He explained to the Pope that there is now a year-on-year increase in the numbers of young men opting for the priesthood across many US dioceses.
“I told him that in the Archdiocese of Denver both of our seminaries, St John Vianney Theological Seminary and Redeptoris Mater Neo-catechumenal seminary, are full,” the bishop added.
“In fact we have more applicants than we have space so for the first time in many years we have to create a waiting list which is a good problem to have.”
The most recent statistics show a similar story across the United States. Last year the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University estimated that the 2011 seminary intake was up 4 percent on the previous year and had reached its highest figure in 20 years. Meanwhile, Rome’s North American College is full to its 250 capacity for the first time in decades.
Upon hearing that Bishop Conley was from Denver, Pope Benedict warmly recalled World Youth Day 1993 which was hosted by the Colorado city. At present the Archdiocese of Denver is vacant following the departure of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to Philadelphia in September 2011.
Bishop Conley said he does not know when a successor will be appointed but he is certain that they will “carry on the great work of Archbishop Chaput in his 14 years and Cardinal Stafford before him,” describing their legacy as “a great flourishing of the faith” where “a lot of new movements, a lot of new evangelization” took place.