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The Collar

There are now a record sixty-four million Catholics in the United States, yet the number of priests is plummeting so fast that hundreds of parishes nationwide are closing down, placing ever more strain on those few who wear, or wish to wear the Roman collar. Against this turbulent backdrop, Englert charts the journey of five men toward the priesthood at a seminary that specializes in “second-career” priestsmen who come to their vocation later than their college years. We meet a divorced father and avid hunter from Wyoming, an ex-salesman and Marine with ADHD, a recently widowed father of four, a blind musician, and others. With wit and sometimes heartbreaking candor, they face the challenges of priestly lifefrom the traditional hurdles of poverty and chastity to more modern travails, like the bad press let loose by recent sexual abuse scandals and the skepticism of their friends and families. For each man, these challenges are intensified by their past experiences as they sacrifice familiar comforts to answer their calling. Englert is ideally qualified to write The Collar, both professionally, as a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, and spiritually, as a convert to Catholicism who has walked the tortuous path of faith. His empathy with the spiritual journeys of the men he portrays recalls The Cloister Walk. His deft, evenhanded unveiling of a compelling, little-observed culture will resonate with both the faithful and the merely curious.

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