PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Lower Merion is seeing the largest overall increase in enrollment of men studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood in more than a dozen years..
Seminary rector Bishop Timothy Senior says the census for the new fall academic term is 167 seminarians – an increase of more than 10 percent over the spring term.
That includes 43 new seminarians, 11 of whom are studying for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
“With 167 seminarians, we’re very excited and not only just the numbers but just extraordinary young men, candidates that really reflect the rich diversity of our region,” the bishop says.
Senior says the Philadelphia visit of Pope Francis nearly two years ago certainly has borne fruit for some of the candidates.
“I really do believe it sort of freed them up to speak more openly about their desire to be priests because the Holy Father’s example has made the priesthood more attractive,” he says.
Among the first-year students is Terrance Fulton of West Philadelphia, who went to college for a year before coming to terms with what he feels was a personal call to serve God’s people.
“There was that calling to do the great commission to go out and preach the Gospel to all the nations. God made that evident, but he made it evident through the sacrament of the Eucharist,” Fulton says.
Griffen Schlaepfer, of Yardley, entered after spending a year at Penn State. He says others were instrumental in helping him to discern what he believes to be a divine call….
“My friends and family recognized it in me and saying ‘Wow, I can really see that as a path for you’ even when I didn’t see it in myself, ” Schlaepfer says.