The Catholic Church's National Office for Vocation's Director, Father Paul Embery, is praying not just for goals from the England Squad this summer, he is hoping for success in the Church's annual recruitment drive to attract new men to the priesthood, kicking off next weekend (7th May). Following the success of last year's 'Get Collared for the Challenge of a Lifetime' beer mat campaign which included Tube advertising, this year the Church is tapping into World Cup fever. During May and June over 5000 posters will be put up in churches, schools and chaplaincies which feature a mirror image of a young man considering his future as a footballer or as a priest (or both!). The idea behind the poster is that certain qualities needed to be a good footballer are easily transferable to the Catholic priesthood. Fr Paul explained: "Football plays a major part in many young men's lives. The 'beautiful game' is not just a job, it becomes a whole way of life. It takes many years of training, dedication and perseverance to get to a professional standard; the support of your team is invaluable, and it's not just about a one-off public appearance at the weekend. We want young men to see that some of the motivating factors for footballers are just as applicable to the Catholic priesthood, and that being a priest is a very rewarding and satisfying vocation - and a lifelong one too." In his letter for Vocations Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son, wrote: "In order to answer the call of God and start in our journey, it is not necessary to be already perfect." "Perhaps further parallels can be drawn there," said Father Paul. Included within the information pack going out to schools, is the amazing story of how students for the priesthood from the English College in Valladolid, Spain, beat Real Madrid 6-2 in 1907. Fr Paul said: "Whilst a centenary re-match in 2007 would be a good idea, I am not sure we could guarantee the same result this time without a little divine intervention! I do think however that the England squad has a good chance if they come up against the Spanish in the World Cup this summer." There is a long history between the Church and football. Many of the English Football League clubs have historic links with churches (not all Catholic). Liverpool, Fulham, Southampton, Aston Villa, Everton, Bolton Wanderers and Queen Park Rangers are just some of the teams who can boast church connections, especially in their early years. In Scotland, during 2005 Celtic erected a statue outside their Celtic Park Stadium in memory of the priest who founded the club in 1888. The late Cardinal Hume was a big supporter of Newcastle United. In his younger days Pope John Paul II was a keen footballer and goalkeeper. To see the new poster visit: www.ukpriest.org In 2005, 30 men began training for the diocesan priesthood of England and Wales. This compares with 27 in 2004 and 23 in 2002.
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