A further increase which confirms a steady trend since 2001: vocations to religious life. In the Catholic Church of England and Wales they are on the rise. According to statistics recently published by the Vocations Office almost 100 men and women in 2013 have chosen God as their lifelong companion. Among them, 44 are candidates to the priesthood, 22 have entered monasteries of other religious orders, and over thirty are preparing to become nuns. Youth vocations. For Father Christopher Jamison, in charge of the vocations Office for England Wales, it’s a “trend reversal” which grew evident over the past ten years. Statistics since 1982 show a constant decrease until 2001, when the trend changed and started growing again, despite small variations from year to year. These are also young vocations, involving those under-25. “Vocations started to drop in the 1960s, when the world inhabited by young Catholics, and formed by the Church, started to disintegrate”, father Jamison explained. “In contemporary society, those who consider the possibility of dedicating their life to God have nobody to speak with. That’s why discernment programs are so useful. We have discovered that if we ask a young person ‘Do you want to become priest’? that person will grow distant, but if we suggest him to speak of his future we will open the doors to the priesthood. We also pray more for vocations, and this certainly helps”. Seeking one’s own road. From “Compass”, the program launched in the abbey of Worth, south of England, to “Quo Vadis”, to the “Samuel groups”, taking after Samuel, a range of opportunities enable to explore personal vocation. It’s possible to live in a religious community for a year, or take part in weekly meetings with peers who share the same aspiration, with monthly meetings for a given number of week-ends. In Shrewsbury, Western England, bishop Mark Davies announced the opening in September 2015 of a home that offers those who are considering entry into the priesthood the possibility of discerning their true vocation over a twelve-month period. “The Second Vatican Council declared that the entire Christian community shares the responsibility of encouraging vocations”, bishop Davies said to SIR Europe. “We promote ‘fully Christian lives’ where faith comes first and where values such as commitment, sacrifice and generosity and appreciated”. Wonersh Seminary. At the St. John Seminary, in Wonersh, South of England, Fr Jonathan How, in charge of the studies sector, explained: “10 new seminarians will be arriving in September. It’s the highest number in years. For a long time those who entered religious life were over-30, while today seminarians choose this path as soon as they finish high-school and college, and they are often less than 25”. For Fr How the age decrease is due to the fact that priests have again started to work with young people and adolescents. “For years, after the scandal of abuses, the priests were afraid to draw near the young”, he said. Although candidates are younger, vocations appear to be more mature and determined. “Many of the young people that come to us are more mature compared to those who entered the seminary twenty or thirty years ago”, confirmed Fr How. “They are more committed, and while 25 years ago 50% of those entering a seminary eventually dropped out, today two thirds reach the stage of ordination. Whether they met Christ in their parish, in the pilgrimages to Lourdes or at the World Youth Day, it’s always a personal relationship with Jesus, as Pope Benedict asked”. Helping others find Christ. Dominic Findlay-Wilson, 44, holder of a degree in Economics, has reached the stage of ordination after a 5 and a half study period at Wonersh seminary. “I used to run a business with my brother, I had a good quality of life, but it was hard to practice Catholic faith fully, without compromises. I felt that I my relationship with God was not an option. It was something I couldn’t do without. I went to live in Rome for a year, with the ‘Emmanuel community of mission’. There, my heart told me that I had to try to become a priest. Today I feel a deep joy. I can’t imagine anything more important than being able to help someone else find Christ”.
In 2013 almost 100 men and women chose the seminary or religious life