When I was discerning whether I was called to the priesthood, seminary life was one of the last things I thought about, despite the long six-year training period. My mind and heart were dreamily lost in the call of being a priest and I didn’t really give too much thought to the process and path to priesthood.

Up until a few years before seminary I had never met a seminarian or entered a seminary. The whole process was something of a mystery. So clearly I had a lot to learn and get used to.

I had thought that all there was to seminary was prayer, study and the occasional meal. But I discovered that there is a whole lot more that, in addition to the essential pillars of prayer and study, make seminary both a challenging and exciting place to be.

The basic framework at St Mary’s College, Oscott, in Birmingham (and indeed in all major seminaries worldwide) consists of what Pope John Paul II described as the principal foundations for priestly formation: the academic, the spiritual, the pastoral and the human strands of formation. The four strands are linked and integrated into six years of study, two degrees and three ministries (lector in year two, acolyte in year three and diaconate at the end of year five). There are also many hours of formation time in prayer and one-on-one meetings with staff, including spiritual direction.

I have now been in seminary for more than three years and what comes to mind when I think of it is the word “community”. We are a community of men bound together by our distinctive calling and purpose: our shared love for Christ and his Church.

But we are far from identical. There are more than 70 men with 70 different stories, from over 20 dioceses. We embody diversity. While some of us love to play FIFA 18, others prefer strategic board games. Some enjoy trainspotting and others plane-hopping. Some love cooking food, while others – myself included – just love eating it. In all our differences we are one community.

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