WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- More than 3,400 men are studying for the diocesan priesthood in the United States this academic year, the bishops’ conference says.
The number includes students in college-level seminaries and postgraduate studies. But it does not include men studying for religious congregations which account for almost a third of the priests in the country.
Reports indicate that after a recent history of older seminarians, the average age of those entering now appears to be lower.
In the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, which has 22 seminarians, the five new men entering the college-level seminary are either 18 or 19 years old. The Diocese of Boise, Idaho, welcomed 10 new men, six of whom just finished high school.
The Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, also notices a shift toward the younger candidate. Two years ago the diocese had one traditional college-age seminarian in its formation program. This year it has eight.
Some seminarians have significant life accomplishments. Ron Kendzierski, 34, and one of seven men studying for the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, was born blind. He has played the violin since age 4 and is an Eagle Scout.
Joseph Fitzgerald, 31, studying for Rockville Centre, New York, competed in handball in the Atlanta Olympics.
Many dioceses note an increasing number of men studying for the priesthood.
The Indianapolis Archdiocese, with 24 seminarians, has the largest number of men studying since 1998. It recently ordained eight men, its largest group since 1974. The Diocese of Orlando, Florida, has 19 men studying for the priesthood, the largest number since 1995.
The total number studying for the priesthood in the United States, including religious, was estimated at 5,109, according to an Aug. 20 report in ZENIT. India leads the world with 10,537 diocesan and religious students of philosophy and theology.