This September saw the numbers entering English seminaries to become Catholic priests at their highest level in a decade. 56 men began the journey towards priesthood this year. "The number of people responding to the call of Christ to be priests and religious has been rising slowly but surely, said Fr Stephen Lanrgidge, Chairman of the Vocations Directors of England and Wales, and may rise further as people respond to the visit of Pope Benedict."
At their annual conference held last week at Oscott seminary in Birmingham, the Vocations Directors discussed the approaches to vocations work that have contributed to this increase. Many dioceses and religious orders now run discernment groups for young men and women where all vocations are discussed. Such groups encourage lay, religious and priestly vocations. Fr Christopher Jamison, Director of the National Office of Vocation, commented: "When everybody in the Church takes seriously Newman's insight that 'God has created me to do him some definite service,' then a greater number discover their call to the priesthood and religious life."
Vocations directors also discussed new ways to promote this culture of vocation. 'Invocation' was a festival held in Birmingham in July 2010 for Catholics aged 16-35 who are discerning their vocation and some 300 young people attended. This was so popular that it is being held again on the weekend 17th to 19th June 2011.
Schools are now being provided with high quality on-line materials and youth ministers are developing new approaches to bringing the gospel to life for the young. Attending events such as World Youth Day is an important experience that opens the eyes of many people to the richness of life in the Church and plans for English and Welsh participation are well developed.