Catholic archdiocese of Vienna sees rise in seminarians

Screenshot 2020 11 19 at 102209 The inner courtyard of Heiligenkreuz Abbey in the Vienna Woods, Austria. | Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch.

The archdiocese of Vienna has reported a rise in the number of men training for the priesthood. 

Fourteen new candidates entered the archdiocese's three seminaries this autumn. Eleven of them are from Vienna archdiocese and the remaining three are from the dioceses of Eisenstadt and St. Pölten.

The archdiocese brought its three seminaries together under one roof in 2012. In total, 52 candidates are now training there. The oldest was born in 1946 and the youngest in 2000, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner, Nov. 19.

According to the archdiocese, the candidates come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They include musicians, chemists, nurses, former civil servants and a winemaker.

Some of the candidates previously left the Church, but found their way back to faith and now want to dedicate their lives completely to God. 

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has led Vienna archdiocese since 1995. He tendered his resignation as archbishop of Vienna before his 75th birthday in January. Pope Francis declined the resignation, asking Schönborn, a Dominican friar descended from the Austrian nobility, to stay on for "an indefinite period."

Candidates for the priesthood in Vienna study Catholic theology at the faculty in the Austrian capital. An increasing number of candidates are entering the seminary from the Pope Benedict XVI Philosophical-Theological University, a pontifical university in Heiligenkreuz, an Austrian town famous for its Cistercian abbey. Four of the 14 new candidates have studied in Heiligenkreuz or are continuing their studies there.

Matthias Ruzicka, 25, told CNA Deutsch that the seminarians were "a motley crew." Ruzicka, who entered seminary in Vienna in October 2019, described the atmosphere as "fresh and exciting." He said that the Austrian capital was a good location because of the city's large number of Catholic communities. Candidates brought these different spiritualities with them to the seminary, he said.

Ruzicka suggested that the rise in seminarians was connected to the "openness that can also be felt in many other areas of the Church in the archdiocese of Vienna." He added that candidates were not labeled as "conservative" or "progressive," but rather God was at the center "and the personal story that he writes with each individual."

Seminary formation lasts six to eight years. In addition to studying theology, candidates are given a "free year" in which to study abroad, including outside Europe.

At the end of seminary training, there is often a "practical year" before the candidates prepare for their ordination as transitional deacons. They are usually ordained to the priesthood a year or two later.

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