Boom: Florida seminary plans major expansion

From the Sun Sentinel: 

A surge of men choosing the Catholic priesthood has prompted a Boynton Beach seminary to begin a $7 million expansion project, including two new dormitories for 106 future priests.

St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary’s student body has grown from 55 five years ago to 85 this year, said the Rev. David Toups, the seminary’s rector and president. In three years, Toups expects 110 students, the largest group in the seminary’s 50-year history.

“Within an eight-year span, we will have doubled in size,” Toups said. “This is something not only we’re experiencing, it’s going on all across the country.”

St. Vincent de Paul offers five years of graduate seminary for future Florida priests, as well as some out-of-state seminarians who need bilingual education. About 40 percent of students are native Spanish speakers; all learn to lead Mass in Spanish.

Although the number of American priests dropped to a record low last year, 38,964, down from 58,632 in 1965, the number of seminarians has been increasing modestly over the past few years, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University

…The Rev. Tom Lafreniere, vocations director for the Diocese of Palm Beach, which has 10 men at the seminary, said several new initiatives with the seminary appear to be working to connect young Catholics with the religious life.

Posters around the diocese show current seminarians with the slogan, “They Answered God’s Call. Will You?” Eighth graders have been visiting St. Vincent de Paul to meet seminarians, and a new program will offer tours to Catholic youth groups.

“We want to demystify the whole process,” Lafreniere said. “We want to show them priests play basketball, they are not praying all the time.”

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