Further drop in seminarians entering St Patrick’s College, Maynooth

There are just two seminaries left to train diocesan priests for Ireland: the seminary at Maynooth and the Irish College in Rome

Four men have this year begun training for the religious life at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Dundalk, while a further eight began their propaedeutic (pre-seminary) year at other locations in Ireland and abroad. Photograph: Getty Images

Four men have this year begun training for the religious life at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Dundalk, while a further eight began their propaedeutic (pre-seminary) year at other locations in Ireland and abroad. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Just five men have begun training for the Catholic priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, this autumn, believed to be the lowest number since its foundation in 1795.

Last year, six men began training there for the Catholic priesthood. In 2016, 14 began as seminarians at Maynooth. In 2015 the figure was 17, 14 in 2014 and 20 in 2013.

Four men have this year begun training for the religious life at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Dundalk, while a further eight began their propaedeutic (pre-seminary) year at other locations in Ireland and abroad.

Last year the Congregation for Clergy in Rome issued a document entitled The Gift of the Priestly Vocation which strongly recommended that bishops introduce a propaedeutic year for new candidates who wished to discern whether they had a vocation to the priesthood or not.

Last month St Malachy’s seminary in Belfast, which trained priests mainly for the Down and Connor diocese, closed after 185 years. Founded in 1833, four years after Catholic Emancipation, it became the local seminary for the diocese of Down and Connor. It also trained priests for Raphoe, Derry, Clogher, Kilmore, and Dromore dioceses.

Its closure means there are now just two seminaries left to train diocesan priests for Ireland: the national seminary at Maynooth and the Irish College in Rome.

Other seminaries in Ireland to close in recent years included All Hallows in Dublin which closed in 2015, St Patrick’s in Thurles closed in 2002, Dublin’s Clonliffe College closed in 2000, St Peter’s Wexford and St John’s Waterford closed in 1999, St Kieran’s Kilkenny closed in 1994, and St Patrick’s Carlow closed in 1993.

A national vocations office of the Irish Bishops’ Conference was established last year, based in Maynooth. Its mandate is to oversee and co-ordinate the work of training diocesan vocation directors and the promotion of vocations.