Sydney
23 February 2003

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Seminaries overflow, so need for cash is urgent

By Chris Lindsay

Catholic Mission began its annual appeal this week to raise funds for the training of priests and religious in Third World countries - and the need is urgent.

"Every one of our mission seminaries and novitiates is full," says Fr Terry Bell, national director of Catholic Mission.

"There are 83,000 seminarians and 7500 novitiates around the world depending on Catholic Mission for funding.

"Last year the number of seminarians in their final four years of training rose by 700 to 31,000 and 1963 young men were ordained.

"Subsidies were assigned to 3517 male and 6418 female novices."

The Australian branch of Catholic Mission is responsible for the funding in Rwanda, Uganda, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea and in 2002 provided $427,344 in support.

In total, Catholic Mission funds 835 seminaries in 160 Third World countries.

"Last year in Bangladesh, it was wonderful to experience the joy and faith of the young deacons who were to be ordained priests," Fr Bell said.

"Some may say they're just trying to escape poverty.

But, to overcome many of the deficiencies in education, it can take 14 years of training to be a priest and nine years for a young woman to take her final vows.

"Those lacking a true vocation just do not survive."

Fr Bell said Catholic Mission is the only aid agency that bishops can call on to help fund the education and formation of their candidates.

But despite the generosity of Catholics worldwide, a shortage of funds has resulted in projects being delayed, causing good vocations to be turned away.

Fr Bell plans to overcome this in several ways.

"First, from 2004 we will be able to respond to the many requests from Australian Catholics and offer the opportunity of sponsoring a seminarian with whom donors will be able to swap letters and information," he said.

"Second, we are successfully cutting down more and more on our costs to ensure as much of your money as possible meets the needs of the young men and women in formation.

"For example, in a recent mail out to our donors and supporters, my letter - which is normally printed on a separate letterhead - has been moved to the front page of the newsletter. The cost saving is substantial."

Donations can be made by calling Catholic Mission on free-call 1800 257 296 or mailing to PO Box A153 Sydney South, NSW, 1235.