.- The Irish bishops have announced that 36 new seminarians will begin their studies for the diocesan priesthood this year.
The new seminarians range in age from 18 to their mid-40s and come from a variety of educational and employment backgrounds, the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference (ICBC) reports.
Bishop Donal McKeown, chairman of the Vocations Commission of the ICBC, said the news was an encouragement to parishes and other organizations that promote vocations.
“Priests come from families and parish communities across the country; they are sons, brothers and uncles; work colleagues and friends; part of a Christian community,” he said.
Fr. Paddy Rushe, National Coordinator of Diocesan Vocation Directors, acknowledged the “hard work” of vocation directors who have spent much time “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 commented.
A reported 26 new seminarians will be based in the national seminary of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Seven will study at St. Malachy’s College in Belfast and two will study at the Beda College in Rome. One candidate is entering the pre-seminary discernment year in Valladolid, Spain.
Msgr. Hugh Connolly, President of Maynooth, welcomed the new candidates for the priesthood, their families, and their friends.
“You have responded in your hearts to the Lord’s call,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers accompany you as you take the first step along the road to ordained ministry and to placing your lives at the service of Christ and of His people.”
Msgr. Connolly said it was “truly wonderful” to witness the new seminarians’ “generosity of spirit” at the close of Ireland’s “Year of Vocation” and the beginning of the worldwide “Year for Priests.”
At the end of September, there will be a total of 77 seminarians in Maynooth. This number includes seven Scottish seminarians who transferred to Maynooth following the closure of Scotus College in Glasgow. Their numbers are not included among the 37 new Irish seminarians.
Five seminarians each came from the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Northern Ireland Diocese of Down & Connor. Four seminarians came from the Diocese of Meath in the east of Ireland.