Not many takers for priesthood in ‘Rome of the East'
This year, only one candidate from Mangalore Diocese, which comprises 130 parishes in Dakshina Kannada and Kasaragod districts, has joined St Joseph's Seminary in Mangaluru.
MANGALURU: The coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi are witnessing a sharp decline in the number of men opting to become Catholic priests to serve in churches (parishes) and institutions run by the community.
This year, only one candidate from Mangalore Diocese, which comprises 130 parishes in Dakshina Kannada and Kasaragod districts, has joined St Joseph's Seminary in Mangaluru, which trains men to become priests.
The seminary has an annual intake of 30 and the graduates are trained for eight years in philosophy and theology before they are ordained as priests. This year, the seminary has got 18 candidates from different parts of the country, of which only one is from the Mangalore Diocese.
Sources said the declining trend began 15-20 years ago. In the 1990s, about 20-25 would join this seminary every year, which fell to 10-15 and in the last few years it has shrunk to just three or four.
Earlier, the seminary used to get candidates only from four dioceses (two of them in North Kerala), but later as the numbers declined, its doors were thrown open for candidates from all dioceses in the country.
The Udupi and Mangalore Dioceses have already started feeling the heat of priest shortage. In the Udupi Diocese, a whopping 86 priests are made to continue in their jobs despite attaining the retirement age of 75 as there are no replacements.
The shortage has compelled Udupi Diocese to get priests on deputation from neighbouring Mangalore Diocese, which itself is not far from such a situation, said Fr Ronald Serrao, Rector of the seminary. Last year, only one was ordained as a priest in Udupi and the number was zero the year before. “In the last 11 years since its inception, 13 were ordained as priests in Udupi Diocese,” said Fr Serrao.
Apart from managing several churches, educational institutions and hospitals in the region, the Mangalore Diocese also requires priests for its extension works in Tanzania and Kalaburagi where it runs some missions.
Several factors contribute to the lack of interest in the priesthood. Fr Serrao said that unlike earlier, these days children are not fascinated by priesthood which is considered a sacred and perpetual vocation. The ‘bright future’ is only associated with foreign jobs and professions like medicine and engineering with more focus on earning money, luxury and a fun-filled life. Motivation and encouragement from the family and community are also lacking.