Nathan March is part of the largest class of seminarians in the Maine since 1995. He and four others expect be ordained for the Diocese of Portland in just two short years, reports the Associated Press. Another three ordinations are slated for the following year.
Like elsewhere in the United States, the number of priests has been dwindling for years. Currently, 95 priests serve Maine’s 234,000 Catholics, and their numbers are expected to drop further in the next five years.
But young men who are heeding the call to the priesthood, like March, are signs of hope for Catholics in the eastern state. Currently, there are 11 seminarians in Maine, ranging in age from 26 to 52.
Prior to entering the seminary, March was earning more than $60,000 a year as an electrical engineer and living in Portland's snappy West End.
But he left all that when he had a keen sense that God was calling him to the priesthood, he told the AP. Despite the meager pay of $25,000 per year and the sex-abuse scandal, the 30-year-old said he could not deny the attraction of giving his life to the Church as a Priest.
March didn’t consider himself religious growing up, but his interest in the faith was peaked when a high school teacher spoke about the influential role his Catholic faith in his life, he told the AP. He then read the autobiography of Thomas Merton and by the end of it had lived a conversion.
His faith grew during college and his professional life, but he wavered about whether to answer God’s call to the priesthood. He even lived in a monastery for three months before making his final decision. March will now begin his fourth year of his five-year program at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
Fr. Frank Murray, who heads the seminarian program for the Diocese of Portland, came to the priesthood in a roundabout way as well. Before being ordained a priest 24 years ago, he was a legislator and a high school math teacher.