England sees highest number of new seminarians in over a decade

.- Seminaries in England have seen a rise in the number applicants this fall – the highest number in over a decade, according to the local bishops' conference.

This September, 56 men began their journey towards the priesthood in the country, the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales announced on Nov. 15, adding that Pope Benedict's recent visit to the U.K. may boost numbers in the near future.

“The number of people responding to the call of Christ to be priests and religious has been rising slowly but surely,” said Fr. Stephen Langridge, Chairman of the Vocations Directors of England and Wales.

At their annual seminar in Birmingham earlier this month, local vocation directors discussed what has contributed to the increased interest in vocations within the U.K. One example, the recently held “Invocation” festival held in Birmingham this July 2010 for Catholic young adults, drew close to 300 men and women seeking further vocational discernment. The event was so popular that it is slated to be held again in June of 2011.

In addition to this initiative, several dioceses and religious orders are running discernment groups for young men and women, the bishops' conference reported. Vocation seminar participants also noted World Youth Day Madrid in 2011 as an opportunity for young people to enrich their knowledge of Catholicism and increase their individual vocation discernment.

Fr. Christopher Jamison, director of the National Office of Vocation, who attended the Birmingham seminar, noted the life of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, whom the Pope canonized during his recent papal trip.

“When everybody in the Church takes seriously Newman’s insight that ‘God has created me to do him some definite service,’ then a greater number discover their call to the priesthood and religious life,” Fr. Jamison said.

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