Boom: Little Rock diocesan seminary enrollment at highest level in nearly 50 years

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The Diocese of Little Rock’s seminarian count is getting back to levels it enjoyed in the 1960s.

For the first time since 1965, the diocese boasts 41 seminarians, up 27 percent from 2012 and up 56 percent in the past 10 years.

“We have a very different future than we did eight years ago,” said Msgr. Scott Friend, vocations director.

In 1960 the diocese had its own high school and college seminary and educated 64 seminarians, with five ordinations. It jumped to 69 seminarians in 1961 with two ordinations. The numbers slowly dropped until 1965 when the diocese had 40 seminarians. From 1970 to 2009 the diocese never had more than 30 seminarians.

Msgr. Friend said he believes the diocese needs to enroll at least 40 seminarians a year in order to ordain more priests each year.

“Ideally it would be nice for us to have five ordinations a year,” he said.

The presbyterate is getting more diverse. Since Bishop Anthony B. Taylor arrived in 2008 he has ordained 12 priests, with several of them being native Spanish speakers. The average age of an active diocesan priest is also lower.

“We need to be providing our own priests for our diocese,” he said. “We have to sustain that. … There is a lot more ministry we can be doing if there are more priests.”

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