Just thirteen students set out on road to priesthood
JUST 13 men on the island of Ireland have taken the step this year to begin studying for the priesthood.
This year's intake of new student priests at the Catholic seminary in Maynooth shows a sharp decline on 2013, the latest figures show.
Yesterday, a new cohort of 14 seminarians were welcomed by St Patrick's College, the national seminary in Ireland. The figure is well down from the 20 students who began this time last year.
This year's new group includes one trainee missionary priest, which means that the total number of men who have opted to study for the diocesan priesthood on the island of Ireland is just 13.
At the end of September, the total number of seminarians in Maynooth will be around 70, with others studying at the Irish College in Rome.
Fr Brendan Hoban, co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), told the Irish Independent: "This year's intake of 13 confirms once again the crisis in vocations that, year on year, is becoming more and more obvious."
He admitted that numbers studying for the diocesan priesthood tend to go up and down from year to year. However, the Co Mayo parish priest said the overall pattern now is "all too predictable".
The association, which has a membership of over 1,000 Irish priests, has been warning of an impending "Eucharistic famine" if radical steps are not taken to halt the vocations crisis.
"Irish priests in parishes are growing older and becoming fewer and every year at this time we are forced to acknowledge the huge crisis facing the Irish Church," Fr Hoban said. Nineteen of the country's 26 dioceses did not manage to attract any candidates in 2014.