It may be quite some time before there is another ordination of 10 new priests, a number which bucks the decline of recent years, the rector of the Archbishop’s Seminary said on Monday.

Fr Albert Buhagiar made the comment ahead of the “extraordinary” number of deacons who on Monday evening, on the feast of St Peter and St Paul, were ordained priests by Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

The ceremony was held at the Christ the King parish church in Paola.

“Usually the number of ordinations ranges between two and three per year, and with the exception of this year it seems this trend will be maintained for the foreseeable future,” he said when asked by Times of Malta about the significance of this high number.

“The reason for this spike is that there was an unusually high number from religious orders, one from the Focolare Movement and the rest received their formation at the seminary,” Fr Buhagiar said.

Becoming a priest normally takes eight years but there might be special circumstances in which this period is shortened such as cases involving people of a certain age. Studies which must be undertaken during the formation period include theology and philosophy.

Usually the number ranges between two and three per year

Despite the decline of recent years, the rector of the seminary said the number of religious vocations in Malta was relatively high when compared to abroad.

“While we might struggle to have religious vocations from certain parishes, we still have them at diocese level, which is not the case in other countries where the shortage is more acute,” he observed.

Fr Buhagiar said the key for the future was for society to have strong families who cherish core values and transmit them to their children.

One of the major causes for the decline in the number of religious vocations was that families nowadays were not as large as before, he said.

At the same time, young people inclined towards the vocation may not be finding they have enough support from their family or are even discouraged, Fr Buhagiar added. 

The rector noted that the Church had undertaken an outreach programme through a vocations centre as part of its commitment to encourage those feeling “God’s call to the priesthood” to come forward.

The names of the priests ordained on Monday include that of 67-year-old Tony Pace from Safi who decided to become a priest following the death of his wife.

The others are Osmar Baldacchino from the Siġġiewi parish, David Borg from the Żabbar parish, Christopher Bugeja from the Rabat parish, Andrew Camilleri from the parish of Żurrieq (Focolare Movement) and Jonathan Debattista from the parish of Tarxien.

The rest of the deacons ordained priests hailed from religious orders: Michael Debono (Jesuits) and Damian John Formosa, Jake Mamo and Paul Spiteri (Salesians).

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