Boom: Scranton diocese doubles number of seminarians

How’d that happen?  Some answers:

Encouraged by a proactive vocations office and a supportive bishop, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton’s class of men studying to be priests has doubled in the last two years to 17 seminarians.

The diocese last had as many seminarians in 2004, when 20 men were studying for the priesthood.

The welcome increase comes after the number of seminarians dropped to single digits in 2008 and 2009 and at a time when more than a third of the diocese’s complement of priests has reached retirement age.

In 2008, the diocese had six men in the seminary. In 2010 – the first time in 13 years that the diocese did not have a new priest to ordain – the number grew to 10.

The Rev. Christopher Washington, the former diocesan vocations director who is now studying in Rome for a position with the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, said the diocese never lacked for men being called to the priesthood.

“What it took was a very focused and concerted effort to go out and find them,” he said. “These candidates have always been there, and there are still more of them.”

In recent years, the diocese has modernized the tools it uses to recruit men considering the priesthood through a stylish website and a positive marketing campaign about the lives of local priests. It has also created regular opportunities for potential candidates to meet and discuss their experiences.

The Rev. Washington said those efforts have been complemented by the “very positive presence” of Bishop Joseph C. Bambera “in the local community.”

“In every diocese where there’s been an increase in seminarians, there has always been a two-pronged approach,” he said. “It’s an active vocations office but it’s also an active bishop.”

The current number of seminarians is being promoted as the diocese embarks on its 2011 Annual Appeal fundraiser, the proceeds of which go to priest education, outreach by the vocations office and many other diocesan programs.

The diocese’s seminary, St. Pius X in Dalton, closed in 2004 because of declining enrollment. At the time, four seminarians from the Scranton diocese were studying there. Now, seminarians study at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., or the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

  • Deacon Norb

    Some additional insights:

    –The Pontifical College Josephinum (Columbus Ohio) had a sharp increase in seminarians this year. It is sitting at 185 students and capacity is 220. It might well hit that next school year

    –North American College in the Vatican is already at capacity.

    –As is Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon.

    According to second hand rumors I have heard, St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park California and Mundeline Seminary in Illinois are also at capacity.

    Fascinating movements of the Holy Spirit of God here in our times.

  • http://balancingtheledger.blogspot.com/ Joe Cleary

    One can reasonably wonder if the uptick in vocations in Scranton over the past two years is directly related to the end of the divisive reign of it’s former Bishop 25 months ago ( irrespective of how much culture war outsiders ate up his press releases) and the faithful, stable leadership of the current Bishop Joseph Bambera.

    Many blessings to the Scranton Diocese and its very loyal and inspiring Catholics ( lay and religious) who deserve this type of good news.

  • Walt

    @2 Joe Cleary
    Bp Matino’s reign was only divisive because of the arrogant selfishness of those who thought they knew better than he.
    Bp Martino was a personally holy man who cared deeply for the well-being of his priests. He needed to do some hard things in the diocese because these hard things had been procrastinated for years. I know at least one of the current seminarians personally, and am aware of the high esteem in which he holds Bp Martino. Most of the current seminarians were inspired to test out their priestly vocation under Bp Martino. Bp Bambera has only been in office for one year, and can’t accurately be given the credit for the increase in seminarians.

  • http://balancingtheledger.blogspot.com/ Joe Cleary

    Walt

    I have never questioned Martino’s personal piety, and I agree that several difficult decisions were ignored by his predecessor Timlin, however he was, IMHO, what as is referred to in the business world a “recruiting error”. Hopefully it reminded the people who make such decisions that Bishop needs to be a pastor, and embrace being a leader who meets and talks and interacts with the people he leads.

    Closing parishes and schools is hard, leaving every announcement to press release, spokesman and not even meeting or looking the people impacted in the eye showed cowardice. I would also describe as cowardice putting out press releases criticizing local universities, pro-life catholic politicians and Catholic school unions and explicating and publicly rejecting requests by those same groups meet with him and discuss and understand the objections. ( the rejection communicated — surprise!- by press release)
    It was reported at the time that he preferred books and academics to the daily interactions with people of all stripes that Bishop must engage and that is why upon reflection he retired 15 years before every other Bishop retires.

    As for Bambera, he was appointed Regali’s delegate in August 2009 when Martino abruptly retired and was named the Bishop of Scranton 6 month later. I credit him for stabilizing the diocese over the last two years and the uptick in seminarians is a sign to me of a faithful and stable diocese. I guess Walt on this you and I will have to disagree.

  • justamouse

    I’m happy for Scranton. There used to be a RCC there on every block.

    I hope these young men of faith are the beginning of a resuscitation of the RCC in Scranton.

  • Tina

    We have been fortunate to have one of these young seminarians serving as a Deacon at our Church (St. Jude/St. Mary’s of Dorrance) here in Mountain Top, PA. He has certainly been an example of humility and piety. I have gained a great deal listening to his homilies. All I can say is that whatever parish he is sent to will certainly be getting a wonderful priest and pastor. We have indeed been blessed by God (remember that it is God who calls these young men, not any particular bishop) for this increase in seminarians.

  • Angel

    Prior to all Masses of Obligation, every Church in the Diocese of Scranton has been praying a Decade of the Rosary for an increase in vocations. This was started by Bishop Martino and I believe that this is the main reason for the increase. PRAYER WORKS MIRACLES!

  • Faithful

    Wow — prayers have been answered. We have to put our faith in God, not bishops who are only men. I do thank Bishop Martino for starting the decade of the rosary for vocations. How could anyone compare prayers to our Lady to a proactive Vocations office and supportive bishop? Really?? God bless these young men — the future of the Catholic church is in their hands.

  • Tess

    You are right, Angel. One can not underestimate the power of prayer, or the power of a determined and focused Bishop Martino. May God continue to bless him.

    Tess


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