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    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    New Priests.. 1 out of 14,730


    According to the Official Catholic Directory’s 2006 statistics, the Diocese of Savannah ordained five men in 2005, putting it at second in the Top 10 list of dioceses with the most ordinands per Catholics. With a total Catholic population of 73,649, that makes the ratio one ordinand per 14,730 Catholics.

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    “The south is very religious,” said Father Tim McKeown, vocation director for the Diocese of Savannah, Ga. “We’re about 3 percent to 4 percent Catholic, but there is a strong Christian ethos. I think that certainly helps.”

    The Diocese of Memphis has quadrupled its number of seminarians in the past five years. Father Keith Stewart, vocation director, cited personal contact as the key.

    “I’ve really worked with our priests to get them to extend a personal invitation to men,” said Father Stewart, who has been at his post for five years. “It’s been one of my biggest priorities because I’ve seen it borne out in experience that the personal invitation is what gets the ball rolling.”

    According to Father Stewart, those interested in pursuing a priestly vocation come to him only after having initial contact with a priest.

    “The priests are the real recruiters,” said Father Stewart. “Ninety percent of them come to me only after someone else got the ball rolling. I’ve only had one or two who have come to me on their own.”

    “It is a building block for vocations,” Father Donohue was quoted as saying in the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors’ newsletter. “I have discovered that more than a few vocations have come from men with a devotion to the blessed sacrament, who found their calling by spending time with Christ in adoration or prayer before the tabernacle.”

    Seminarian John Johnson, who is a transitional deacon studying at Mount St. Mary’s for ordination to the Diocese of Savannah, has observed the same trend. He said that the priesthood is attracting younger men.

    “We have 150 to 160 guys here,” said Johnson. “All of them, with the exception of one or two, are about my age. There’s a fresh, vital spirit among the young guys. They are ready to go out, be good priests, remain faithful to their state in life, and do their best to serve and defend the church.”

    Another example can be found in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. There, 142 young men from across the United States are studying at St. John Vianney Minor Seminary. The Diocese of Duluth, which is on the National Catholic Register’s Top 10 list, has 16 seminarians studying at St. John Vianney. In 2005, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis ordained 15 men to the priesthood. The archdiocese currently has 34 of its own young men studying at the seminary.

    In an age where the church has been marred by the past scandals of some of her priests, one would think that that would impact the numbers of men desiring to be priests, but Deacon Johnson said that isn’t the case.

    “We all have a sense that we are in the wake of the scandals and we’re learning about the modern situation, but it doesn’t faze us,” he said. “I felt that after the scandals there would be a sharp drop-off in the numbers of young seminarians, but it hasn’t been that way at all.”

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