Edinburgh, Scotland, Jul 11, 2017 / 12:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Twelve men are set to be ordained priests in Scotland this year, a 20-year high that Catholic leaders credited to prayers and other work to encourage vocations.

“It is great news to see the biggest number of ordinations to the priesthood for over two decades,” said Bishop John Keenan of Paisley. “I want to thank our people who have been praying faithfully in their daily rosary groups for vocations all these years and who now have the joy of seeing God answer their prayers.”

Since the year 1997, when 12 men were ordained priests, Scotland has averaged five ordinations a year. In 2008, there were no ordinations. Bishop Keenan heads Priests for Scotland, the national vocations office for the Catholic Church. He told the Scottish Catholic Observer that there seems to be a rise in the numbers of men approaching vocations directors to apply for seminary.

The bishop credited prayer, as well as vocations directors for new ideas, creating new structures, and using social media and monthly informal gatherings that helped identify and support those who feel a call to the priesthood. He also noted “growing numbers of women with new interest in the religious life to provide for the many needs of the marginalized or excluded in our society.”

The bishop said the country needs spiritual leaders, rather than political leaders, “in order to guide us out of a cultural decline that is now beyond the power of politics to solve.” “There is a huge amount to be done to restore to Scotland the Christian strength whose absence lies at the heart of so many of our recent and most perplexing anxieties and there is a sense that God is raising up just such leaders for this task of our times.”

Four men have been ordained in the last two weeks. One of the new ordinands, Father Jonathan Whitworth, reflected on how to best encourage vocations to the priesthood.

“I have to say that young men are calling out for something that is radical because they have been sold something of a false reality by the world at the moment,” he told the Scottish Catholic Observer. “By radical I mean you give your all to it; you take your chance with God. If you want more priests, show our youngsters good, holy priests and they will want to be a part of it.”

Five priests are set to be ordained for the Diocese of Motherwell, one for the Archdiocese of Glasgow, one for the Diocese of Paisley, two for the Diocese of Aberdeen, two for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and one for the Salesian religious institute.