Friday, July 30, 2010

Fr. Peter Williams, archdiocesan vocations director, says that Eucharistic Adoration is the cause of increased vocations at the St. Paul Seminary

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Father Peter Williams (left), the vocations director at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas, speaks with St. Paul seminary students John Wehrly and Jake Anderson. St. Paul Seminary is bucking trends. Its enrollment numbers are up, while national numbers suggest a downturn in enrollment. (MPR Photo/Annie Baxter)

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A couple dozen seminarians and nuns bend their heads in prayer during Mass at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity. It's on the campus of the University of St. Thomas.

The school has defied national trends for Catholic seminaries with its recent spike in enrollment. Officials say point blank: the economy is not a factor. They cite some distinctly non-economic drivers for the boost, including what one official called "increased Eucharistic adoration."

Father Peter Williams deals with potential seminarians. He says he has fielded the occasional inquiry about priesthood from men battered by the recession. Some lost jobs, some went through bankruptcy. Williams says that can raise some questions about admitting people.

"It's always a difficult place to determine whether a man's call is authentic. You don't want a hint that this is a way out of a troublesome situation he's found himself in," Williams said.

Rather than fleeing financial misfortune, Williams said, many candidates over the past couple years were leaving more lucrative jobs on the table. Among them, 24-year-old Jake Anderson, a second-year seminarian. Anderson studied business and economics in college and went on to work for a consulting firm, but he gave up that job as his spiritual life deepened.

"I really started taking my faith more seriously, and as such my interest and passion for what I thought I always wanted to do, decreased," he said.

Since then, Anderson's received several more job offers that he's spurned. He says he does worry a bit about what will happen to his resume if for some reason he should change his mind about seminary.

But at least Anderson won't suffer too much financially in the meantime. The Catholic Church picks up the tab for his tuition. And while he'll only make about $20,000 a year in his job, the overall shortage of Catholic priests means he's likely guaranteed employment. . . .

Tip O' the Hat to Tancred at The Eponymous Flower

Comment: While the archdiocese does pick up the expense for tuition for seminarians in the St. Paul Seminary, other expenses such as books, parking fees and other expenses that a student might need are the responsibility of the seminarians. There are individuals and organizations in the area that do provide additional financial assistance to some needy seminarians. Perhaps you might assist also.


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