Just five first-year seminarians entered Maynooth to begin studies for the priesthood this year, The Irish Catholic can reveal – one fewer than last year which was considered the lowest in the college’s 223-year history.
While returns from all of the country’s dioceses compiled by this newspaper show that 15 men have formally begun their journey towards priesthood for Irish dioceses this year, one will go to the Pontifical Beda College in Rome and nine of them will participate in a so-called propaedeutic or preparatory year in anticipation of being ready to start seminary formation in 2019.
New Vatican guidelines issued last year by the Congregation for the Clergy strongly recommended to bishops around the world the introduction of a pre-seminary year and eight Irishmen participated last year. It is not known how many of these men are amongst the six who have now progressed to seminary in Maynooth and Rome.
In all, 14 of Ireland’s 26 dioceses have no new students either entering seminary or participating in the preparatory year.
The diocese of Dromore, Down and Connor, Elphin, Kerry and Tuam will send one student each, while one seminarian for the diocese of Meath will be formed at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome which specialises in priestly training for older candidates.
The survey carried out by The Irish Catholic reveals an increasing trend to ask candidates for formation to undertake the propaedeutic year first, which is usually completed in Spain but can also be completed in the diocese in Ireland.
Two students from the diocese of Cloyne will be beginning their propaedeutic year, while the dioceses of Down and Connor, Killaloe, Waterford and Lismore, Dublin, Clogher, Dromore and Galway will be sending one student each for their respective preparation year.
While the college kalendarium shows that Maynooth had 31 resident seminarians during the last formation year, the size of the community is expected to be just 23 when all return seminarians commence their studies later this month. However, this will be bolstered by non-resident students who travel to Maynooth on a daily basis to participate in theology and philosophy classes as part of their formation for religious orders and congregations.