The number of students enrolling in the National Seminary in Maynooth has risen by eight this year, to one of the highest admissions figures it has seen in recent years.
Twenty students enrolled in the Seminary in September, prompting hopes that the priesthood may see a resurgence in the coming years.
College President Monsignor Hugh Connolly, however, denied any ideas of revitalisation saying that “it is not unusual for these kinds of swings to occur.”
On average the number of students enrolling in the seminary each year, over the past five years, has been in the mid-to-high teens.
“Obviously I’m delighted with the number of students this year, but I wouldn’t think it reflects a huge surge of interest in the priesthood,” Msgr. Connolly said, playing down the significance of the increase in numbers.
Msgr. Connolly said that it is rare for students to come directly from second level education to the seminary. He also said that most students in the college don’t make the decision to join the priesthood until they are in their mid–to-late twenties.
Students who enrolled in the college this year come from a variety of different backgrounds with some coming from full-time jobs in sectors including teaching, accounting and quantity surveying, while others have just finished postgraduate degrees.
The course, which takes place in the National Seminary, consists of two or three years of philosophical studies and another four years studying theology with opportunities for students to go out into parishes on work placement.
The course also prepares student priests for collaborative efforts within parishes as numbers in the clergy decline. Msgr. Connolly emphasized the importance of lay people and volunteers in the church, saying that “there simply aren’t enough priests to service all of Ireland.”