At the end all the assessors join in and write a recommendation to the candidate's bishop that is actually less then a page long and is the result of a long thought- out process. Whether to accept the candidate as a postulant is then up to the bishop.
To do this, the provincial secretary selects assessors from a pool suggested by the various bishops in the province. The secretary then divides the assessors into teams of three, usually with a priest and two lay people. The team I was just on had an archdeacon, a nun and me. The team gathers on noon on the Thursday and is engaged in training for about 24 hours.
The candidates arrive around noon on Friday. Typically, three candidates are assigned to three assessors. There are then several intensive sessions, including one on one interviews, until Saturday evening. There are some informal sessions and meals where assessors and candidates circulate. The idea is that the candidates are assessed the entire time at all times, except during worship.
On the Saturday evening, the team gathers to write a joint report. Each team of three presents reports on each of their three candidates. Input is then received from the wider team and a final report is prepared. The next morning, each candidate has their report read to them. The report is then sent to the candidate's bishop and other appropriate church bodies.
This may sound very dry and long winded. Frankly, I borrowed much of the above from the handbook for assessors. It is a lot of work but so very rewarding.
I have been given the privilege of meeting many wonderful potential priests.
The candidates are of all ages and types. Traditionally they should be in first or second year of a 3 year seminary program. Some however have just started theology and others have graduated.
There is a saying that what happens in ACPO stays in ACPO so I can't give specific examples. However, I have been impressed by the depth of faith, vision and enthusiasm of so many candidates. There have been occasions when I have had to agree that candidate x should not be recommended and these have been difficult.
On the whole, however, it has been awesome. Your church is making a real effort to be guided by the Spirit in the process of discernment. It has been an absolute joy to have served and I hope I have many more opportunities to be an assessor.
Rev'd Deacon Rod McDowell, May 2009