While some dioceses in the US have been closing and consolidating seminaries, here in Washington DC we recently opened a new one: The Blessed John Paul II Seminary. And things are going so well, we are now adding a new three-floor wing to accommodate more men. (See a wonderful video below on the Seminary)

Currently 30 men are in formation at Blessed John Paul II. Altogether Washington has just over 70 men studying for the priesthood.

This new seminary is unique in that it enrolls men who are still in college, or need to do pre-theology studies, prior to undertaking post-Graduate Theology studies. It was the concern of Cardinal Wuerl that in the years prior to entering Major Seminary and theological studies it was important to form the men and let them live in community in the Washington area where they will serve in future years.

Back in 2005 we also opened a Missionary Seminary for thirty seminarians of this Archdiocese in the Neocatechumenal Way to study. We also send men to the North American College in Rome, Mount St. Marys Seminary in Emmitsburg MD, Theological College in Washington, and Blessed John XXIII in Boston.

The Lord is turning out some very good men. I remain impressed with the caliber, devotion and orthodoxy of the men who are in our seminaries. I recently preached a retreat for 30 of them at Blessed John Paul II here in DC. I also work with them in both summer assignments here in the parish and have at least three at a time working here throughout the academic year. They are prayerful and intelligent men who have a heart for the Church, and a love and reverence for God.

Internationally the number of seminarians has increased an astonishing 86.3% since 1978. in 2010 there 118,990 seminarians worldwide, whereas in 1978 there were just  63,882 major seminarians. All this according to the Annuario Pontificio

U.S. Catholic seminary enrollment in theology this past year year (2012) is the highest in almost a quarter-century, according to the  Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). Last year’s total of 3,723 is the highest enrollment since the 3,788 reported for 1988-89.

The average rate of retention for seminarians entering theology to being ordained has remained  consistent at about 75 percent.

Younger trend -Slightly more than a quarter of today’s major seminarians are 35 or older, and more than half are under 30, representing a possibly significant shift back toward youth after a couple of decades in which newly ordained priests tended to be much older.

So, there is a lot to be grateful for. It is true we must work harder, and there is much about which to be sober. The reported growth in seminarians does not match what we need to fill the gaps. Ordinations are still only about a third of the number that are needed to compensate for those priests who are retiring, or dying.

Yet still we have more than bottomed out and are now heading in the right direction. Continue to pray for many vocations.

Great Laity too - Pray too for continued reform and zeal among the lay faithful. So many good signs exist there too, I meet so many dedicated and zealous laity every day. A growing remnant of clergy and laity are getting clearer and more focused, day by day.

Take this to heart, beloved readers. I think it is easy for us to get discouraged today and we see so much confusion and decay in our culture. But God is raising up a faithful remnant. He is purifying the Church in so may ways, with good vocations, but also many wonderful lay movements and Catholics in fire for the Lord.

Yes, He has been pruning his Church, to be sure, and our overall numbers at Mass may continue to go down for a while. But pruning has a purpose, and the Church that remains may be overall smaller, but she is going to need to be strong to endure and overcome the days that get ever darker. Like Gideon’s army that was too large, God is thinning but purifying his ranks. A smaller but clearer army that is united will win the day.

Like Noah’s Ark! It may take time but it is clear that God is preparing, pruning and purifying the Church for something very great. It may well be that the Church will once again have to be a kind of Noah’s ark which will preserve the vestiges of life from a dying culture, only to replant them when the flood waters subside. And thus, the Lord is strengthening the Ark, the Barque of Peter. In the Words of an old spiritual: Get on board Children, there’s room for many-a-more.

Yes! Take heart and be of good courage. Jesus says, In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (Jn 16:33)

Here’s a video of our newest Seminary at which we are needing to add a new wing to accommodate “many-a-more.”

11 Responses

  1. TaillerHuws says:

    Amen! and Amen!

  2. Brian says:

    Encourage the young men who seem to be good candidates! I told my boys from early on not to say ‘no’ just yet to the thought of a vocation to the priesthood. I have one boy (of my 2) who is discerning a vocation to the priesthood. And I just the other day told the other one that just because he doesn’t think he wants to be a priest to not shut the door completely on the idea. Even though we would love grandchildren we would rejoice if one or both become priests. Our vocation director says the biggest obstacle is friends and relatives who discourage young men from the thought of the priesthood.

  3. Jamie R says:

    We must pray for our priests – those we have and those in formation.

    Is there a more counter-cultural vocation these days? I cannot think of one.

  4. garym says:

    Terrific.

  5. RichardGTC says:

    “The
    child was beautiful beyond words and resembled the Child Jesus, and he said to
    me, Look at the sky. And when I looked at the sky I saw the stars and the moon
    shining. Then the child asked me, Do you see this moon and these stars?
    When I said yes, he spoke these words to me, These stars are the souls of
    faithful Christians, and the moon is the souls of religious. Do you see how
    great the difference is between the light of the moon and the light of the
    stars? Such is the difference in heaven between the soul of a religious and
    the soul of a faithful Christian. And he went on to say that, True greatness is
    in loving God and in humility.”–from DIARY Of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, paragraph 424

  6. Pilar says:

    Such an encouraging blogpost Monsignor. Mil gracias!

  7. JohnR says:

    I wish to add a note of encouragement also. I do not live in America. I live in Western Australia. I have seen Archbishops come and go. At the end of last year, Archbishop Hickey retired. When he became Archbishop he re-opened the diocesan seminary of St. Charles which had been closed when I first came to live here. During his time as Archbishop he ordained 108 priests. These were not all archdiocesan priests it must be pointed out. There were about four or five for Religious Orders and also about twenty or so from the Neo-Catechumenate Seminary which he encouraged to be set up here and now has about twenty or so seminarians as of this present time. I have visited this seminary on several occasions and most of the seminarians there would seem to come from one or other South American countries or the Philippines. The archdiocesan seminary has about the same number as are in this seminary. There is then, a very visible growth in numbers at both seminaries here. This is indeed very encouraging.

  8. Pedro says:

    In Salamanca, Spain, where I live, there is just… 1 seminarian in the first course :-(
    Even more, our diocese covers at least 4 provinces in the region, with a population of half a million…

  9. Claire says:

    This is a very encouraging article. Let us never get tired of praying with confidence that more young men become priests and that more people become supportive of them. Didn’t Jesus say something like we ought to ask as if we knew in advance that our prayer is already answered (sorry, I didn’t write his exact words which would have been better I’m sure).

  10. Donna says:

    Very encouraging!!

  11. shepherdmaxx says:

    Just stumbled on this. A good friend’s son is in the seminary in DC.

    There is a phrase in the video that seems to speak to seminarians and those discerning a vocation to the priesthood. A seminarian asks “How are you calling me to follow you?”

    The words may, in a way, refer to those discerning a vocation. BUT…isn’t this a question each of us must ask? We are all called to a vocation. In our vocation, aren’t we called to ask, “How are you calling me to follow you?” Is it by opening the joy of a vocation by example, by all the attributes we live?

    Is it tough to live in this world? Yes. Isn’t it even more imperative that we ask, “How are you calling me to follow you?”

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