At the recent annual conference for Vocations Directors of Priesthood in the dioceses of England and Wales, held at Wonersh Seminary, Guildford, there was much talk about the changing profile of enquirers for priesthood and the religious life. The average age of those entering priesthood and the religious life has risen over the last few decades, but the level of interest amongst younger candidates is also increasing. "Many men and women in their twenties have made a choice to 'swim against the tide' as a result of their faith-commitment," said Father Paul Embery of the National Office for Vocation, a delegate at the conference. "They may have found their faith challenged and have made a conscious decision to want to understand it more fully and live it more explicitly. Many have come to a fuller appreciation of Christ and the Church through chaplaincies and new Church groups, or even having undergone a significant conversion experience. They give hope for the future, but need to be properly nourished in faith if they are to be the leaven in the dough. They need the support of the Church at every level." One of the key areas discussed at the conference was the need for more quality work to be done with these younger candidates, especially those in their teens and twenties, so that they are not only fed and nourished in their faith, but know that they are not alone as they work out their life choices. Fr Paul went on to speak of the need for all involved in the Church's pastoral efforts to read the changing signs of the times and to be more confident in encouraging young people to actively consider priesthood and consecrated life amongst other vocations. "In our changing world, no one denies that following Christ in a life of consecrated service will be either easy or predictable. It is a challenge that requires nothing short of a real step in faith. But once that step has been taken it can be a joy-filled vocation." The Vocations Directors were heartened by the number of dedicated young Catholics who are seriously discerning their life vocation and were willing to consider priesthood and religious life. Mention was made of the fact that a good number of participants at the recent Catholic Youth Services Oct06 event chose to attend a vocations workshop and that www.ukpriest.org - the Church's official priesthood website - now regularly attracts over 2000 unique visitors per month. .
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