Saint Paul Seminary Rector: ‘We need a mindset not of retreat but of advancing’

father joe taphorn seminary enrollment catholic news agency
About 100 seminarians are expected to be enrolled at The Saint Paul Seminary when the fall semester begins next month.

In a recent article by Catholic News Agency, it is revealed that despite an overall stagnant trend in nationwide seminary enrollments, certain U.S. seminaries are experiencing an encouraging surge in student numbers.

That includes The Saint Paul Seminary, which in 2021 experienced its largest one-year increase in enrollment since 1975, going from 70 seminarians to 90 seminarians. In the spring of this year, 16 seminarians from the school were ordained transitional deacons.

About 100 seminarians are expected to be enrolled when the fall semester begins next month.

“We need a mindset not of retreat but of advancing,” Rector Fr. Joseph Taphorn told CNA. “I think young people are looking for something that is more than the world offers. I think there’s aspirations for greatness. That’s really found ultimately in holiness and in sacrificial love.”

CNA cited Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University data from June exhibiting “a continuation of relatively slow long-term decline” in priestly vocations at the pre-theology and theology levels. According to the center, enrollment has dropped from over 6,400 men in 1970 to 2,759 in the most recent academic year.

While numbers like that are concerning, The Saint Paul Seminary and others like it have seen growth in recent years — all while focusing on quality and quantity when it comes to vocations.

“We’re never going to be the largest seminary, just because of our facilities,” Taphorn said in the article. “But if we do formation well, and prepare our men well, and cast a positive vision — that’s attractive to young men. There continues to be interest and vocational visits from young men who want to learn more.

“It’s not so much advertising, or the latest posters,” Taphorn added. “That’s all kind of nice. But I really think it’s much more intimate than that. God is calling. It’s not on him. It’s on us. So the question is, are we listening?”

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