The Deacon's Bench

That seminary would be Sacred Heart in Wisconsin.


Sacred Heart School of Theology, the nation’s largest Catholic seminary geared toward older men, posted its biggest enrollment gain in 20 years this month, seminary officials said.

Forty-two new students are signed up for the fall, pushing enrollment to around 210. The incoming class is nearly double last year’s and two shy of the record 42 new students in 1990.

Seminary officials cite a number of factors, including a greater emphasis on marketing and advertising in publications around the country, and soul-searching prompted by the downturn in the economy.

“What happens, as the uncertainty spreads, is it causes people to think more seriously about their jobs, the direction their lives have taken, their values,” said Father Thomas Knoebel, vice rector and director of recruitment for the seminary.

“A lot of guys are testifying that it’s gotten them to think about their values. And they’ve decided that all this stuff they’ve been chasing all of their lives is not as important as they thought it was,” he said.

Sacred Heart trains seminarians from around the world, all of whom are sponsored by, and will go on to work in, Catholic dioceses and religious orders across North America.

Of 43 Catholic seminaries in the United States, it is the largest of three that focus on preparing men over 30 for the priesthood.

The school is among a number of Catholic seminaries that have reported enrollment spikes in recent years, though the overall trend over the past two decades has been flat, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

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