The number of aspiring priests in Ireland is finally on the rise with 20 students enrolling to be clerics when the new college year begins next month.
The college will welcome 20 clerical students for the new term, up eight on last year’s figures. Many of them have already completed other university courses.
Their studies will take seven years in total including a three to four year degree course before completing their religious studies at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth.
Monsignor Hugh Connolly, the president of the Kildare college, told the Irish Examiner that this is one of the biggest numbers of new entrants in recent years.
He said: “Most have been through college, but there is a huge variety of qualifications among them.
“This year, they have studied things like quantity surveying, human resources, finance, history and politics, computers and maths, some have come from full-time jobs.”
Monsignor Connolly confirmed that most of the new batch of clerical students are in their mid-20s with one seminarian over 50.
Around 70 seminarians will be living at the college by the end of September.
He added: “We’re delighted with such big numbers of seminarians, but it will not be enough to replace the number of priests retiring from ministry or dying, so there still need to be changes to structures in dioceses and on the ground in parishes.”
Statistics show that around 60% of those who enter the national seminary make it to ordination according to the Irish Examiner report.
Lay teachers will assist with their clerical education.
Monsignor Connolly said: “Despite all the crises and troubles that people engaged in ministry and the Church have been through, there seems still to be a remarkably vibrant interest in theology and pastoral work and hands-on contact with the community.”