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Twitter, Facebook, websites may help awaken a calling for the priesthood

Priests take a vow of celibacy, sacrificing themselves for God and the church. The number of men choosing that holy path is steadily growing. There has been a 30 percent increase in vocations at Notre Dame Seminary in the last three years.

"I was working at ACME Oyster House and one of the girls said, 'what a waste,'" said Jared Rodrigue. 

At age 24, he is committed  to becoming a priest.

"I think it's an understanding of the greater calling. Yes, there's a no to sex and a no to all things not celibate, but there's a bigger yes to the people and making myself more available," he said.

Jared is one of more than 100 students at Notre Dame Seminary. Father Jim Wehner has watched the flock grow.

"My first year here we had 70 seminarians, last year 85, and this year 115. There's been an increase throughout the country and certainly here in the Deep South," Wehner said.

He believes the younger generation today has a deep longing for the spiritual. Jared knew he wanted to be a priest since he was a boy. His mentor was Father John Phuc, a former pastor at Jared's home church, St .Charles Barromeo in Destrehan. Phuc passed away in a boating accident in 2001.

"I remember at his funeral all the children were lined up on the side of the church leading to the cemetery, and I thought, whose going to be the father of all these children now?" Rodrigue said.

Janeen Rodrigue is Jared's mom.

"All three of our boys grew up in church with us. Both of us work at St. Charles Barromeo," She said.

It was no surprise when Jared decided to be a priest.

"It's almost like he fit this mold so well," said his father, Ronald Rodrigue.

Wehner said the people of God deserve holy, competent priests like Jared, and the church would like to have more like him. But in this 21st century of lightning-speed communications and social media, finding men like Jared takes adaptation.

Kurt Young is Vocations Director at the Archdiocese.

"We're on Facebook, Twitter, we're on Instagram," he said.

"We're using that to the best of our ability with www.nolapriest.com. It's a new website the Archdiocese has put together to get into the hands of young people.

Since the website has been up, Young says he's had at least two inquiries per week. Men of all ages have called, curious about life as priests.

"It's been wonderful," Young said. "I didn't expect it to be so soon. I thought it It would take some time for the website to be out there."

Wehner says there is an intense screening process, first at the Diocesan level, and then there is another level of scrutiny at the seminary. Psychological evaluations and interviews are part of the process.

The road to the priesthood is not easy, but Jared says it's clear why young men find solace in the church in these days and times.

"Wherever the greatest existence of evil is there, is the greatest existence of good," Jared said.

According to researchers, there are 3,694 graduate-level seminarians nationwide. That's up 16 percent since 1995, and 10 percent in the last decade.

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