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Sydney seminary head claims vocations "worst is over"

Responding to a "depressing view" of priest numbers proposed by the Sydney Morning Herald last week, Fr Julian Porteous of Good Shepherd Seminary said "positive and hopeful signs" suggest "it is not a time to be pessimistic about the future of the priesthood".

Writing in the Catholic Weekly, the Rector of the archdiocesan seminary said seminary numbers "are increasing in Sydney and elsewhere".

He said: "This year saw the largest intake of seminarians [at Good Shepherd Seminary] for more than two decades, as 17 new students entered."

Fr Porteous added that a second seminary - Redemptoris Mater, associated with the Neo-Catechumenate Way - was established in Sydney this year, and it has a further 10 seminarians.

He also countered the Herald's depiction of an ageing student body in the seminary.

"One man in the first year at Homebush is 47; the average of the rest of the seminarians in his year is 25," he said.

"Certainly we need more priests and the age of priests is increasing, but there are positive and hopeful signs," he said. "The worst is over. Numbers are increasing, not only in Sydney, but worldwide."

Meanwhile National Council of Priests chairman Fr Hal Ranger has told Brisbane's Catholic Leader that the attrition rate among Catholic clergy is not as dire as recent media reports claim.

The reports focused on statistics published in the latest bulletin of the Christian Research Association showing that the attrition rate among Catholic clergy was highen than among other faiths.

The claim was that the attrition rate among Catholic clergy was 18% since 1996. The 2001 census showed Anglicans had 2417 clergy compared with the Catholics' 1675.

However, the figures only took into account clergy directly involved in ministry, and did not include those involved in education, for example.

Fr Ranger, of Dalby, in Toowoomba diocese, said he believed the number of priests in active ministry was uch higher than the figure quoted. He explained there were many priests classified as retired who were still involved in parishes.

Catholic Weekly/Catholic Leader

Catholic clergy drain ahead of others (10/4/03)
Seminary of the Good Shepherd
Archdiocese of Sydney | Seminarians
Fewer priests have to make do on a wing and a prayer (10/4/03)
Piety pays, but not very much (The Age 10/4/03)
Analysis: Men of quality for the church (United Press International)

16 Apr 2003