Nearly 100 men and women entered convents, seminaries and religious houses across England and Wales in 2013. These entry figures include 44 men to seminary, 22 men to religious life and 30 women to religious life, representing a significant upturn in numbers over the past decade.
Fr Christopher Jamison, Director of the Catholic Church’s National Office for Vocation said: ‘These figures highlight the generosity of Catholic women and men in responding to God’s call. They also show that the emphasis on discernment before recruitment is working. But there is no room for complacency so for Vocations Sunday on 11th May we’ve sent out posters and mini cards to parishes and schools up and down the country asking people to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.’
In the Diocese of Westminster, six men entered formation, raising the number of seminarians preparing for priesthood in the diocese to 32. Fr Richard Nesbitt, Vocations Director for the diocese, describes them as ‘a diverse group of men of different backgrounds and ages but united by this deep gladness at being able to give themselves fully to answering God’s call in their lives.’
Why the upturn?
A lot of good work by diocesan and religious vocations directors has gone a long way to foster a culture of vocation. In addition, vocation groups have had a part to play and many such groups have sprung up around the country over the last ten years. Some have evening meetings that people can simply drop into whenever they want; others ask people to come along one afternoon a month for a year; others invite participants to come together one weekend a month for nine months. Recently, two dioceses in England have set up residential communities to facilitate the discernment of priestly vocations. The outcome of these new approaches to vocations ministry is more committed lay people and more people entering formation for priestly and religious life.
In Westminster, in addition to the regular vocation discernment meetings for young adults, Allen Hall, the diocesan seminary, hosts retreat days for men discerning a call to the priesthood. Called ‘the Joy of the Priesthood’, and offering a chance to reflect on Pope Francis’s vision of the priesthood, the next retreat day takes place Saturday 10 May.
Information on future vocation discernment group meetings can be found here.