A seminary in Cincinnati with positive numbers. ACTION ITEM! @CatholicCincy

Concerning the number of vocations to the priesthood.

From Cincinnati.com comes this.  There is a lot in this article.  Here are a few snips.

More men want to be Catholic priests. Millennials are leading the way.

The Rev. Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh looks out his office window at the courtyard below, marveling at how much his view has changed in just a few weeks.

Once home to green grass and well-manicured shrubs, the courtyard is now a muddy mess. Heavy equipment rumbles throughout the day and temporary fences surround ditches and overturned earth.

O’Cinnsealaigh thinks it’s beautiful. As president of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary at The Athenaeum of Ohio, he knows what this big construction project means for the Catholic Church in Cincinnati.

“We have a future here,” he says.

The $11.5 million building going up behind O’Cinnsealaigh’s office is the first expansion of The Athenaeum’s Mount Washington campus in almost 60 years. The new apartments and conference rooms are necessary because the seminary has a problem no one saw coming: It needs more room.

To say the seminary has struggled for years to attract men to the priesthood would be an understatement. Enrollment plummeted from about 200 in the 1960s to less than 40 in 2011.

Then something changed. Enrollment started to surge in 2012 and has more than doubled in the past five years.

Today, 82 seminarians study here. Their numbers are up nationally, too, though the increase is not as dramatic.

More surprising than the sudden growth is the source of it. Millennials, or those roughly between the ages of 18 and 34, make up the vast majority of new recruits.


I suspect that an informal poll of the seminarians would reveal that the majority of them have either a strong leaning toward tradition or they are open to learning what they can.

If only we knew some folks in Cincinnati who could find out?


The new breed of seminarians has embraced the notion they are taking on a secular world that’s sometimes hostile to their beliefs. They see themselves as part of a counter-culture movement, pushing back against consumerism, greed and other forces, which, in their eyes, make America a less faithful nation.

“They came from that culture. They lived in that culture,” O’Cinnsealaigh says. “They know that culture doesn’t have the answers they were looking for.”

The image of Catholic seminarians as rebels takes some getting used to, considering they’re members of a 2,000-year-old institution with more than 1 billion followers worldwide.

Yet these future priests say society has shifted so much they now are the outsiders, the ones with the radical agenda.

“We’re going to be preaching the Gospel to a culture that’s badly in need of it,” says Jarred Kohn, a 27-year-old from Coldwater, Ohio, who will be ordained this spring. “Trying to beat a culture is going to be difficult, but we can win it back.”

The task is complicated, in part, by a faith that doesn’t align neatly with the political or cultural views of many Americans.

The church opposes gay marriage, abortion, the death penalty and contraception while advocating for immigrants, improved health care and aid to the needy. Try selling that combination in today’s hyper-partisan America.


An NGO or lobby can push those agenda points.  We have one true agendum – salvation of souls.


Did God stop calling young men to the priesthood? Archbishop Schnurr says there’s a more earthly explanation. Society told them to ignore the call, he says, and the church didn’t encourage them enough to listen.

It is encouraging them now, Schnurr says.

Since arriving in Cincinnati in 2008, Schnurr has made priest recruitment a priority. He ramped up outreach, hired Schmitmeyer to oversee the effort and got personally involved by hosting meetings and dinners with men considering the seminary.

“You can’t wait for the men to come to you,” Schnurr says. “You have to go to the men.”


Do I hear an “Amen!”?   Fr. Z kudos to Archbp. Schnurr.

Now… mix in a strong dose our traditional sacred liturgical worship and watch the numbers explode.

Everyone…. please urge your parish priests to ask the whole congregation, every Sunday and Holy Day, to get down on their knees and pray for vocations.   Bring them to this blog, and this link in particular.

We have to get down on our knees constantly and pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.  Let’s not pray for generic “vocations”, lumping them all together.  No.

We need a public, manifest, constant call for vocations to the priesthood from our own homes and families, not someone else’s.

At the parish where I serve, the pastor and I had cards printed with an old prayer for vocations used at my home parish, where there was on average a First Mass every year.   From now on, at every Sunday and Holy Day Mass, after the Gospel and before the announcements and sermon, everyone will kneel and say this prayer:

LEADER: Please kneel for our prayer for vocations.  Let us ask God to give worthy priests, brothers and sisters to His Holy Church.

ALL: O God, we earnestly beseech Thee to bless this (arch)diocese with many priests, brothers and sisters, who will gladly spend their entire lives to serve Thy Church and to make Thee known and loved.

LEADER: Bless our families. Bless our children.

ALL: Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.

LEADER: Mary, Queen of the Clergy!

ALL: Pray for us. Pray for our priests and religious. Obtain for us many more.

A friend back home – whom I miss rather a lot – sent me one of the original holy cards, which I prize.



Note that key line:

Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.

We had cards made with beautiful artwork on the front and this very prayer on the back.

Soon it will be so much a part of the regular Sunday and Holy Day practice that everyone will know it by heart.  It will ring in the ears of young people and keep the idea of a religious vocations constantly present and active.

I don’t doubt the outcome.

This is an ACTION ITEM.   Fathers, consider implementing this in your parishes.  And don’t junk the prayer up with additions about “married life” or “single life” or “permanent deacons”.  Just leave it as it is.  We’ve done the heavy lifting by already printing the cards if you want to drop a line.

Lay people!  Especially you who are in sound parishes!  Go to your priests with this post and ask them to implement a prayer for vocations to the priesthood.  Keep at them.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Adaquano says:

    I’m curious, I’ve heard of several encouraging stories coming from Cincinnati and just over the river in Kentucky, has this area become a good center of traditional Catholicism?

  2. dbf223 says:

    “I suspect that an informal poll of the seminarians would reveal that the majority of them have either a strong leaning toward tradition or they are open to learning what they can.

    “If only we knew some folks in Cincinnati who could find out?”

    I am in the Diocese of Columbus, OH and have known some people in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is a very old diocese filled with a good number of old and beautiful churches on both sides of the river. Columbus is also seeing a significant vocations increase under Bishop Campbell, but I’d say we’re probably five years behind where Cincinnati is.

    If you want seriously to talk about Cincinnati, I could point to some people in the know, but I’m sure you have other readers here who are actually in the area.

  3. grumpyoldCatholic says:

    Let us pray that they are taught well in the extraordinary form. and not with the missal of 1962 either. And that they are ordained with the pre 1968 ordinal ( V2 ) .

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  5. grumpyoldCatholic says:

    Pope Pius XII Prayer for Vocations
    Lord Jesus, High Priest and universal Shepherd, Thou hast taught us to pray, saying: “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest”
    [Matt. 9: 38].

    Therefore we beseech Thee graciously to hear our supplications and raise up many generous souls who, inspired by Thy example and supported by Thy grace, may conceive the ardent desire to enter the ranks of Thy sacred ministers in order to continue the office of Thy one true priesthood.

    Although Thy priests live in the world as dispensers of the mysteries of God, yet their mission demands that they be not men of this world.
    Grant, then, that the insidious lies and vicious slanders directed against the priesthood by the malignant enemy and abetted by the world through its spirit of indifference and materialism may not dim the brilliance of the light with which they shine before men, nor lessen the profound and reverent esteem due to them.

    Grant that the continual promotion of religious instruction, true piety, purity of life and devotion to the highest ideals may prepare the groundwork for good vocations among youth.
    May the Christian family, as a nursery of pure and pious souls, become the unfailing source of good vocations, ever firmly convinced of the great honor that can redound to our Lord through some of its numerous offspring.

    Come to the aid of Thy Church, that always and in every place she may have at her disposal the means necessary for the reception, promotion, formation and mature development of all the good vocations that may arise.
    For the full realization of all these things, O Jesus, Who art most zealous for the welfare salvation of all, may Thy graces continually descend from Heaven to move many hearts by their irresistible force: first, the silent invitation; then generous cooperation; and finally perseverance in Thy holy service.

    Art Thou not moved to compassion, O Lord, seeing the crowds like sheep without a shepherd, without anyone to break for them the bread of Thy word, or to lead them to drink at the fountains of Thy grace, so that they are continually in danger of becoming a prey to ravening wolves? Does it not grieve Thee to behold so many unplowed fields where thorns and thistles are allowed to grow in undisputed possession? Art Thou not saddened that many of Thy gardens, once so green and productive, are now on the verge of becoming fallow and barren through neglect?

    O Mary, Mother most pure, through whose compassion we have received the holiest of priests; O glorious Patriarch St. Joseph, perfect model of co-operation with the Divine call; O holy priests, who in heaven compose a choice choir about the Lamb of God: obtain for us many good vocations in order that the Lord’s flock, through the support and government of vigilant shepherds, may attain to the enjoyment of the most delightful pastures of eternal happiness.
    Nov. 6, 1957

  6. rcg says:

    AB Schnurr allowed the FSSP to open a parish here in Dayton, too!

    Fr. Martin Fox, a feequent commentor on this blog, is a wonderful priest who knows a lot about the Cincinnati area, too. I bet he can shed some light on the direction things are going.

  7. frmh says:

    I wonder where they are all from, are they diocesan or is this seminary drawing in from other diocese and at the expense of their seminaries…. if the national numbers are not increasing by a large number and are fairly stable that’s what this would seem to suggest.

    Like in England, Oscott seminary can boast that it has 70 seminarians and that 10 years ago it had something like 40, but that doesn’t tell you about the 2 seminaries that closed and whose seminarians now go to Oscott.

  8. Golatin5048 says:

    As someone who lives within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and who knows the seminarians quite well, here are some responses to what Fr. Z and others have asked.

    First off, the Archdiocese, which comprises of 19 counties and about half a million Catholics, went from about 20 seminarians 9 years ago to the current number of 60 and still continues to grow every year, thanks to our shepherd, Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr. We have grown so much, that our seminary, Mt. St. Mary’s of the West, has to expand to accommodate the housing need.

    Are most of the seminarians having traditional leanings?
    YES! While many of them may be stronger leaning than others, all of them are solid orthodox men who desire to show the faithful the fullness of the Catholic Church and Christ. In recent years, the number of masses said in the Extraordinary Form in this Archdiocese has grown by leaps and bounds, especially in the northern part of the Archdiocese, from the men being ordained. Latin classes are also offered and encouraged at the seminary in Cincinnati.

    Do other places send to the seminary in Cincinnati?
    Yes. While there are other diocese that send to the seminary in Cincinnati, of the about 80 currently enrolled, 50 are at the major seminary for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. So the growth is seen mainly in Cincinnati, but other dioceses have also seen growth with the desire to send to the seminary in Cincinnati.

    This growth, which is something Archbishop Schnurr himself would tell you, is all due not to him, but to Christ responding to the prayers of the people of this Archdiocese. Shortly after arriving, Archbishop Schnurr wrote a vocations prayer that is to be said at every mass at every parish in the whole Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Since this time of begging the harvest master for more holy men and women, as well as praying for those called, we have seen this amazing growth. Here is the prayer that Archbishop Schnurr wrote:

    Almighty Father,
    You have created us for some definite purpose.
    Grant us the grace to know the path
    You have planned for us in this life
    and to respond with a generous “Yes.”
    Make our archdiocese, parishes, homes and hearts
    fruitful ground for Your gift of vocations.
    May our young people respond to Your call
    with courage and zeal.
    Stir among our men a desire and the strength
    to be good and holy priests.
    Bless us with consecrated religious and those called to a
    chaste single life, permanent deacons,
    and faithful husbands and wives,
    who are a sign of Christ’s love for His Church.
    We commend our prayer for vocations to You, Father,
    through the intercession of Mary our Mother,
    in the Holy Spirit,
    through Christ our Lord. Amen.
    – Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr

  9. hwriggles4 says:

    The Fathers of Mercy (CPM) began sending seminarians here within the past few years. That should speak for the quality of Mount St. Mary’s of the West. Archbishop Schnurr is fairly new to Cincinnati, arriving around 2011. Fr. Z. Might know him, since Abp. Schnurr was previously Bishop of Duluth, Minnesota.

    For the record, other seminaries such as Holy Trinity in Dallas, John Paul II Seminary in Washington, DC (opened 2011), Christ the King in upstate New York, and the new seminary in North Carolina have fruitful enrollments. Some newer bishops have also changed the seminaries that their predecessors used, and these newer bishops have seen not only more fruit, but better formation.

    Today most seminaries are composed of seminarians from various dioceses and religious orders. Some like Holy Trinity in Dallas are geared only for college and pre theology students. Others such as St. John XXIII and Sacred Heart School of Theology specialize in “second career ” vocations, and then others are for Major Seminary (Theology division).

    I am sorry to hear that St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia is planning to close. (Last I heard there were discussions that it will be relocated to a newer and smaller place, most likely within walking distance to LaSalle.) The week I spent at St. Charles in 2006 was one week I will never forget.

  10. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Not so long ago, before Archbishop Schnurr became ordinary here, many of the priests on the diocesan planning committees were actively planning for a “future with fewer priests.” Truth be told, I think they were secretly hoping for this outcome, not just planning for a ‘worst-case scenario,’ because of an agenda to advance the lay faithful into areas that properly belonged to priests. It was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. They certainly were some “doom and gloom” types who had little faith in Christ’s call to bring holy young men to the priesthood. Sadly, some good men with vocations were actually discouraged by them, because they were considered too traditional. But I won’t rehash that unfortunate story. It’s been told many times in print and electronic media.

    The important thing is that, thanks to the hard work of some excellent vocation directors and the Archbishop himself, this has turned around. Deo gratias.

    As in so many things in life, it is all about attitude, trust in God, and good leadership.

    What has happened in Cincinnati can obviously happen in other dioceses, given the right shepherds and chancery staffs, together with the fervent prayers of the lay faithful.

  11. Thanks to RCG for the kind words, above.

    Our seminary has improved greatly in the past 25 years. At one time, it was a difficult environment, as was the case in many places. All that has changed dramatically, which I must say, has disquieted folks in certain quarters, as you might imagine. Nevertheless, it provides solid formation, and the Archbishop fully supports the seminary.

    I know a number of the men, and while I can’t say that they all are going to pursue the traditional Latin Mass, I imagine most are open to it. Men who have been ordained in recent years have been trained in the TLM — something that never happened when I was there 15 years ago. The faculty are certainly friendly to tradition, so that makes it easy for the seminarians.

    As far as what the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is like, and whether it is a “center of traditional Catholicism,” I think you should expect to encounter all manner of things when you visit us, but there are positive trends.

  12. padredana says:

    The above quoted prayer for vocations (WITH all the Thees and Thys intact) was instituted in the three parishes where I am pastor at the beginning of Advent. I wait in joyful hope for a flowering of priestly vocations from all three parishes!

  13. Jeff says:

    As a lay person in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in a parish where we almost always have an intern, I concur that the seminarians I have talked with and the new priests over the last several years have been very well formed young men.

    I was at the seminary last week and it is a beautiful place. If you have not visited you should. The main chapel alone is worth the trip.

  14. Athelstan says:

    They see themselves as part of a counter-culture movement

    As Flannery O’Connor once said, they must push back against the age as hard as it pushes against them.

    And unlike many of their older colleagues, they have figured out that the age is pushing awfully hard now.

  15. Fuerza says:

    The city of Cincinnati currently has two parishes offering the TLM 7 days per week, and I know that one of them also offers a weekly Latin OF Mass. Obviously this by itself is not evidence that tradition leads to vocations, as there are other cities with more TLMs that have fewer vocations, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

  16. JamesBaresel says:

    I saw your recent post on the seminary in Cincinnati and thought you might like to know that it has a strong history where the traditional liturgy is concerned. I lived in the Cincinnati area and for several years two seminary professors and the seminary’s spiritual director regularly celebrated Mass according to the 1962 Missal at the church which I attended. Liturgy was taught by a Dominican priest who had a strong interest in the Dominican rite. On at least one occasion the seminary offered a course on celebrating the extraordinary form. The seminary is also used by the Cincinnati Oratory, which follows the liturgical approach of the better known English oratories.

  17. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: “all kinds of things” — heh, yes. But the seminary’s decline came from the top down, from our old Archbishop Bernardin (later made a cardinal while stationed in Chicago); and the seminary’s rise has come from Archbishop Schnurr. It wouldn’t have happened in either case without a lot of cooperation, however; and the people who have worked to bring it back are to be commended, as well as those who have listened to the Lord’s call.

    The same thing is true of the vocation prayer. Not every parish says it very often, even though it is mandated by the Archbishop. But a lot of the parishes that say it every week are the parishes that are more obedient as well as more conservative; so it’s not surprising if the seminarians are cut from similar cloth.

  18. DU says:

    The story behind the story is how the faithful survived under Bernardin and Pilarczyk. Archbishop Schnurr to some degree, merely had to open the door.

    The faithful in Cincinnati persevered through the ‘dark’ years and we are now seeing the fruit. They started organizations like the Couple to Couple League. Some became home school pioneers in an area that abounds in Catholic schools. It’s hard for me to fully appreciate that pressure they must have endured from not only the secular culture but from the church culture.

    Some amazing individuals rose up like Father Al Lauer, suffering to make reparation and providing educational material through Presentation Ministries. Others preserved and rescued the treasures bequeathed to us from those who had gone before. For example Old St. Mary’s Church in Over the Rhine. It is now a home for the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri.

    There are many other stories that could be told , but I personally believe the most significant source of grace has come through Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center. Since 2000, our Eucharistic Lord has been perpetually enthroned and adored at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center. There are many graces flowing from there. It is a wonderful story of how the faithful preserve and persevere. You can check out the story at http://www.olhsc.org

    It is a multifaceted answer as to why the vocations are growing. Even though the Archbishop’s prayer is undoubtedly part of that answer, I would venture to say it was riding a Holy Spirit wave that had already begun with faithful laity.

  19. WiscKnight says:

    I would be very surprised if any of them came from the parish we attended last night. 7pm Mass started 5 min late, but we still got back to the car at 7:38 for a standing room only Saturday Mass.

    Confessions are also only ever available by appointment.

    We had planned to go to Mass Sunday morning at Old St. Mary’s, but it just wasn’t going to work out with the travel plans and the family we were with. Lots of beautiful churches we drove past while we were in Cincinnati though!

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