There is good news to report: the number of seminarians for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati continues to increase, reaching a high water mark since at least the mid 1990's, if not back to the mid 1980's! As this academic year began, we have 45 men in formation for the priesthood for the Archdiocese, 28 of whom are in major theology at Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West, 17 are in college formation at one of two houses of formation: Bishop Simon Bruté in Indianapolis or the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus.
These are great numbers, and as Vocation Director, I am very thankful for the help and support that our vocation program has received throughout the Archdiocese; from parish staffs and youth ministry programs, high school campus ministries, young adult formation groups, the excellent faculty and staff at Mount St. Mary's, my colleagues in the Central Offices of the Archdiocese, and certainly my brother priests who are out 'in the field;' all have helped to stem the tide of fewer vocations to the priesthood.
But it is not just the numbers that have continued to increase, but the quality and dedication of our seminarians is also outstanding. We have men in formation for the priesthood who had many options that they willingly sacrificed to pursue this most noble of callings. Several of our college men have full tuition scholarships based on academic merit; among our Major Seminarians are men who had offers at the graduate level to the University of Notre Dame, in addition to very successful business careers that were just starting. Some of our men are very blue collar, born and raised on farms in the rural parts of our Archdiocese, connected to the ground in a way that those raised in cities just could not have. Yet, they are a band of brothers, united by the Calling from God to lay down their lives for their brothers and sisters in the Lord was stronger.
It is an exciting time to be working in this field, and not just here locally, but across the country. Dioceses and seminaries are reporting increases and record enrollments, just as we are. In fact, some seminaries are reporting that they simply cannot accept more students as their residence halls have been packed full. This is an excellent problem to have!
Despite the optimism, there is still much work to be done. Here in the Archdiocese, we need to at least double the number of men in formation from 45 to 70. This would allow us to begin to turn the tide from shrinking numbers of active priests to actually increasing the laborers in the vineyard. It is possible and we can continue the trend. Some parishes within the Archdiocese currently have two or three seminarians just from that parish; if even half the parishes in the Archdiocese supported a son to enter priestly formation here locally, we would have over 100 men in formation. Suddenly, it does not seem to be so great a task to achieve the goals set forth by Archbishop Schnurr.
On his behalf, I would like to thank one particular demographic for their support in our vocation efforts: the older generation who cannot be as active as they once were, but support the life and ministry of the Church through their vibrant prayer life. As the prophetess Anna was night and day in the Temple praising God, so many of this greatest generation follow in her footsteps in their devotion to Daily Mass and recitation of the Rosary. I ask this generation, in particular, to keep the vocation efforts in their prayers!
Finally, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are signs of great blessings and vitality for parishes and dioceses. May the Lord continue to pour out these rich blessings on our Local Church, and increase the good work He has already begun in our midst.