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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Pleading for priests on a beer mat
By Jacqueline Head
BBC News

Terry Tastard
Priest Terry Tastard said the adverts could help break stereotypes

Beer mats and posters on the London Underground are being used by the Catholic Church in a more unusual attempt to try to slow the declining numbers of priests.

BBC News asked members of a London congregation for their views tackling the problem.

The Holy Trinity in Brook Green is a lively local church set in quiet residential surrounds. But at its early morning Sunday service, there was still pew space available.

Most members at Holy Trinity agree the problem of finding a new audience extends further than attracting just priests, saying there is a real lack of engagement with young people over religion.

But Parish Priest Fr Terry Tastard believes the new advertising campaign is about more than that.

Michael Atayi and children
Michael Atayi said religious education was the key

"Fewer people are coming forward [for priesthood]," he said.

"But this campaign might break down the stereotype with the church. It might make people see it as extending to all aspects of life."

"I worry that we emphasise the cult of youth. Why not attract those in their 40's, 50's or 60's? People should be chosen because they are suitable."

Joan McQuillian, 49, from Hammersmith, said the advertising is a good idea that "plants a seed" in people's minds.

"Where do young people go for spiritual direction now?

"We have children, 23 and 29, and neither of them go to church anymore. They are too busy on a Sunday, they go shopping."

Women priests

Mrs McQuillian, who works in a nearby convent, said the nuns had asked why no young girls were coming in.

Kel McIntosh and Sara Magern
Kel McIntosh and Sara Magern thought the ads a 'bit odd'
"It's because there's no advertising," she said.

"A lot of people don't have any contact with religious people."

However, the couple thought women should not be targeted for priesthood in an effort to boost numbers.

"A nun is the same as a priest," Jim McQuillian, 56, said.

Encouraging priests to marry would not work either, Mrs McQuillian said.

"The nuns made a point over the upkeep of them and their family - who would pay for their upkeep?"

"We are always being asked to give money."

It's much harder being a young Catholic now
Fran Charles
Organ player

Kel McIntosh, 36, from Hammersmith and his fiancÚ Sara Magern, 34, thought advertising on beer mats was unusual.

"It strikes me as a bit odd", Mr McIntosh said.

Ms Magern added: "Perhaps they should look for parishioners for recruiting.

People often become religious later in life she said.

"People start looking towards the church in their 30's. It's when you stop partying and look to other things in life.

Religious education

Fran Charles, 18, who plays the church organ, said young people face some difficulties.

"It's much harder being a young Catholic now," she said

"The norms of society don't match those of being a Catholic.

Carol Kasigezi
Carol Kasigezi believes women should be allowed to be priests

"It's hard to say you can't go out late on Saturday night because you have to play the organ on Sunday morning."

Miss Charles thought beer mat advertising was "a good way of reaching young people".

"It's a way to have them connect more with their parish. You don't want priests coming from one place. You want them to have wider life experience."

Carol Kasigezi, 18, from Shepherds Bush, thought religious education in schools would help increase dwindling numbers.

And encouraging women to become priests "would be a good way forward".



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