantly,” he said, “it is our responsibility to PRAY for vocations; not just vocations to the priesthood, but for the religious and sacramental married life as well.”