Both in Catholic and Protestant circles the word “seminary” is frequently used, but not always understood generally.
So what is a seminary?
In accordance with the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word is gotten from the “Middle English, seedbed, nursery, from Latin seminarium, from semin, seed.”
Though, the word was initially used for agricultural contexts, but was later adapted for various forms of educationThe Catholic Encyclopedia however, explains that “The word seminary is sometimes used, especially in Germany, to indicate a group of university students which are devoted to a special line of work.
The same word is also applied in England and the United States to young ladies’ academies, Protestant or Catholic.” In this case, it refers to the “seed” of wisdom which germinates and grows in the mind of the student.
However, in some recent years it has come to be more commonly associated with centers of training for both Catholic and Protestant clergy.
But in the Catholic Church, this totally means a place where men live in community and attend philosophical and theological courses at a nearby university, as they also receive additional formation to become a priest.
The seminary is built so as to provide a suitable place for vocational discernment, giving men the opportunity to carefully consider God’s call in their lives, in whatever means it may be.
However, this relates to the original meaning of the word “seminary” as a place where the “seed” of a vocation is planted and allowed to grow.
Surely, out of all those men who enter seminary, only 30% (roughly 1 in 3) goes on to be ordained a priest. Seminarians in any way, are free to leave seminary up until the day of their ordination.
This fact is not just a fault of the seminary or the individual discerning, but it is a life reality that not all men are called to be ordained a priest.
It actually takes the time spent away from the world to properly discern the priestly call and to be properly formed into the man God created him to be.