'Manga-style' poster to recruit priests

The Roman Catholic Church in England has unveiled its latest weapon in the fight to get more teenagers into the priesthood – comic-book cartoons.

A poster denoting Japanese Manga-styled cartoon characters forms the centrepiece of the Church’s new campaign, though the five characters are not cult warriors, but servants of God.

Moreover the characters on the poster, which has been sent to 5,000 churches, schools and chaplaincies, are not fictitious but are actually real nuns, a priest, a monk and a lay brother.

Each has their own story to tell about how they came to the vocation which can be read on the Church’s website supporting the campaign – www.calledtoday.com.

Comic strips showing the characters playing pool and surfing the internet complement the poster campaign, which is aimed at teenagers and twenty-somethings.

The illustrated move to raise awareness of a career in the Church comes on the back of declining numbers of youngsters attending religious colleges, most notably among the under-30s.

However, the Church wants to build on the number of men coming forward to the priesthood, which it claims has increased every year since 2003.

“After several decades of decline in the number of those training for the priesthood, we have seen four consecutive years of growth, which is good news; however we have no guarantee that this growth will continue,” said Father Paul Embery, the Church’s director of vocations.

“Cartoons, particularly Manga-styled ones, are a good way of reaching young people, even up to the age of 25,” he added.

“We want more young people to consider the call to priesthood and religious life, whilst at the same time acknowledging that many more people are making commitments later in life. We have a ‘both-and’ rather than ‘either-or’ policy, as we recognise that older candidates bring different life experiences with them.”

Significantly major cities, such as London, have seen the largest increase in applicants - cities which have also experienced a parallel growth in the number of those joining the Church.

Numbers attending the Church have been boosted by people coming from new EU accession states like Poland, but this hasn’t translated into more entrants into the priesthood.

The Church says the recruitment drive stems from the fact that many of today’s priests first considered their vocations when they were youngsters.

Fr Embery reflected: “After Pope John Paul II died we saw an increase of interest not only in the priesthood but Catholic life in general. The challenge for the Church is to recognise this and build on it.”




 

1st May 2007

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