Numbers in Melbourne seminary at highest level since 70s

The number of men studying for the priesthood at Corpus Christi College in Melbourne has more than doubled since 1999.

There are now 59 men in training at Corpus Christi, the highest number since the 1970s.

They come from at least nine Australian archdioceses and dioceses.

In 1999, the number at Corpus Christi was 28.

Twenty years ago, the number was about 20.

Current rector Fr Brendan Lane at that time saw an institution in decline, Fairfax reported.

“I thought with attitudes as they were, we’re finished,” said Fr Lane, then a parish priest.

Now there are not enough rooms at Corpus Christi to house the seminarians and an appeal has been launched to fund an extension.

“This turnaround has been a real surprise I think to us, especially with the bad publicity,” Fr Lane said.

“But in fact the more bad publicity we’ve had, the more students we get.

“I think it probably works in a reverse way. It says that we’re trying to do something about the problems we’ve got.”

“Why are these guys coming in now?” Fr Lane asked.

“I think people are going to need hope.”

Third year seminarian Nathan Rawlins offered a simple explanation as to why the seminary is full.

“Now people are realising how great a gift it is to be a Catholic.”

The seminarians reflect the ethnic mix of Australia today, and by extension, the Catholic congregations.

They are drawn from 11 countries of origin: Australian, India, Croatia, the Philippines, Vietnam, New Zealand, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Poland and Indonesia.

The Fairfax article explored the possibility that the Pope Francis effect had boosted seminary numbers.

The seminarians now in training would have been influenced by John Paul II and Benedict, it noted.

As Daryl Montecillo, who will be ordained this year, put it: “We trust in God regardless of whoever God gives us as pope. But we thank God for Pope Francis, that’s for sure.”


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