The bishop in charge of training priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said Wednesday that overall enrollment at the school is up 21 percent over last year, a rise that may have something to do with Pope Francis' September visit.
Enrollment at St. Charles Seminary has gone from 120 to 145. It features 20 new men from the archdiocese entering seminary this year — that's a big jump from last year when there were just six —and previous years when the incoming class hovered around 10, Bishop Timothy C. Senior said.
"Young people are increasingly opting for a life of service," Senior said.
The diocese will launch a campaign to recruit new priests this fall, which has long been a struggle for the modern church. In recent years, the archdiocese announced plans to sell off a portion of the seminary's property to developers.
In November, they will start asking parishoners to fill out cards naming men who might be suited for the priesthood.
They also have a slick new recruitment video featuring the story of Jose Serrano, a seminarian who died of cancer before being ordained.
"I think that God ordained Jose on his death bed through his suffering," Sara Serrano, Jose's mother, said. "He'd just look at me and say all I want is to be a holy priest."
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The 20 aspirant priests are only those from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. But St. Charles educates priests from other dioceses and also educates graduate students.
In all, Senior said, there are 52 new students at the seminary this year, preparing for training that could take as long as nine years for new high school graduates and four to six years for college graduates.
Senior said that the new seminarians is increasingly diverse. Four of the new students are Vietnamese, and the college is boasting a large percentage of Hispanic students.