A vocation to clerical life is a very special calling from God into a life of service. Understanding this call to service is necessary for proper discernment, especially when one is seeking priesthood. It occurs when God reaches out directly to touch us with absolute purpose and intention. When we accept this contact and reach back to him, humanity becomes a complete instrument of God. Priests (and to a certain extent, those in the lessor ministries) are invited to participate in the very action of God's cosmic work. In a very real sense, they become deliberate functions of divine force and presence. Unfortunately, we have seen how the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM) is riddled with ministers who have acquired ordination for personal reasons, power seeking, and/or for private initiations into some esoteric/occult modality. The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church, however, rejects such intentions and labels them as false callings. We hope to correct this phenomenon and increase the quality and integrity of the ISM. It is for this reason that we are very careful with our discernment process. Anyone is invited to apply to become a cleric in the church, but acceptance into our seminary/mentorship program is dependent upon several factors. Not the least of which are:
1. Candidates for the clerical ministry may be single or married. Although it is not a definitive rule, we prefer candidates interested in Major Orders to be married beforehand.
2. Candidates must be of the highest moral and ethical character. This does not mean that they cannot be human too; thus, it simply affirms that interested candidates for ministry have a regular practice of self-reflection, being present and mindful to their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
3. Candidates should have an overwhelming internal drive to serve others.
4. Candidates should be prepared and willing to engage the reality of God without pretense or constructed illusion. One must have the patient endurance to see beyond one's conventions and beliefs, as such elements often distort the actuality of God and will interfere with the minister's ability to function effectively.
5. While the HNCC rejects the idea of seeking ordination for private and/or personal reasons, it does suggest that any candidate for Major Sacramental Orders understands that each level (i.e., deacon, priest, and bishop) is every bit an initiation into the most profound corners of the esoteric world. Candidates should be warned never to take their vocations lightly. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is perhaps the most wonderful and frightening mystical experience available to humankind.
The second part of the process is to speak with the Bishop assigned to your locality. If after this evaluation everyone is agreed that a vocation to ministry exists, the next stage is an invitation to enter the Seminary/Mentorship program.
The HNCC does not utilize a formal seminary program at this time, rather it prefers to work with its vocational candidates in much the same way as the early Church. This involves ascertaining the individual educational needs of each candidate and assisting the candidate with meeting those needs. The vocation director and Bishop closely work together with each candidate on a personal level. When all requirements are met, the candidate is invited to receive the level of ministry that is appropriate to their current level of completion. This translates into the simple fact that ordination tends to occur faster than it would in the more conventional traditions of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, but it also means that it is less dependent upon academic milestones and far more on spiritual maturity. While we see this as an advantage in our tradition, we strongly desire that our candidates for priesthood have at least a four-year college degree.
The HNCC offers three levels of ministry:
Lay Ministry: Candidates for this Office may be involved in running parish events, administratively assisting priests and deacons, cantoring, teaching child and adult religious education, etc.
Minor Orders: Involve four specific Offices.
Exorcist: will assist at Baptisms and also assists the Rector with grave spiritual crises.
Ostarius: assists in directing the liturgy, making announcements, and ensuring order in the congregation.
Lector: reads the scriptures of the day other than the Gospel.
Major Orders: Involve four specific Offices.
Sacramental Major Orders:
Priesthood: The second level of Holy Orders confers upon the deacon the ability to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, hear confessions in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, provide Sacramental Blessings, lead parishes, and (if a Pastor with delegated authority) perform Confirmations. The HNCC does not feel it has the authority to open priesthood up to women until an ecumenical counsel declares such a practice valid. We do, however, stand by the position that a female priesthood has the potential to enhance the richness of the Church.
Bishopric: The third and final level of the Sacrament of Holy Orders confers upon the priest the fullness of the Sacrament. By virtue of this Office, he becomes a true successor to the Apostles under Apostolic Succession. He holds the special and exclusive task of leading a diocese as well as performing Confirmations and Ordinations. He also serves as the only minister who may consecrate another bishop. In both the Nicholean and Russian Orthodox traditions, candidates for consecration to Bishop are selected only from among solemnly professed monastics.
The Independent Sacrament Movement is prone to a wide variety of Sacramental forms. When considering what constitutes a valid priestly Ordination or episcopal Consecration, an Independent Bishop MUST consider that validity is just as much dependent upon the Sacramental form as it is on the validity of his own Apostolic Succession. Despite what many might believe about this controversial subject, valid Apostolic Succession does NOT confer on Bishops the authority to ordain a deacon, priest or consecrate a bishop using just any arbitrary rite. The rite that is used must contain a validly recognized form that has been approved by a synod of Bishops, or preferably, by an Ecumenical Counsel. With this in mind, all of the ministers of the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church or the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church have been ordained under the same rites used by that of the Roman Catholic Church or of the Russian Orthodox Church.