There are signs of a “rejuvenation” of interest in joining the priesthood, the Bishop of Waterford has claimed.
In recent decades, the number of men becoming priests has plummeted dramatically.
According to The Tablet, one quarter of all priests in Ireland are expected to retire within the next 15 years.
There are concerns about the impact it will have on the Church’s ability to conduct baptisms, weddings and funerals.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan described the priesthood as “my favourite subject” and “something that I love”.
“There are signs of a rejuvenation and more people becoming interested,” he said.
There are, he feels, a variety of reasons for this surge in enthusiasm for the vocation.
“I think [it is] the example of priests all around the country,” he said.
“I think that perhaps people with COVID too, thought a little bit more deeply, more profoundly about how their lives were going.
“I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit is acting.
“In my own case, I’ve got interest from eight different guys.”
Men who train to be priests do so at Maynooth College in Kildare and Bishop Cullinan said they are always looking for new recruits.
“Thanks be to God, we have a very good system in Maynooth,” he said.
“[There is a] very good formation team who would be only too delighted to take men in to the seminary there.”
Married or female priests?
The Anglican Church has always allowed its vicars to marry and in 1992 it voted to allow women to be ordained as well.
Some have suggested that the Catholic Church should do likewise in order to boost recruitment but Bishop Cullinan feels this would be a mistake.
“We follow [God] and His command, His thinking and His plan was for priesthood to be the way it is,” he said.
“There are examples, for example in Protestant traditions, where there are women ministers and there are married clergy.
“In actual fact, learning from that experience, it hasn’t been a solution.”
Since it was founded in 1795, Maynooth has ordained more than 11,000 priests.
Main image: Pope Francis and some young priests. Picture by: Alamy.com