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English and Welsh vocations rise to highest level in a decade

New seminarians at Allen Hall, Chelsea, with Archbishop Vincent Nichols

The number of candidates entering the priesthood in England and Wales reached its highest point in a decade in September this year, with 56 men becoming seminarians.

Fr Stephen Langridge, chairman of vocations directors for England and Wales, said that the number of seminarians had been “rising slowly but surely”, and that there may be further increases “as people respond to the visit of Pope Benedict”.

The rise has been attributed in part to recent work in vocations, and in particular the Invocation festival held in Birmingham in July for those aged 16 to 35 trying to discern a vocation. About 300 are thought to have attended, and a second festival has been arranged for June next year.

Other elements credited for the rise include various campaigns run by the bishops’ conference since 2005 to promote the priesthood, including a series of adverts on beermats and in the London Underground with the slogan “Get Collared for the Challenge of a Lifetime”.

At the annual conference of vocations directors at Oscott College earlier this month Fr Christopher Jamison, director of the National Office for Vocation, said that vocations would increase when the Church follows the example of Blessed John Henry Newman. He said: “When everybody in the Church takes seriously Newman’s insight that ‘God has created me to do him some definite service’, then a greater number discover their call to the priesthood and religious life.”

The news of a general increase comes just a month after it was announced that the number of seminarians at Allen Hall in Chelsea had risen to 46, with a new intake of 11 men, including two aged 18 and 19.