Twenty men have begun studying for the Catholic priesthood with a variety of qualifications already behind them.
As almost 37,500 people accepted places in college up to yesterday evening, the new seminarians have just started their training of up to seven years. It begins with three or four years study towards a degree at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth.
Monsignor Hugh Connolly, president of the Co Kildare college, said it is one of the biggest numbers of new entrants in recent years, and compares with around a dozen this time last year.
“Most have been through college, but there is a huge variety of qualifications among them.
“This year, they have studied things like quantity surveying, human resources, finance, history and politics, computers and maths, some have come from full-time jobs.”
With only very small numbers coming straight from school any more, most are in their mid-20s, and one seminarian starting this week is over 50.
They will do three or four years of initial study at Maynooth, and around 70 seminarians will be living at the college by the end of September.
“We’re delighted with such big numbers of seminarians, but it will not be enough to replace the number of priests retiring from ministry or dying, so there still need to be changes to structures in dioceses and on the ground in parishes.”
Although some men will decide not to complete their priesthood studies, around 60% of those who enter the national seminary make it to ordination.
The new entrants to Maynooth come from a dozen of the 26 Irish Catholic dioceses, including four from Derry, three from Down & Connor, and two each from Cloyne, Kilmore and Raphoe.
There is one new seminarian from Ardagh & Clonmacnoise, Clogher, Cork & Ross, Elphin, Ferns, Limerick and Tuam respectively.
Msgr Connolly said the college is fortunate to have many lay people seeking theology and philosophy degrees, and it helps to have more people qualified to assist priests in their ministries in the community.
“Despite all the crises and troubles that people engaged in ministry and the Church have been through, there seems still to be a remarkably vibrant interest in theology and pastoral work and hands-on contact with the community,” he said.
As they begin their formation work in Maynooth, thousands of people hoping for a chance at third-level studies will be waiting on Thursday’s second-round offers from the Central Applications Office (CAO). Its deadline passed yesterday evening to accept places offered to almost 50,000 people last Monday week and 37,448 acceptances have been registered.
This brings the number of places filled already up to 44,289 but over 1,000 applicants should get an offer for the first time on Thursday.
* The cut-off entry points for all courses offering places in Round 2 will be published in the Irish Examiner on Thursday morning. Anybody offered a course will have until Wednesday, Sept 4 to accept the place.
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