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Priestly vocations increasing in Melbourne
For the fourth year in a row, the number of seminarians for the Archdiocese of Melbourne has increased. When Archbishop George Pell became Archbishop in August 1996, he inherited twelve seminarians for a diocese of one million Catholics. With the entry of eight new students into the seminary for 2000 (the largest number to enter for Melbourne since 1987), there are now twenty-eight seminarians for Melbourne. Already there are six formal applications for 2001.
In 1999, the Vocations Office received 29 approaches from men inquiring about the priesthood as a possible vocation, and 19 formally applied to enter the seminary. As mentioned, eight have been accepted for 2000. The age range of the new seminarians is from 22 to 38 and most have completed a tertiary degree.
Nearly all of the applicants were once altar servers and cited their experience of altar serving as a time when they first thought of the priesthood as a vocation. Most applicants also identified a particular priest as being influential in their attraction to Holy Orders.
Thus formal involvement in the Church and the personal example of priests remain important factors of inspiration for vocational discernment. It can also be said that God's grace, the prayers of thousands in the Archdiocese, and the efforts of all those who have worked hard in vocational ministry in the past have been fruitful.
Four women made inquiries about religious life through the Vocations Office, but none decided to enter any religious order present in Melbourne. One young woman from Melbourne is entering the Carmelite in Launceston and our prayers go with her. Those religious orders in Melbourne that might be described as having retained something of the classical religious life, such as the Carmelites in Kew, are faring better, in terms of attracting new novices, than those orders which have "secularised."
Two people made inquiries with the Vocations Office about serving as lay missionaries and a variety of options are available to anyone who is interested in such a vocation.
In Victoria, Corpus Christi College seminary, recently reformed by the bishops of Victoria and Tasmania, is itself an attraction to those contemplating a vocation to study for the priesthood (evident from the fact that a small number of students and applicants are from interstate or overseas). The orthodoxy of the new seminary is evolving relatively well after a tumultuous period in its eighty-year history.
Eighteen men attended a vocations weekend at Corpus Christi in October 1999. Most commented favourably on aspects of the seminary - the students, the staff, the (new) approach to sacred liturgy, and the pastoral program (a long-standing strength of Corpus Christi). Certainly, for most of the students at Corpus Christi, now moving from Clayton to Carlton, there is an appreciation of the reforms introduced by the bishops under the leadership of Archbishop Pell.
A happy problem with the new seminary in Carlton is that it has probably been built too small for the increasing number of applicants entering now, and which look like continuing into the future. Those who have prayed hard for vocations in Melbourne are having their prayers answered. May the Lord continue to bless us.
Father Paul Stuart is Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 13 No 2 (March 2000), p. 7
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