Despite the Vatican's recent announcement that the worldwide priestly vocations crisis is over, the number of candidates for the priesthood in Ireland continues to plummet, according to a report in Thursday's Catholic Times.
   Ireland was once the chief exporter of missionary priests to Britain and the US but, says the report, latest figures show that the number of seminarians has dropped from 750 in 1970 to 91 new entrants last year and ordinations fell from 259 to 43 in the same period.
   Fr Martin Clarke, a spokesman for the Irish Bishops Conference, pointed out that Ireland still has one of the highest priest-laypeople ratios in the world and denied that there was a vocations crisis.
   "It's part declericalization," he said. "There are now about 1,500 lay people training, whereas in the past it would have been 1,500 seminarians. Obviously, it's a very changed situation, but we are still very well provided for in the level of service on the ground compared with elsewhere in the world."
   Meanwhile a new survey that found the number of priests serving parishes in the US down 28% in the last 15 years and the number of lay ministers up 54%.
   The National Catholic Parish Survey found the average parish with 1.8 priests and 5.1 ministers. The results of the survey, released earlier this month, are based on questionnaires mailed to more than 3000 parishes, generating over 700 responses.
   The survey found that the average parish had grown 23% in the past 15 years, while the number of priests serving parishes declined 28%, and the numbers of deacons and religious are both down 33%.
22 May 00


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