Following a calling to serve the Body of Christ is one of the most important decisions a person can make. Ministry is accomplished on many levels, both in the lay state as well as in the clerical. It takes a very unique person, however, to accept the yoke of ordination. It is not an easy calling to serve as a deacon or priest. Often, it means confronting the glamor of the world and becoming David to Goliath. In the Society of Mercy, the vast majority of our clergy are "priest-workers." This was defined by Archbishop Barrington-Evans in 1962 as "taking already mature men accepted in business and industry into the ministry." The ministry of clergy can be varied in the Society of Mercy--those who are ordained may be called to parish work, chaplaincy, social service work, counseling, etc. For a priest, however, ministry must be inherently sacramental in whatever venue they are called to serve.
To pursue ordination, a candidate must first become familiar with the Society of Mercy to discern if it is the place in which they are being called to serve. The process for ordination is an introspective journey, and cannot be considered lightly. We shy away from "culture warriors" or people who feel their calling is to regulate how mercy is distributed, as well as those who seek the priesthood because of their impassioned views on modern issues. Priesthood is above all an interior journey and a path of service. There are other groups where individuals can be ordained quickly--the Society encourages candidates to consider how this process affects their very soul. Men are ordained who are assenting to our Articles of Belief and are celibate or have a helpmate.
There are two processes by which one can seek ordination to the priesthood. One is for public ministry. Priests with a public ministry have faculties to perform sacraments in a public setting. The other is private ministry. Priests with a private ministry are called simplex priests and do not have faculties.
An applicant will inquire and will have a period of discernment. During this time, the candidate will familiarize himself with the Society as well as maintain frequent contact with clergy.
An application will be completed which details the candidate's educational, personal, and theological histories as well as consent from their helpmate (if applicable) to begin the journey.
A background check will be performed at the candidate's own expense.
A determination of the candidate's theological and intellectual abilities will then be made based on their history, so as to identify if any areas of knowledge need strengthening. Candidates without any study from an accredited seminary will be admitted to St. Gabriel School of Theology for a Licentiate in Theology (L.Th.). A motivated candidate can complete the L.Th. program in one (1) year. Candidates with demonstrated studies at a seminary program or those who completed seminary at a non-Catholic institution will complete the Diploma in Old Roman Catholic Studies at St. Gabriel School of Theology.
A course on child protection will be completed.
At this point the candidate will be accepted or denied for the diaconate based on the evidence presented. At no point in the process is ordination guaranteed.
The Society of Mercy is a military endorser with the Department of Defense for those seeking chaplaincy positions. Special support is given to candidates seeking support for chaplaincy ministry.
Candidates for incardination will need to prove that these same procedures were followed in their former jurisdiction and provide documentation. A determination will be made as to any areas that need strengthening, and a personalized plan will be developed for the candidate. Particular educational emphasis will be given to the history and traditions of the Society. If the plan is mutually agreeable, a determination will be made regarding the need for sub-conditional ordination. The candidate then enters a one (1) year probationary period after acceptance.