Local News

Catholic church takes new tack to recruit priests

Posted July 25
Updated July 26

— The number of Catholic priests worldwide has dropped 35 percent in the last 50 years, while the number of Catholics has nearly doubled. So, the church is trying a different approach to attract men to the priesthood.

"We're really finding out that this generation likes an approach that comes to them," said Father Philip Tighe, vocations director for the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh.

Tighe hosts events such as Pints and Prayers, soccer games and hiking excursions promoted on social media and geared at encouraging young men to be open to the call of the priesthood.

"In this digital age, people are starving for that fellowship," he said. "When they find that and they are asked, 'What do you think your contribution can be to the church?' they find themselves thinking, 'Maybe God is asking me to be his priest.'"

"He's probably not going to smack you in the head with a frying pan, saying, 'This is what I want you to do,'" said John Lewis, one of eight new seminarians studying to be a priest in the diocese.

Lewis is spending his summer working at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Wake Forest. He said he frequently is questioned about his career choice.

"Do you know what you are getting yourself into?" he said he is asked.

"Yes, kind of," he replies.

The Raleigh diocese covers 54 counties in central and eastern North Carolina and has 139 priests to serve more than 230,000 Catholics. Tighe said reaching beyond the walls of the church with a more casual approach appears to be working as a recruitment method.

"We have a 34 percent increase in [seminarian] applications this year," he said.

Three new priests are scheduled to be ordained soon at the new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh, and Lewis said he is ready to follow their lead, committing his life to sacrifice and service.

"God could give me a different message. That is absolutely a possibility. But I want to give him my heart fully with whatever it is," he said.

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