Belfast Telegraph

Presbyterian Church fears running out of ministers

By Rebecca Black

The Presbyterian Church has revealed it is concerned it may not have enough ministers to serve all of its congregations across Ireland in the future.

There are just four applicants to become new ministers starting their studies at Union Theological College, Belfast, this month.

The situation has worried the church so much that it is set to hold its first ever information day for potential applicants.

Rev Jim Stothers, Secretary to the General Council, said there is no shortage of ministers at present, but there is potential for a shortfall in the future.

"This academic year, four applicants for the ordained ministry will begin their studies at Union Theological College starting this month, bringing the total to 17 students in training at Union," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"This is in addition to 46 individuals who have completed their academic studies and are in training as licentiates, or assistant ministers, who are on the pathway to becoming full-time ministers. While the Church doesn't have a shortage of ministers at the moment, as there is an excess of licentiates compared to vacancies in congregations, we are aware that there will be a potential shortfall in the future.

"Bearing this in mind, we are asking ministers, elders and other leaders to identify men and women with potential ministry gifts and to encourage them to explore whether God is calling them to the ordained ministry.

"We will also be holding our first Information Day for potential ministry inquirers on December 2, to help them to consider whether God is calling them to this important vocation," Rev Stothers added.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church moved to quash speculation that it has a record low number of applicants this year.

Just six men have begun training for the Catholic priesthood at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, this month compared with 12 admissions - including two women - to the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in Dublin.

The Catholic Church pointed out that in line with the new policy from the Congregation for Clergy in Rome, a new pre-seminary (propaedeutic) year for new candidates who wish to discern their priestly vocation has been introduced.

"The 19 new seminarians that are currently in formation are in Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth (6), the Pontifical Irish College, Rome (2), Saint Malachy's, Belfast (1), the Pontifical Beda College, Rome (2) and eight have begun the propaedeutic year in locations in Ireland and abroad," a spokesperson for the Catholic Church said.

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