Rorate Caeli

The Church of Vatican II
II - Ireland. Only 12 new seminarians for its sole remaining major seminary

An Irish Jesuit vocations promotion poster, 2011. Source

The main image in the Diocese of Derry's "vocations promotion" poster. Source. 

From the website of the Irish Bishops' Catholic Conference (h/t Lux Occulta):

Twelve seminarians to begin priesthood studies at Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth

Today Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth, the National Seminary for Ireland, welcomed twelve seminarians who will commence their formation for the priesthood. 

At the conclusion of the ‘Introductory Programme’ at the end of September, three of the new seminarians from Northern dioceses will continue their studies at Saint Malachy’s College in Belfast. 


A breakdown, by diocese, of the twelve first year seminarians for 2012 is: Clogher (1), Cloyne (1), Down & Connor (2), Dublin (3), Ferns (1), Kerry (2), Meath (1), Raphoe (1).  At the end of September the total number of seminarians in Maynooth will be approximately 64. 

Over the last five years the number of new seminarians beginning their studies in Maynooth has been: 13 in 2011; 10 in 2010; 24 in 2009; 14 in 2008; 18 in 2007. 

The final figure for the number of seminarians in the 2012 entry class will be confirmed in December after the students complete the class retreat and the ‘Introductory Programme’.

Take note that 12 is not yet the final figure for the number of seminarians in the 2012 entry class; it can -- and most likely will -- still shrink.

Ireland has 26 dioceses.

Lux Occulta has the following analysis of Ireland's continuing (and worsening) vocations crisis. Emphases are Rorate's:

The Irish bishops’ much-celebrated Year for Vocations in 2008-2009 was a failure. Numbers entering Maynooth increased by only 20% in 2009 from the previous year, a relatively insignificant jump when you consider both the low base from which it proceeded and the vast resources that were poured into the campaign. This could be partly attributed to the fallout from the Ryan Report released that year; likewise, the even lower numbers for this year and 2011 might have been affected by the impact of the Cloyne Report and the Cardinal Brady scandal. But the collapse of vocations continues an ongoing trend from long before the sex scandals emerged in the 1990s. By the late 1980s vocations had collapsed to such an extent that Cardinal O’Fiaich provoked surprise when he predicted that Ireland would soon have to import priests from Africa. Even a writer as hostile to the Church as Malachi O’Doherty observes in Empty Pulpits that the dearth of vocations can’t be attributed wholesale to the sex scandals: “Even before that shock hit, there were few left in their right minds who would want to take holy orders.” 

One reason for the failure of the Year of Vocations lay in the insipid marketing mentality which has come to dominate the Irish episcopal conference and its attendant bureaucracy. In common with the consumerist mentality of western society, the Irish bishops thought you could solve a problem just by throwing money at it and hiring some advertising consultants. Another reason lay in the campaign’s secular and naturalist presentation of the priesthood. The priest’s role of ‘service’ and ‘listening’ was heavily emphasized, but in such a way that priesthood was portrayed as just another career, entirely devoid of a supernatural character. 

I would suggest that the crisis in vocations has much deeper roots. Perusing historic ordination statistics for Maynooth, one is immediately impressed with the fact that the crisis in vocations goes back all the way to the 1960s. Ordinations at Maynooth peaked in 1963 when 558 new priests were ordained. The trajectory after that is unrelentingly downward. This is particularly dramatic in the case of Dublin. In 1962 (the same year the Second Vatican Council began its deliberations) 21 new priests from Maynooth (Note: Dublin also had its own seminary at Clonliffe until 2001) were ordained for the diocese of Dublin. By 1970, a mere eight years later, only 2 new priests from Maynooth were ordained for that highly populated diocese. The following year seen the ordination of just 1 priest, while no Dublin priests were ordained in 1972, a trend that continued until 1982 (when one Dublin priest was ordained). 

It seems somewhat curious that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin incessantly focuses on the defects (real or perceived) of the pre-conciliar Irish Church (which, for all its problems, certainly had no crisis in vocations) while largely ignoring the demise of his own archdiocese, which is (literally) dying off rapidly before our very eyes. Dublin contains over a million Catholics, yet Archbishop Diarmuid Martin can persuade only 4 Catholic men in his archdiocese to become a diocesan priest. Meanwhile a whole generation of clergy are passing with no-one to replace them. 

A bishop who cannot ensure enough recruits to sustain his diocese has failed. Alas, the renewal of Irish Catholicism that the Pope calls for is being implemented by the same men who have led us into this mess.

The reference to Archbishop Martin's focus "on the defects...of the pre-conciliar Irish Church" has been on public display at least twice this year, notably when he gave a lecture this February on "Reform of the Church in Ireland: Facing the Future with Hope", and as recently as last month, when he disparaged Ireland's dwindling number of seminarians as "fragile and some are much more traditional than those who went before them". (See Martin needs to offer hope and solutions.)


  1. Ferraiuolo7:30 AM

    This looks seriously retarded. Doing the same thing and expecting different results. They are all essentially doing the same thing, watering down the priesthood to make it seem "cool", "nice" and "trendy". No wonder there are so few vocations. Just look at the picture promoting the Irish Jesuit vocations, it looks like something off a university campus musical event. Whenever it may be that the bishops will experiment with tradition, they will realise that everything else was utterly useless and a total failure.

    It was Ven. Pope Pius XII who said:

    "The day the Church abandons her universal tongue [Latin] is the day before she returns to the catacombs."

  2. Laura7:35 AM

    Archbishop Martin has to go. It's as simple as that.

  3. Nice tshirt!

  4. Just a small point: Maynooth is one of three seminaries run by the Irish Bishops. The other two are St Malachy's (two year philosophy programme only) while the Pontifical Irish College in Rome is still there (just).

  5. Eamonn:

    The Pontifical Irish College is in Rome, not Ireland, and St. Malachy's does not fit the traditional definition of "Major Seminary". The title refers to the major seminaries in Ireland (of which only one remains), not the seminaries run by the Catholic hierarchy of Ireland.

  6. Éamonn, the admission numbers include those who will be sent to St. Malachy's for the years of philosophy, so that means 12 for both seminaries. Naturally, there are other seminarians elsewhere, especially in seminaries of religious orders, but the basic number of admissions for diocesan seminaries is that one.

  7. Those who depict the priesthood as a "cool" lifestyle/career choice seem to forget the extraordinarily difficult life of Christ which it is supposed to imitate, not to mention the similarly unrelenting lives of all the prophets, saints and martyrs whom we as Catholics - let alone priests - are supposed to emulate.

  8. Simeon11:16 AM

    Yes, Ferraiuolo. Without the universal language they suffer the punishment of the people of Babel. They too traded what was made of stone and mortar for baked brick and slime. In other words...a church of Man.

  9. Peadar12:31 PM

    It should also be known that two Irishmen are entering the Institute of Christ the King this year, and at least one is going to the FSSP. Also a further two to other traditional orders abroad. That gives the statistic: 12 for the new liturgy, 5 for the traditional liturgy.

  10. Here's a slightly more successful "marketing" scheme that some in Ireland might remember:

    1. Theological orthodoxy

    2. Litrugical reverence

    3. Sacrificial charity

    4. Missionary zeal

    See four simple points.

  11. Benedict Carter12:47 PM

    Oh the Church of Vatican II
    Started out with lots of priests
    Then turned them into protestants
    And then there weren't any left.

    (Loosely based on "The Grand Old Duke of York).

  12. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Archbishop Martin is no different to his episcopal colleagues in Ireland and the UK. Their remit, as they appear to see it, is to manage decline. They show no interest in preaching the Catholic Faith and indeed scorn it as passe and triumphalist. I see no future for the Church here apart from small groups of believers scattered here and there.

  13. JohnT1:09 PM

    Sad. They just don't get it do they? Thinking that by making the priesthood look hip and cool they can attract more vocations; instead they end up looking like posers. Smh...

  14. Nowhere in that jumble of words do we see "Victim." And "sacrifice" is written very small.

  15. The whimsical and colorful t-shirts scream one thing: We Want Fags! That's what they're all about.

    But don't worry. They're in "full communion."

  16. Unimpressed4:33 PM

    Notice that "Catholic" and "God" are among the smallest words on the sweet colorful ad. This ad campaign is/was truly diabolical.

  17. Men are willing to give their lives to a mystery, but not to a question mark.

  18. J.G.Ratkaj5:30 PM

    to be honest the formation of future clerics in seminaries may had justification in the past but already in the 1950s I have witnessed the disadvantages of this antiquated method of education. I completely understand that many young man hesitate to follow their sincere vocation to enter the clerical career given the obligation to enter a seminary.

  19. Anonymous5:44 PM

    One of the sad sights is to look at the long rows of photographs at Maynooth and see not how they not only just dwindled in number, but that somehow the "look" changed and from being humble, holy-looking and recollected there seems to be [it' s purely subjective & personal judgement with no real evidence] a change to a posed,proud, worldly look.Alan Robinson

  20. Marsaili10:04 PM

    When the Irish begin, mostly as a whole, to once again care about the religion of their fathers, the tide will probably turn, though it could take awhile. It may require prayer and sacrifice of those in Ireland who still believe.

  21. Introibo10:53 PM

    The guy with the T shirt on looks suspiciously like Dermott from the Fr Ted series. With adds like this that is the calibre of seminarians that they can expect.

  22. Marketing isn't a bad thing, if it uses the right images and messages, which as noted, would do better to focus on mystery, challenge, sacrifice, heroism, etc. One thinks of the marketing campaigns over the years for the U.S. Marine Corps.

    That said, I think the best way to recruit men to the priesthood is personal encouragement, and personal invitation, from family, friends, and from priests that inspire.

    And, yes, I agree with Brian's list above.

  23. Gratias3:57 AM

    Leader, thanks for the information. A ratio of 12 to 5 is not that bad for tradition. Whith the new purchase by Institute of Christ the King in Ireland traditional vocations are bound to increase further.

  24. Francis11:24 AM

    This t-shirt poster looks like something out of the 1960's. As other commenters have stated, they are targeting certain men (Eg modernists, leftists and effeminate). Fortunately the modern Jesuits are slowly dying off. Hopefully traditionalists will someday rebuid that formerly orthodox Catholic order.

  25. Fr Martin Fox said...

    "...I think the best way to recruit men to the priesthood is personal encouragement, and personal invitation, from family, friends, and from priests that inspire."

    ...and to get our boys up on the Altar!


    Today five sons
    Served on the altar
    Determined boys
    Who would not falter.

    Boys at home
    Who fight and shove
    But on the altar
    Assist with love.

    At home shouting
    From top of lung
    On the altar
    Latin’s sung.

    At home running
    Can’t sit still
    On the altar
    Disciplined will.

    At home throwing
    Cereal, toast
    On the altar
    Adoring Host.

    At home bedrooms
    Scattered scene
    On the altar
    Order, serene.

    I proud mother
    Faithful to Rome
    Five sons on the altar
    Five men at home.

  26. "I see no future for the Church here apart from small groups of believers scattered here and there."

    That is the vision of the Church's future that Josef Cardinal Ratzinger (His Holiness) offered years ago.

    During his reign as Pope, Benedict XVI declared that in vast areas of the world, the Faith is in danger of death.

    Wow! Bleak.


  27. McCormack7:41 AM

    Yet the SSPX and other "traditional" institutions and congregations, an admittedly "very small fraction" of the overall Catholic world, are drawing huge numbers, per capita, of vocations. Funny about that.

  28. If foreign missionaries are coming just to continue with the same modernist story then they will not be around much longer either.

  29. Does anyone know how the other Catholic rites are doing, vocationswise? Are there statistics on the Byzantines, Maronites, Melkites, et. al.? We never hear about them...

  30. It say's 'kick me' on the back of the t-shirt...

  31. "Does anyone know how the other Catholic rites are doing, vocationswise? Are there statistics on the Byzantines, Maronites, Melkites, et. al.? We never hear about them..."

    CNEWA publishes the complete statistics for these churches every year, including vocations:

    In a nutshell: the Eastern Catholic Churches based in Eastern Europe and India are doing well, while those based in the Middle East or predominantly "diaspora" are not.

    Some of the statistics for laypeople also bloated or exaggerated.


Comment boxes are debate forums for readers and contributors of RORATE CÆLI.

Please, DO NOT assume that RORATE CÆLI contributors or moderators necessarily agree with or otherwise endorse any particular comment just because they let it stand.


(1) This is our living room, in a deeply Catholic house, and you are our guest. Please, behave accordingly. Any comment may be blocked or deleted, at any time, whenever we perceive anything that is not up to our standards, not conducive to a healthy conversation or a healthy Catholic environment, or simply not to our liking.

(2) By clicking on the "publish your comment" button, please remain aware that you are choosing to make your comment public - that is, the comment box is not to be used for private and confidential correspondence with contributors and moderators.

(3) Any name/ pseudonym/ denomination may be freely used simply by choosing the third option, "Name/URL" (the URL box may be left empty), when posting your comment - therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to simply post as "Anonymous", making debate unnecessarily harder to follow. Any comment signed simply as "Anonymous" will be blocked.

Thank you!