COVERING OUR JURISDICTIONAL
Training and Study Program For
The program of study was designed to provide each student with the understanding of their role within the Minor and Major Holy Orders as upheld by The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church. In the process, those accepted as candidates/postulants for the Major Holy Orders will be well prepared to lead in a ministry that they are called to by God.
Presently the Training and Study Program is open to any student that meets one the following criteria:
Within the Training Program, one is prepared both intellectually through studies in different areas and spiritually through the verbal instructions for the different Holy Orders. It is very important that one develops a spiritual level that is commensurate with their academic level within the Training Program.
The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church and our official training and reading program does not discriminate in regard to Holy Orders on the basis of gender or marital status. Presently the Holy Orders are open to both male and female. Only the Episcopate at present is held for the males only. This is in standing with ancient tradition of the church as founded by Christ and awaiting action by a united synod rather then by this individual jurisdiction of the Church Catholic.
Our Christ the Teacher Reading and Study Program is functioning as our correspondence (long distance) training program. Therefore the application process, acceptance process and the educational process is the same as it would be if one was attending a large university. This means that we are very serious in our training of the people who wish to serve in God's vineyard as Priests. In this process, the application is long and extensive to give us a very good understanding of who you are. The application requires you to write several essays so that we can see your thinking process and what each of the areas actually mean to you. Along with the application to the training program, each student is required to have an interview with the Bishop of the Jurisdiction. All previous religious college courses are evaluated as to their acceptance toward one of our required courses. Please know that just because you are accepted into the Reading and Training Program, that does not mean you will be ordained to any of the Holy Orders. Only the Bishop can make that determination upon the recommendation of the training staff and the other Priests of the Jurisdiction. It is expected that the candidate develop a close spiritual relationship with the Training Staff and with their Bishop. This is the only way that we will know your actual spiritual development. Both the Training Staff and the Bishop are here to really help you grow and be prepared to become a Priest both spiritually AND intellectually.
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The decision to undertake Training and Study for Holy Orders - to prepare yourself for the Priesthood of the Church is perhaps one of the most important and difficult decisions you will ever be called upon to make in your life. It is also one of the hardest, most demanding paths you can choose to follow in this life. We use the word follow because the Priesthood is NOT a career path, but a "calling" that comes from deep within you, that draws you on no matter what seems to stand in your way or arise in your private life that seems to place stumbling blocks in your path.
While we understand that there are Churches that ordain people quickly or hastily within a matter of weeks or months or sadly even less -- THIS IS NOT THE CASE, within The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic. As you are reading this page and you have now reached this point and are wondering if you can be ordained quickly or with very little training - PLEASE READ NO FURTHER - you will be VERY disappointed.
We, within The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church, realize all to painfully, that there are people who undoubtedly have been ordained, who sought ordination for all the wrong reasons. The smaller independent Churches and apostolic jurisdictions of the Church in this country have been particularly burdened with this kind of situation in the past.
Sadly, we live in a society, a time and an age, if you would, when many people are seeking validation for their own identities, an identity they hope will help to shape who and what they either want to be OR believe themselves to be, and sadly attempt to look to the calling, vocation of the Priesthood as the answer to their feelings of lack, insecurity, unworthiness and lack of self-esteem and integrity. The attempted attainment of God's inner peace and/or the validation of personal identity through ordination is always a disaster with major consequences both for the individual and the Church as a whole.
Some feel that they "need" ordination to secure a closer relationship to God, how sad! For our relationship to God and our Lord has little to do with what is going on outside of us, but rather what is happening on inside of us. Others feel that it is the only way they will ever have, to become respected, looked up to, perhaps even listened to - again, how sad. Some seek the priesthood to cover up flaws that they perceive in their own character. It almost reminds us of a mother and father who decide to have a child because their marriage is failing, thinking that the baby will hold them together and make their marriage work. Well, of course, it doesn't and ordination does not bring instant healing of all our problems, issues in life, perceived lack of direction or some kind of magic pill that will somehow elevate us to the pinnacles of peace of mind, happiness and validation for the person we are deep within us.
So what does it mean to be a priest, to even study for the Holy Priesthood? It is a walk, a path that one walks down because they are in love with God, and with becoming ONE with - that which they will handle and offer in sacrifice, of literally giving themselves to God, surrendering to His direction, leadership in all areas of their life and our Lord's Call to real and actual servant ministry. They will learn, hopefully, that each vestment that they put on, literally becomes an aspect of themselves, their ministry, their calling. They desire to study the Church Fathers who have gone before them, to witness the love affair with God that has called others before them. As they read of the ministry of others that have gone before them, it touches a place in their hearts, thoughts and the essence of their being, that says to them, "I know what that feels like, I have felt that way, thought those thoughts." They will learn that there is an intimacy to this calling, this path of the priesthood that calls upon their ability to open themselves totally in complete vulnerability to our Lord Jesus Christ, working in them, through them and of them. It is indeed the very feeling of that prayer within the Liturgy, "Christ is IN OUR MIDST," "The Holy Spirit is IN OUR MIDST, and so it shall be forever."
Each new generation of candidates from the Minor Orders all the way through to the diaconate and priesthood then have that foundation. A model to follow, of not only how the early Christians and their deacons and priests looked at, felt, taught and most of all, believed about Jesus, our Lord and our Savior and our God. Their trials, their tribulations, their joy, their peace, their long dark night of the soul experiences, their accomplishments, their defeats. Candidates also need to come to know and experience "Christ in our Midst," indeed "IN THEIR MIDST." All these aspects are important.
A priest in this day and age must in fact, be talented in many different areas. They must be able to work with basic legal obligations that are entailed in parish and mission life in the community, they must be involved in the mundane actions of financial and legal responsibilities concerning their ministries, their missions and often times even their faithful. But through it all, a priest still must have, maintain and nurture the spiritual life within themselves. They must constantly work to overcome continuing problems or issues within their own lives as they surface or confront them.
The question must be asked, how can anyone "become" a priest if they do not know what it is that they are supposed to become. Handing someone a ritual test and teaching them how to say the Divine Eucharistic Liturgy does "not" prepare them for that process of "becoming" a priest. While the calling may be there, the potential still needs to be developed, strengthened, grounded in Sacred Scripture, a sound knowledge of all the Sacraments, what they mean, how they are used within the Church, how to prepare others to receive them in a state of grace.
Frankly, to ordain someone without a solid background in what it "is" that they are becoming, places that person almost in a spiritual limbo. They are ordained, but still find it to easy to slip out of their callings for various reasons, and then again, they don't always come to experience what it feels like to be a priest of God within His Holy Church, they know they are lacking in training, they doubt their own abilities, they usually do not start missions or do active ministries.
Seminary training does not have to take place in a facility or group of buildings somewhere. What it does demand is a level of commitment to spirituality and prayer within yourself, to training and learning, reading, study and the communication to others of what you have learned and have come to understand about what you have read and studied.
We within The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church have a basic minimum three years training course. You work at your own speed, with mentors assigned to you as you complete your work, to ask questions and seek guidance from, during your studies. Working at your own pace, may take you longer than three years, that is OK also. If you have a lot of time and the finances, you may also complete them sooner. That also is up to you. But please remember, just completing assignments does not always mean that you are ready for ordination, so you will also have regular visits/discussions with your clergy mentor, to see how you are progressing, both inward AND outwardly. You may also expect that at times your Bishop will also want to talk with you concerning your studies.
As you complete certain areas of study, you will be advanced, with the advice of the mentoring clergy and the Bishop, through the Minor Orders of the Church, including sub-deacon and then the major orders of deacon and priest. Most of our people are working and have daily lives that must be attended to and worked with, in addition to their training.
Please pray and think heavily and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you think about pursuing entry into the Candidates program of studies. The things that will be required of you will be outlined in the following pages. If you have question, please do not hesitate to contact us and seek further clarification.
We are interested in helping people to "become" priests. We are interested in helping those who truly seek to follow the calling that they know dwells within them.
Blessings and we look forward to hearing from you,
Most Reverend Perry R. (Joseph Benedict) Sills, O.C., S.T.D.
The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church in America
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We are totally committed to giving our candidates for Holy Orders the best possible Theological and Spiritual training. With this in mind, our Training Program and Staff reserves the right to change the course requirements as needed to better prepare the candidates for Holy Orders for their duties as a Priest within The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church in America.
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