From the National Co-Ordinator of Diocesan Vocations Fr Paddy Rushe:
Fr. Paddy Rushe, National Coordinator of Diocesan Vocation Directors, said that these figures represented the highest intake of new seminarians since 1999, and were almost double the number that entered in 2003. "I want to acknowledge the hard work of vocation directors around the country who have spent time, in many cases well over a year, guiding and directing these men and preparing them for this step in their lives. Despite ongoing challenges to the Gospel values in the modern world it is encouraging to see evidence that God continues to inspire people to answer His call of service in the priesthood," he said.
Most of the new seminarians will study at St Patrick's College, Maynooth with others studying in Belfast, Rome and Spain. Welcoming the new candidates, their families and friends to Maynooth, the President of the College, Monsignor Hugh Connolly, said: "It is truly wonderful to witness the generosity of spirit of our new seminarians as, at this time, the Church in Ireland has completed a ‘Year of Vocation' and we begin, together with all the faithful throughout the world, the ‘Year for Priests'."
The new students range in age from those who have just completed their Leaving Certificate to those in their thirties and forties who are coming from a wide range of employment backgrounds.
Bishop Donal McKeown, chairperson of the Vocations Commission of the Irish Episcopal Conference, also welcomed the news saying that it was an encouragement to all those in parish communities and other organisations associated with the promotion of vocations, who continue to pray for and promote vocations in many ways. "Priests don't just appear out of mid-air," he said, "they come from families and communities; they are sons, brothers and uncles; work colleagues and friends; part of a Christian community."
A breakdown, by diocese, of the 38 first year seminarians for 2009 is as follows:
Ardagh & Clonmacnois 2; Armagh 3; Cashel & Emly 1; Clogher 1; Cloyne 2; Cork & Ross 1; Down & Connor 5; Dublin 5; Galway 2; Kildare & Leighlin 2; Killaloe 2; Kilmore 3; Meath 4; Ossory 1; Raphoe 2; Tuam 1 and Waterford & Lismore 1.
36 new seminarians will begin studies immediately, with another 2 commencing during the first term. 30 new seminarians began studies for Irish dioceses in 2008, 31 in 2007 and 30 in 2006, 27 in 2005, 28 in 2004, 19 in 2003.
The students will be spread over St. Patrick's College, Maynooth; St. Malachy's College, Belfast, The Pontifical Beda College, Rome; and The Royal English College, Valladolid, Spain;
The St Patrick's College Maynooth is the National Seminary for Ireland and has been forming men for the priesthood since 1795, see the college website here.
The website for the Diocesan Vocations Directors of Ireland is available here.