ROME — Among the crowds awaiting the new pope are Catholic clergy who say John Paul II was their primary inspiration.
“The first time I met this pope, I was 13 years old,” said the Rev. Donald Tremblay, a Montreal priest in town for the funeral and conclave.
“I had goose bumps,” he said. “There was an energy. He radiated. I told myself, ‘This man is worth following.’ ”
The cardinals failed to select a new pope yesterday during their first round of voting — evident by the black smoke that rose from a chimney above the Sistine Chapel, where they are participating in a conclave to select the new leader.
They will vote again today.
Whoever is selected pontiff, one of his most important jobs will be to boost the comparatively small number of men studying for the priesthood — 113,000 worldwide at last count — to minister to the 1.2 billion Catholics around the globe.
Only 4,800 of those seminarians are from the United States, the world’s third largest Catholic country at 67 million adherents after Brazil and Mexico. The number of seminarians in the U.S. is far less than in powerhouse countries such as Poland, which has 7,000 in training, many of whom were influenced by the example set by the world’s first Polish pope.
“The personal example of John Paul II was enough to inspire two generations of priests,” said Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon, speaking to reporters last week at the Vatican. “John Paul II’s progeny are coming along.”
In terms of American men considering the priesthood, things are looking up, said Monsignor Kevin McCoy, rector of the North American College, the Rome-based seminary that is educating 150 Americans this spring and anticipates 170 to 175 seminarians in the fall.
Just before the April 8 papal funeral, many of his seminarians gave up their comfortable apartments barely five minutes from St. Peter’s Square to sleep outside so they could meet with pilgrims from around the world, he said.
Dave Brown, 34, a candidate for the priesthood from St. John’s Catholic Church in McLean, was one of those who spent the night on the square.
John Paul II, he said, “is the only pope I can remember.”
Mr. Brown was first nudged toward the priesthood during a World Youth Day rally in 1993 in Denver, where he saw the pope for the first time.
“That event had a huge impact not only on myself but on all the youth there,” he said.
The training process for the difficulties that a priest faces is improving, Monsignor McCoy said. Every Thursday, men get “psychological training” to find out “who they are as a male, their need for intimacy, their sexual urges — this is not a pill they take. This is an education for the charism of celibacy.”