Irish Church Recruiting Priests on Web

ByKeith Weir

D U B L I N, March 28, 2001 -- The Irish Catholic Church went onlinetoday in a high-tech effort to attract more young men to trainas priests in an increasingly secular society.

The Archdiocese of Tuam in western Ireland will back thewww.towardsthegoal.com Web site with an advertising campaign andtelephone service offering advice to those interested in joiningthe priesthood.

“We think it is possibly unique as a Web site specificallydedicated to the question of vocations,” Father BrendanKilcoyne, secretary of the archdiocese, told Reuters.

The Catholic Church is facing a struggle to attract newrecruits in a country where the young are enjoying the fruits ofan unprecedented economic boom. The image of the priesthood hasalso been tarnished by a number of child-abuse scandals.

An average of 50 to 60 new priests join Irish parishes eachyear, down from a peak of 200 to 300 in the 1960s.

Training Can Take 7 Years

Tuam’s 56 parishes are spread across a large swathe ofwestern Ireland and include six island parishes and a numberwhere Gaelic is the main language.

“We’re looking at a looming crisis in terms of manning 56parishes,” Kilcoyne said of the recruitment push, adding itcould take up to seven years to train as a priest.

“Economic well-being tends to make people more sluggishabout religion. It’s harder to think about God when you’re onthe way up,” he added.

The Internet will allow the Church to reach out to potentialrecruits among the millions in the Irish diaspora around theglobe. The campaign is aimed largely at young men between theages of 17 and 25.

The home page of the Web site has a sporting theme,featuring a leading Gaelic footballer.

“This is a site for risk-takers, impossible goal-scorers,gamblers, if you like,” Archbishop Michael Neary says in anintroductory message, appealing for people to come forward tobecome leaders of the Church.

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