MAYNOOTH, Ireland, AUG. 30, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Nearly two dozen new seminarians began their studies for the priesthood at Ireland’s national seminary Sunday.
The 22 men have an average age of 25 and they come from 14 of the 26 dioceses of Ireland.
After an introductory month, 18 of the students will commence their academic formation in Maynooth and the remaining four will undertake their studies at St. Malachy’s College, Belfast.
Monsignor Hugh Connolly, president of the national seminary, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, welcomed the students and their families.
“You come from a wide range of backgrounds, previous experiences, and the four corners of the country, but with one common factor — you are responding to an invitation given in and through faith, to become priests who will spread the Gospel in the years to come,” he told them. “I thank the families and friends of the new candidates for their strength and generosity in supporting the men thus far, and I invite you to continue to provide this vital encouragement. The road ahead has many challenges.”
Bishop Donal McKeown, chairperson of the Council for Vocations of the Irish Episcopal Conference, spoke of the changes in the Church in Ireland.
“Despite the uncertainties of the future, all new seminarians are responding with hope to God’s never ceasing call to proclaim his kingdom,” he observed. “God still has faith in people. With grace and the vision of the Gospel, it is possible to build community, to promote healing and to build supportive relationships. God has asked you to accept his call to go out to the rich harvest where the laborers are few.”
The new students bring the number of seminarians for Irish dioceses to more than 90.
In the last five years the total annual number of new seminarians beginning their studies in Maynooth has been: 16 in 2010; 36 in 2009; 30 in 2008; 31 in 2007; 30 in 2006.