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New ordinations give reason for hope, but need for priests still great


  • Seminarians from St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass., participate in a "Grill the Seminarians" discussion April 3 with members of a youth group from St. Patrick Church in Providence, R.I. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)
  • A seminarian from St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass., holds a rosary as he prepares to participate in a "Grill the Seminarians" discussion April 3 with members of a youth group from St. Patrick Church in Providence, R.I. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)
  • Seminarians pray with their rector April 4 at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Providence, R.I. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)
  • Seminarians from St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass., participate in a "Grill the Seminarians" discussion April 3 with members of a youth group from St. Patrick Church in Providence, R.I. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)
  • Seminarians pray with their rector April 4 at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Providence, R.I. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

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WASHINGTON -- It's ordination season and Catholics have reason to be pleased with the numbers of priests who will serve the church well into the future.

In recent years, the numbers of priestly ordinations have given Catholic Church observers reason to believe there is not a global vocations crisis, but they acknowledge there is still a need for more.

"The good news is that the global number of priests stopped declining about five years ago," said Father Paul Sullins, associate professor of sociology at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

Since 2012, the total has been stable at about 415,000 priests worldwide, a number that is the net of new ordinations and retirements or deaths, Father Sullins told Catholic News Service.

"The church now has about the same number of priests that it had in 1970," he said. "The bad news, though it is not really bad news, is that the global population of Catholics has grown dramatically since then, so today we have far fewer priests per Catholic."

Though the global numbers are currently strong and vocations are plentiful in some regions of the world, such as African and Asia, the quantity of priests are not as abundant in other continents, such as in parts of North America, Father Sullins said.

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