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More men becoming priests, large Seminary enrollment in Mt. Washington

MT. WASHINGTON, Ohio (Jeff Hirsh) -- Local college, Athenaeum, is reporting a dramatic increase in enrollment.
In fact the school was once close to empty but now it's expanding.  They've been training priests at the Mt. St. Mary Seminary at the site since 1929 and for 100 years before that in other Cincinnati locations.  Once, there were so many candidates there they slept dormitory style in big rooms.  But by 1998, there were only 27 seminary students.

It's a graduate school.  There were several reasons for the declining number of priests in recent years.  Changing cultural values in society, celibacy, the abuse scandal, and the fact a person will not make a ton of money and must work weekends.  But now, the decline has dramatically turned around.
With 25 incoming students, the seminary has its largest first year class and largest total enrollment in a quarter century.  65 students will be there in the fall, capacity is only 68.  Henry Hoffman of Batavia is one of the first year seminarians.  Hoffman originally planned on becoming a college professor.

"Over time in college I became much more convinced of a personal relationship with God.  I began to experience his love and desired to share it with other people," Hoffman said.

Of course it's possible the recent growth is only a bump, and not a trend.  But the seminary's president said he was confident it's a long-term positive from better recruitment and an improving image for priests.  He is so confident the seminary is adding 8 rooms for even more new students.

"They think it's an excellent way of life, a courageous way of life.  They bring integrity.  They want to get involved in the life of the community and the life of the church and the, see they priesthood as a way of giving to the community and giving to God," said Fr. Benedict O'Cinnsealaigh.

Henry Hoffman won't become ordained for seven years.  But he's willing to make sacrifices.  In fact, he said that was what it's all about, a calling.

Hoffman shared, "And when I began to experience the fullness of the sacramental life it irresistibly called me and I answered that call."

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