Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 12:02 UK

Rise in priests 'not due to recession'

Vocations to the priesthood have increased
Vocations to the priesthood have increased

The highest number of student priests in a decade is about to enter Irish seminaries - but the Catholic Church says the surge in vocations isn't linked to the recession.

A total of 38 men are to begin studying for the priesthood this September. That is 18 more than last year when just 20 enrolled.

However, the Catholic Communications Office dismissed any suggestion that the promise of a secure future in the midst of an economic crisis might have propelled more young men towards the priesthood.

"They would have been in conversation with their diocese and would have been making that decision more than a year ago. At that stage, economically, things were looking good," a spokesman pointed out.

"Numbers of priests do vary. Thirty-eight is a relatively high number. But it would be premature to be considering it a trend."

Twenty-six of the new seminarians will study in Maynooth, seven will study at St Malachy's College, Belfast and two will study in Rome.

The new candidates range from 18 years old to their mid 40s. The largest numbers come from the diocese of Down and Connor and the Dublin diocese.

After ordination, they will work in their own dioceses.

The spokesman for the CCO said the profile of a seminarian had changed dramatically over the years.

"They are often now aged in their late 20s or 30s. Over 90 percent or even higher have had experience of life and been successful in secular fields," he pointed out.

All of the seminarians were either working or studying full time before deciding to opt for the priesthood, he said.

In 1999, 46 students entered the national seminary at St Patrick's College, Maynooth.

In the 1950 and 1960s, there were often more than 100 seminarians in each year.



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