Admission to the Seminary and Graduate School

Institution to the Ministry of Lector

“The first task of intellectual formation is to acquire a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the fullness and completion of God’s Revelation and the one Teacher…Seminary intellectual formation assumes and prolongs the catechesis and mystagogia that is to be part of every Christian’s journey of faith. (PPF #263)
In the seminary program, intellectual formation culminates in a deepened understanding of the mysteries of faith that s pastorally oriented toward effective priestly ministry, especially preaching. (PPF #265)


Admission to the Seminary and the Master of Divinity Program 

Prerequisites for Admission to the Seminary Program

Saint Mary Seminary welcomes and accompanies men who are discerning a call to the Roman Catholic Priesthood.  The admission process begins with conversations with a priest and with the Diocesan Vocation Director who accompanies the men through the discernment and admission process.  For more detailed information, please visit Cleveland Catholic Priesthood [] The Master of Divinity degree program is limited to candidates for the Roman Catholic Priesthood who have completed the philosophy and religious studies requirement, have earned a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university, and have been accepted by the Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland.  Candidates from the Diocese of Youngstown must be accepted by the diocesan Bishop for the priesthood formation program. Seminarians from Archdiocese of Daegu, South Korea must have the endorsement of their diocesan Archbishop and meet the admission requirements for International Seminarians. (*See Admission of International Seminarians below.) College courses prior to theological studies should provide the cultural and intellectual foundations essential to an effective theological education. They should furnish the student with the tools of learning proper to an educated person and result in increased understanding of the world. Since it is difficult to prescribe one pattern as normative for all pre-seminary education, Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology, following the guidelines of The Association of Theological Schools regarding pre-seminary studies, envisages a number of categories of learning in which a student will have developed some in-depth understanding:

  1. Secular Understandings
    1. Understanding of human selfhood and existence.
    2. Understanding of modern social institutions and problems
    3. Understanding of culture and religion
    4. Understanding of the science and technology
    5. Understanding of the modes and processes of understanding
  2. Theological Understandings
    1. Bible: content and interpretation
    2. History of Christianity
    3. Constructive theological methodology and interpretation
  3. Linguistic Skills
    1. Greek, Hebrew, Latin
    2. German, French, or Spanish

It is desirable that a student has a reading knowledge of one of the biblical languages and of one of the classical or modern languages. Decisions about additional language skills should be related to the future work of the individual. Thus, French or German should be included for a person contemplating possible graduate study in academic theology. Spanish or a language of the Third World might be of value for another ministry.In general, students should seek to develop moderate competence across the nine areas outlined above. They should be able to communicate easily possessing the ability to write and speak clearly and use correct English prose.Specific requirements which specify some of the areas of the above are the following:

  1. Theology–at least 12 semester hours in courses distributed normally over the areas of Old and New Testament history and literature, World Religions, Catholic Theology and courses in Sacramental Theology.
  2. Philosophy–at least 24 semester hours normally including courses in contemporary philosophy, ethics, logic or epistemology, metaphysics or natural theology and philosophical anthropology.
  3. Test scores from the Graduate Record Examination.

Furthermore, the seminary reserves the right to give entrance or qualifying examinations in any of the categories above. A student, however, with a bachelor’s degree who lacks less than 36 semester hours needed to acquire the competencies above, may be admitted with the understanding that it is necessary to fulfill them at neighboring colleges and thus lengthen the seminary program.

Candidates for the Roman Catholic Priesthood

Applicants should understand that the diocesan priesthood vocation is a call to service of the Church that comes from the local Church and, therefore, on-going formation is subject to the scrutiny of that local community of which the seminary is an integral part. Applicants should be open to developments in Church life and practices to prepare them for a lifelong commitment to the priesthood. A Bishop or a Religious Superior must sponsor prospective students who intend to prepare themselves for ordination. To the extent permitted by its primary mission the seminary will make efforts to accommodate candidates for the priesthood from religious communities and other rites. These applicants must provide, in addition to the documents required of all full-time, degree seeking students, Baptismal and Confirmation certificates; Marriage certificates of parents from Church records; character testimonial from the pastor; and letters of recommendation. These applicants are required to provide an autobiography or personal history, which includes a vocational discernment statement. Students from a college seminary are required to have a positive evaluation and recommendation from the seminary faculty. Each applicant whether from the Diocese of Cleveland, other dioceses or religious communities, must be considered by the Admissions Committee. Prior to acceptance by the Admissions Committee, the applicant will be expected to undergo a physical and psychological examination by qualified personnel approved by the seminary. Application deadline for entry into the seminary program is May 1. Applicants are notified that candidates for the Roman Catholic priesthood are expected to provide their own transportation.

Description of the Master of Divinity Degree Program

The Master of Divinity Program (MDiv) is the basic program of graduate professional theological education. The basic sequence of 113 semester hours is organized into five general areas: Biblical Studies, Historical Studies, Systematic Theology, Pastoral Theology, and Liturgical and Sacramental Theology. The course sequences are so arranged that there is a progression from the sources of revelation to the systematic understanding and application of principles to the mission of the Church as required in the parochial ministry. The program is professional in its orientation and yet truly academic in that it demands extensive independent study, supervised field education, and the adequate use of the methods of research so that the student may carry out ministry in a creative and responsible fashion.

Admission of International Seminarians

Policy: To support international seminarians in their academic, vocational, and cultural transition to graduate study at Saint Mary Seminary, as required by the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis (2016) and the Program for Priestly Formation in the United States of America, Sixth Edition, the following will be implemented, effective Fall 2022:

Admission Process

Admission of international seminarians to the Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology is initiated by the Bishop of the sponsoring diocese or Major Superior of a religious community, and includes conversation with and approval of the Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland and the Rector of the Seminary. A letter affirming good standing for an applicant in a religious community or a letter of suitability for an applicant for Orders is requested prior to a final admission decision. Once approval is finalized, the following requirements are in effect for non-native English-speaking seminarians:

  1. Ordinarily the philosophy requirement is completed prior to admission to the major seminary.
  2. The TOEFL-iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language – internet-based Test) must be taken by the candidate, and scores must be sent electronically to the Registrar of the seminary. Minimum total score of 80 required, with no category lower than 20. Exceptions are considered on a case-by-case basis. [Register for the TOEFL-iBT (home edition) at Be sure to select Institution # D231 Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology]
  3. The student has been selected and recommended by the formation faculty of the sponsoring diocesan seminary or sponsoring religious community. All academic transcripts, sacramental records, relevant formation evaluations, testimonials, and other admission documentation is sent to the Rector of Saint Mary Seminary prior to the issuance of the acceptance letter.
  4. The student has and presents a valid passport from the country of citizenship.
  5. Saint Mary Seminary PDSO/DSO initiates the issue of the acceptance letter and I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Students. The student presents all necessary documentation to the consulate of the country of citizenship to complete the process to be issued a valid student F-1 visa for study in the United States. It is understood that the student abides by all applicable immigration procedures at all times during the duration of the program of studies in the United States, including but not limited to international travel. Failure to cooperate may result in termination of the student visa.
  6. The sponsoring diocese or religious community is ordinarily responsible for financial support associated with seminary academic and formation program, including tuition, fees and living expenses.
  7. Once all admission procedures have been completed, a travel date is set. Ordinarily, the international seminarian arrives at Saint Mary Seminary at least six months prior to the start of the academic semester to allow for a period of language, acculturation, and formational transition as a preparation for theological study and continued vocational discernment.
Orientation to Graduate Study and Seminary Life

To assist the international seminarian to prepare for successful graduate study, a program of a Propaedeutic Year—adjusted according to the student’s needs—may include the following pastoral, language*, and formational experiences. (*Regional accrediting agencies require adequate proficiency in the English language. Saint Mary Seminary is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and requires adequate proficiency in the English language.) PAS 501 — Formation for Fraternal Communion Goal: Personal formation and integration into the seminary community—Human and Community Accompaniment. This community leads the seminarian, through ordination, to become part of the ‘family’ of the presbyterate, at the service of a particular community. 3 Credits PAS 502 — Discernment, Prayer, and Priestly Identity Goal: Spiritual Accompaniment—Introduction to the spirituality of the diocesan priest: The seminarian is introduced to the spiritual practices which are foundational to the priest’s life of prayer. In addition, the liturgical and devotional life of the seminary community are presented as normative and formative. 3 Credits PAS 503 — English Language Proficiency for Graduate Theological Studies Goal: Intellectual Accompaniment—Classes are provided, either on campus, at a certified ELS site, or with the assistance of a certified ESL instructor, to assist the international seminarian in acquiring English proficiency in preparation for graduate theological studies and ongoing priestly formation. Speech therapy for accent reduction is available as needed. 3 Credits PAS 504 — Introduction to Pastoral Ministry in an American Catholic Parish Goal: Cultural Competence for Priestly Ministry—Accompaniment for Pastoral Ministry: The program prepares candidates for priestly ministry, either incardinated in the Diocese of Cleveland, or returning to priestly ministry in their native country. 3 Credits

Program of Studies for International Students (Master of Divinity Degree)
• The international seminarian pursues the usual Master of Divinity Degree: 113 graduate credits; minimum GPA: 2.0 on a 4-point scale.
• If the seminarian achieves a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4-point scale in the required courses of the first and second year of the MDiv program, he is eligible to also pursue the Master of Arts (Theology) degree during the remainder of the academic program.