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Ordinations in Scotland reach 20-year high

Ordination to the Priesthood of Rev Jonathan Whitworth (Paul McSherry/Courtesy of the Scottish Catholic Observer)

The Scottish Church has seen a surge in ordinations, with 12 priests ordained this year, the largest number in two decades.

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, president of Priests for Scotland, said his office had also noticed a rise in enquiries and interest in vocations.

“It is great news to see the biggest number of ordinations to the priesthood for over two decades,” he said.

Since 1997 there has been an average of five ordinations a year, and in 2008 there were none. Last autumn there were 30 students in seminaries.

“On top of that there seems to be a general rise in the number of men approaching our vocations directors to apply for seminary,” he said.

In addition, the Church is hearing from “growing numbers of women with new interest in the religious life to provide for the many needs of the marginalised or excluded in our society”.

Bishop Keenan credited the Church’s vocations directors for its “fresh ideas” and use of social media “to help identify and accompany those who feel God calling them. We can see this good work beginning to pay off.”

The bishop quoted one of the new priests, Fr Jonathan Whitworth, who said, “Young men are calling out for something that is radical because they have been sold something of a false reality by the world at the moment.”

Professor Stephen Bullivant, director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, told the Scottish Catholic Observer that the increase may be down to the “Benedict bounce”.

He said: “These young men would have entered seminary just after the papal visit in 2010, so one possibility is that the pool of young men discerning their vocation was ‘tipped out’ by the visit,” he said. “I do think the fact we’re starting to see vocations rise again from almost nothing is part of a wider, quiet revival.”