It’s happening in Cincinnati:
The Rev. Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh looks out his office window at the courtyard below, marveling at how much his view has changed in just a few weeks.
Once home to green grass and well-manicured shrubs, the courtyard is now a muddy mess. Heavy equipment rumbles throughout the day and temporary fences surround ditches and overturned earth.
O’Cinnsealaigh thinks it’s beautiful. As president of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary at The Athenaeum of Ohio, he knows what this big construction project means for the Catholic Church in Cincinnati.
“We have a future here,” he says.
The $11.5 million building going up behind O’Cinnsealaigh’s office is the first expansion of The Athenaeum’s Mount Washington campus in almost 60 years. The new apartments and conference rooms are necessary because the seminary has a problem no one saw coming: It needs more room.
To say the seminary has struggled for years to attract men to the priesthood would be an understatement. Enrollment plummeted from about 200 in the 1960s to less than 40 in 2011.
Then something changed. Enrollment started to surge in 2012 and has more than doubled in the past five years.
Today, 82 seminarians study here. Their numbers are up nationally, too, though the increase is not as dramatic.
More surprising than the sudden growth is the source of it. Millennials, or those roughly between the ages of 18 and 34, make up the vast majority of new recruits.