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Priestly vocations in East Anglia are at their highest level in 30 years

Bishop Alan Hopes with the seminarians. Front row from the left: Deacon Andrew Eburne, Bishop Alan, Fr Jaylord Magpuyo; back row from the left, Alfonso Jude Belnas, Paul Spellman, James Fernandez, Michael Brookes, Alan Hodgson, Peter Wygnański, Simon Davies, Bienn Carlo Manuntag, Mark Ashwood and Michael Smith. Missing from the lunch was seminarian Anthony Asomugha (Photo: Keith Morris)

The Diocese of East Anglia has 12 men studying for the priesthood – its highest number in 30 years.

Five men started their studies in September. They are based at six seminaries in three countries – Italy, Spain and England.

Fr Pat Cleary, vocations director, said one factor behind the rise in candidates was the priority placed on vocations by Bishop Alan Hopes, who was installed in the diocese five years ago.

“It’s big on his agenda,” Fr Cleary told the Catholic Herald. “He remembers each [candidate] by name in his prayers each day.

“When he goes around parishes he knows if there are people thinking about it,” he said. “He makes a point of searching them out and encouraging them.”

[Portsmouth diocese has ‘highest number of seminarians in living memory’]

The diocese, which covers a rural area in the east of England and includes the national Marian shrine at Walsingham, is able to pay for the students’ training thanks to its Alive in Faith fundraising programme.

Last month the diocese gained its first new priest in four years. Fr Jaylord Magpuyo, who began his studies in the Philippines, was ordained at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Norwich.

Fr Cleary, in a press statement, said the diocese had gone for many years without any seminarians at all.

He said it was his responsibility to accompany the men and visit them in their seminary at least once every academic year.

When he was training for the priesthood, he explained, seminarians had a much lower profile.

“Now, the progress and activities of our seminarians is charted in various diocesan communications, especially in the pages of Catholic East Anglia, our diocesan paper. Our seminarians also feature prominently in various diocesan celebrations, liturgies and events,” he said.