By Amy Blackburn
With the number of seminary entrants rising yearly, has the problem of the Roman Catholic Church's ageing priest population been solved?
This weekend is a significant one in the Catholic calendar. It marks Vocation Sunday, an annual day of prayer for vocations into the priesthood and other forms of religious life.
This year, the church has distributed 4,000 posters and other publicity materials to parishes, schools and university chaplaincies across the UK.
Such determination to raise awareness of the possibility of a religious life may seem surprising given recent increases in the number of young men entering the priesthood.
Over the past five years, the number of would-be priests beginning formation, or training, has almost doubled - from an all-time low of 24 in 2003 to 44 in 2007.
"The death of Pope John Paul II and ascension of Benedict XVI were an important time for us", says Father Paul Embery, director of the National Office for Vocation.
"People became more encouraged to make an enquiry into joining the priesthood.
"We're also beginning to recognise a lot of people who have become priests, monks or nuns because they have been asked to do so. Sometimes, just being asked can be a crystallising moment.
"We're regaining the confidence to be able to ask young men to enter the priesthood."
But, while these increases in numbers are encouraging for the church, they may not be enough to stem the potential problems arising from the ageing population of priests.
The number of men entering seminaries reached its crux in the 1960s, Father Embery says, leaving a top-heavy age profile within the priest population.
"The past five years is just a snapshot. Numbers of seminary entrants are always in flux, and we are still a long way from the levels of the 60s."
The aging demographic of Catholic priests is causing concern
For Deacon Tom Dubois, who is currently in a seminary, it was witnessing the vocation of somebody close to him that encouraged him to pursue his own calling.
"I first thought of becoming a priest when I was very young", he says.
"A really inspiring nun taught at my school, and she would talk about her vocation to our class.
"I pushed it away in my teens, but the call came back strongly when I was at university."
Deacon Dubois, 26, is one of three training priests who have told of their experiences of entering the priesthood in online interviews for Clifton Diocese's contribution to the campaign.
"A campaign like this one would have certainly helped me when I was younger", says Deacon Dubois.
"The online element is especially important - I went to look for information online when I was first considering the priesthood.
"What someone who is thinking about becoming a priest needs most is to see someone else and think 'that could be me'.
"With the increase in immigration to the UK, especially from eastern Europe, the Catholic population is growing. Priesthood is obviously central to the Catholic faith, so we do really need priests."
The need for more men to enter seminaries is one that is felt across the Catholic priesthood.
"The life of the church needs to continue, and needs to be served by priests", says Father Michael Walsh.
For him, there was "no blinding flash" calling him into the priesthood.
"In my fifth year of secondary school I just decided I wanted to be a priest and followed it up from there.
He was ordained on 1 March 1969 and will celebrate four decades in the priesthood next year.
"We're still doing largely the same things as we were in the 60s", says Father Walsh, 63.
"It's the status of priests that has changed. There isn't the same respect and reverence, but I think that's true for a lot of professions."
As this year's Vocation Sunday arrives, Father Embery points out there is more to finding new priests than advertising.
"The reality of vocation is that it isn't raw recruitment - it's a personal call from God."