The Cincinnati Archdiocese says nine men will take the final step toward priesthood this weekend, making it the largest class in nearly 40 years.
The group will be ordained into a transitional position this weekend, making them eligible to perform some rites and rituals. They'll be ordained as priests in May 2019.
Associate Vocation Director Wayne Topp says the number of people choosing to become priests and nuns is increasing. "These are young people," he says. "You talk about Millennials and Gen-Xers and these are the populations, the generations, that have been walking away from the faith. And yet, here it is: the uptick in vocations is coming from these generations."
The Athenaeum of Ohio, Mount St. Mary's Seminary on Beechmont Ave. broke ground last fall on an expansion to keep up with growing class sizes. In the past 10 years, the number of men entering the priesthood went from 28 to 62, Topp says. The number of women becoming nuns is also increasing.
Topp says the Cincinnati Archdiocese's numbers are higher than others, but the number of men entering seminary nationwide is increasing, too. Right now, Cincinnati is on track for about six ordinations a year over five years. "But if we continue that trend of six a year for at least the next 10 years, our number of priests will continue to decline even at six new priests a year. Only at the end of that 10 years will we start to reverse the trend," he says, adding that is only true if the trend of six per year continues after the 10-year span.
He credits lots of prayer and the high visibility and popularity of the last few popes for the current large class of seminarians. "The faith and the number of Catholics is continuing to dwindle, and there's kind of this bleeding out from the Catholic church, but they say 'We can reverse that trend and we're going to do it one person at a time.'"
Cincinnati's 19-county archdiocese is the 44th largest in the country with more than 450,000 Catholics.