Bill Capo / Action Reporter - Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- The students at Notre Dame Seminary are studying for final exams, the next step in the five to seven year educational journey to the priesthood. Twenty-nine students this year, four to be ordained.

'It's kinda scary,' said Colten Symmes, who is just completing his third year. 'I mean, to be honest with you, it's kind of scary to know that three years from now I'm going to be ordained. But there is also an excitement that builds.'

'I really know that this is what the Lord has called me to do, as I prepare to be ordained a Deacon this June, and into the priesthood next May,' said Matthew Graham, who is just completing his fifth year in the Seminary.

Archdiocese data shows how interest in becoming a priest declined, from 31 seminarians in 2001, seven being ordained that year, to just one ordination and a class of 18 in 2007.

But now they're back to 36 students, with five being ordained last year.

'This is like boot camp,' said Father Jim Wehner, Rector of Notre Dame Seminary. 'These men have to go through a process that allows them to be the men that God created them to be, and the priests that the people deserve to have.'

But the Seminary serves far more than just the city of New Orleans, as there are 100 students from 14 different dioceses.

The 1950s-era building needs a lot of work, so they're starting a $25 million capital campaign, to do things like removing the 1980s-era wall that hides a beautiful chapel.

There are issues with mold, and plumbing leaks. They need a central air conditioning system to replace the window units, more classrooms, faculty offices, a new chapel, and more student housing.

'A part of this renovation project is to provide 40more student rooms,' said Father Wehner. 'Without priests, there are no sacraments. Without sacraments, there is no church.'

The 'I Will Give You Shepherds' fundraising campaign also seeks donations for improvements needed at St. Joseph Seminary on the North Shore.

For more information on how you can help call (504) 596-3063, or email

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