The Diocese of Shrewsbury, which covers Ellesmere Port and Neston, is to open a house for men considering a vocation to the priesthood.

The house, at Shrewsbury Cathedral, will open in September 2015 and will offer men a place where they will be able to carefully discern, over a period of a year, if they are being called to become priests.

The move was announced by the bishop, the Rt Rev Mark Davies, during an annual mass at which priests in the diocese, which includes all of the Wirral and most of Cheshire, renew the promises of their ministerial priesthood.

“In the course of my journey round the diocese I have become aware of many priests now passed from living memory whose faithful lives shaped our present and, indeed, our future. “Some of these priests came from our own parishes and families and many others came from overseas,” said the bishop.

Although the church had seen more young men offering their lives in the priesthood than at any moment in its long story, this was not the case in this country.

He believed, however: “This crisis of vocation is neither inexplicable nor irreversible.

“I want to suggest three ways in which this crisis can be resolved by prayer, by encouragement and by a renewed love for the priestly vocation.”

At the mass, the bishop also made available prayer cards for vocations, including a prayer he has composed himself , which are being sent out to all parishes in the diocese.

“If we truly open our hearts in prayer within our families and parishes, I have no doubt this gift of new vocations will be given us,” he said.

In his homily, the bishop noted a ‘crisis of vocation’ in the priesthood and in religious life but added the Second Vatican Council ‘reminded us we each have a role in encouraging, offering courage to the young in responding to their calling’.

The house would create a community at the heart of the diocese where the vocation to priesthood could be actively discerned and supported within a year-long programme.

At present, the diocese has eight seminarians and 111 priests including 28 retired for 98 parishes and 121 churches.