Category Archives: News

Vocations in Japan

Last week, the Holy See’s Press Office announced the appointment of two new bishops in Japan:

–Appointed Fr. Paul Sueo Hamaguchi, pastor of the cathedral church of Takamatsu, Japan, as bishop of Oita (area 14,071, population 2,376,414, Catholics 6,288, priests 50, religious 228), Japan. The bishop-elect was born in Higashi Shutsu, Japan in 1948 and ordained a priest in 1975.

–Appointed John Eijro Suwa of the clergy of Osaka, Japan, moderator and pastor of the pastoral zone of Kochi Takamatsu, as bishop of Takamatsu (area 18,903, population 4,031,481, Catholics 5,100, priests 46, religious 84), Japan. The bishop-elect was born in Kobe, Japan in 1947 and ordained a priest in 1976. He succeeds Bishop Francis Xavier Osamu Mizobe, S.D.B., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

My first thought on reading about these appointments was to pray for the new bishops as they begin their episcopal ministry amidst the immediate aftermath of the horrific happenings in their native country.

My second thought was wonderment at the universality of the Church.

But then I took a closer look at the numbers. Here in the United States we have approximately 68 million Catholics, well over 20% of our country’s population. However, we have only about 46,000 priests and 60,000 or so religious. Both of those figures are less than 0.1% of the total number of Catholics.

As you can readily see in the above information published by the Vatican, the two Japanese dioceses that received new bishops have miniscule Catholic communities in comparison to the total population of the diocese. However, nearly one percent of the Catholics in those dioceses are priests, and more than one percent are consecrated religious.

Is that significant? Well, several parishes here in Kansas City have 5,000 or more Catholics. If we had priests in the same proportion as Japan, we’d have 50 priests per parish, with over 130 consecrated religious. Not too shabby! 

As we continue to pray for the people of Japan and contribute to relief efforts, let us also continue to pray that the Church in Japan, originally evangelized by the great Jesuit missionary, St. Francis Xavier, will see a new springtime of faith and holiness.

Vocation News Roundup

I’ve come across many news stories this past week that relate to the subject of vocations. Here is a sampling:

Nuns say relatives often discourage them from taking religious vows (Religion News Service) We treated this topic in previous posts, especially this one, but author provides interesting commentary.

Sixteenth annual Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta to focus on vocations, including vocations to married life (Georgia Bulletin)  I was happy to see that this annual mega-conference is still going strong, and that this year’s event will focus on vocations.

Serrans pilot “Catholic Connection” program in Sioux City (The Catholic Globe) The idea behind this program is to help Catholic students remain connected with the Church as they go off to college. Studies show that young Catholics who practice their faith in college are more likely to attend Mass more often after graduation, become leaders in their parishes, and consider a religious vocation.

Benedict XVI: Priesthood Is a Vocation, Not a Job (Zenit, Catholic Online)  Pope Benedict’s reflections on the happy occasion of the 60th anniversary of his ordination.

Transition of leadership in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (Catholic News Service/St. Louis Review) Archbishop Gomez identifies the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life as one of his “five basic priorities” as he takes the reins in Los Angeles. 

From Frat Boy to Priest: A Vocation Story (www.tampabay.com) The story of Fr. David Toups, a dynamic, young priest in Florida. I was drawn to his “survival guide” for parish priests and his refreshing emphasis on the spiritual life.

Courageous religious sisters continue mission in Japan (Catholic News Agency)  Uplifting piece on the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

Catholic News Agency launches new online resource to affirm men in lay vocations  “Catholic Men” column launched this week to strengthen men in their commitments to marriage, fatherhood, and the single life.

Sisters kick off year 125 in Oregon (Catholic Sentinel) I don’t know anything about this community, but I wish them another 125 years of faithful service in the Pacific Northwest. And the young nun in the accompanying photo looks very cheerful and fulfilled.

Bishop Aquila’s keynote address at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Diocese of Fargo)  Text of excellent, at times hard-hitting talk given on March 18th at the 10th Annual Symposium on the Spirituality and Identity of the Diocesan Priest in Philadelphia, PA. The symposium was co-sponsored by The Institute for Priestly Formation.

Bishop Aquila discussed four ways to develop receptive hearts in seminarians to prepare them to exercise the authority of Christ: practicing lectio divina, focusing on “the school of Nazareth,” regularly celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and having “a deep love for the daily celebration of the Eucharist.” He told the seminarians in attendance, “In the Eucharist we learn to lay down our lives with Jesus and offer them to the Father.”

And of course, Archbishop Dolan on 60 Minutes (CBS) I thought readers might want to view this, as the show aired during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. (Go Jayhawks!) The program portrayed Archbishop Dolan as a force to be reckoned with in the Catholic Church, as he deftly responded to all the tough questions about the sex-abuse crisis and the influence of the Church in secular society.

From Adoration to Evangelization

“In order to evangelize the world, we need experts in celebration, adoration, and contemplation of the Holy Eucharist” (Pope John Paul II).

“From Adoration to Evangelization” is the theme of a major International Conference on Eucharistic Adoration to take place June 20-24, 2011 in Rome.

Organized by the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist, a new community founded by Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon, France in 2007, Adoratio 2011 brings together a wide range of international speakers, including six prominent Cardinals, among them Cardinals Francis Arinze and Raymond Burke.

“We must regain the ability to adore Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist if we are to bring the men and women of the twenty-first century to faith in Jesus Christ. This is one of the key themes of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI,” Bishop Rey emphasized, “which is why we are taking this initiative.”

This event has particular significance for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, noted in a letter earlier this month to Bishop Rey that Eucharistic adoration is “an effective means toward promoting the sanctification of the clergy, reparation for sin, and vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.”

“With courage, we must ask the Lord to send forth new laborers into the harvest,” Cardinal Piacenza affirmed. He urged that “in every diocese there should be at least one church, chapel, or shrine set aside for perpetual adoration of the Eucharist, specifically for the intention of the promotion of new vocations and the sanctification of the clergy.”

Cardinal Piacenza expressed his hope to conference organizers that bishops, priests, and religious would consider attending the Eucharistic adoration conference.  “A renewed sense of devotion to Christ in the Eucharist,” he said, “can only enrich every aspect of the Church’s life and mission in the world.”

Go Make Disciples

The Institute on Religious Life cordially invites you to attend its annual regional conference this coming Saturday at the Franciscan Prayer Center in Independence, Missouri. This year’s theme is “Go Make Disciples: The Consecrated Life and the New Evangelization.”

Pope John Paul II devoted the last twenty years of his pontificate calling for a “new evangelization,” a call now taken up by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, who has even made the “new evangelization” the subject of the next worldwide Synod of Bishops. 

Yet do we really understand what this “new evangelization” is all about?

The glossary to the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “evangelization” as “the proclamation of Christ and His Gospel by word and the testimony of life, in fulfillment of Christ’s demand.” In short, it involves putting people in touch with the person of Jesus Christ.

The new evangelization must not degenerate into mere activism, be it social or political. Rather, it must be rooted in our desire to allow Christ to transform us. Therefore, it requires learning once again to direct our gaze upon the face of Christ, the one Savior of the world.

This year’s regional meeting will offer reflections on Christ’s command to “Go Make Disciples,” with special emphasis on how it relates to the consecrated life. Everyone is welcome to attend this day of spiritual
renewal, reflection, and affirmation of the consecrated life. I will be there and look forward to seeing many of you!

Another Point of View

This evening at 6:30 p.m. eastern time, EWTN will premiere its much-anticipated new program called “The Catholic View for Women.”

The hosts for the new program will be Teresa Tomeo, Janet Morana, and Astrid Bennett Gutierrez.

Catholic News Agency reports that the show will address issues relevant to women from a Catholic perspective. The initial shows will focus on key issues such as vocations, spirituality, feminism, and the Church’s teaching on contraception, among others.

For EWTN’s programming schedule for this week, click here.

Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men opened last week in several theaters across the United States. It’s a true story about a group of Trappist monks, stationed in an impoverished Algerian community under threat from fundamentalist terrorists, who must decide whether to stay or leave.

Catholic movie critic Stephen Greydanus  calls the French film “last year’s most profoundly and transcendently religious film—conspicuously not nominated [for an Academy award].” However, it has received other awards, including the grand prize at the Cannes film festival.

Of Gods and Men had a “monastic adviser” on the set to help the film makers realistically depict the hidden lives of the French monks who are at the main protagonists of the story. 

The film may be a little graphic and intense for children, but otherwise this beautiful, meditative film is highly recommended. Here are a couple reviews:

And here’s the official trailer: Of Gods and Men – official trailer HD

Newest Consecrated Virgin

Elizabeth Lam, photo courtesy of Jose Luis Aguirre/The Catholic Voice

Last week, my friend Elizabeth Lam became a consecrated virgin in and for the Diocese of Oakland. Bishop Salvatore Cordileone was the presider for the rite of consecration, which was performed in the context of a Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Elizabeth is not bound to a religious community, but rather lives in the world. Through her consecration, she has made a total gift of herself to the local Church under the leadership of her bishop. 

There are only about 200 consecrated virgins in the United States, but there is a revival of this ancient rite taking place. As Bishop Cordileone noted at the outset of  his homily, some of the most revered saints of Christian antiquity were consecrated virgins, like Sts. Cecilia, Lucy, Agnes, and Agatha.

For more information, check out the following links:

Priestly Vocations on the Rise

Last week the L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, released some statistical data on the Catholic priesthood as of the end of 2009. The complete report is expected any day.

The principal finding is that there were 410,593 priests worldwide in 2009, up over 5,000 from the previous decade, an overall increase of 1.4%.

The news isn’t bright on all fronts, however. For one thing, while the overall number is up, there are now 5,000 fewer religious order priests than a decade ago, representing a decrease of 3.5%. Fortunately, the number of diocesan priests grew by 10,000, representing an increase of 4%.

Also, here in the United States, there was a 7% decrease in diocesan priests and a 21% decrease in religious order priests over the past ten years The numbers were similar for Europe. As has been the case for some time, the growth has primarily taken place in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.

For more information, click here.

Cardinal Rode Concerned About Secularization of Religious Communities

Cardinal Franc Rode

Religious orders face continued pressures to “secularize,” and this threatens their identities and their mission in the world. This is according to Cardinal Franc Rode, who is stepping down as head of the Vatican office on religious life (officially known as the “Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life“).

Cardinal Rode made these remarks in an interview last week with Vatican Radio as reported by the Catholic News Agency/EWTN News. This is a recurring theme, as he has cited the influence of secularism as well as feminism as reasons for the recent apostolic visitation of U.S. religious sisters.

While affirming the “spiritual liveliness and missionary dynamism” of religious communities throughout the Church’s history, he candidly admitted the challenges they face in today’s world. “Religious life is in difficulty today and this must be recognized,” he noted.

He is especially concerned that works of charity have frequently degenerated into mere social work, which he said causes harm to the proclamation of the Gospel. When that happens, communities pursue “a society of well-being” here and now, rather than questions of eternity.

While there are signs of secularization everywhere, Cardinal Rode said that they are most prominent in the West.

At the same time, Cardinal Rode expressed his confidence in the new religious communities springing up in places such as France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Peru, and the U.S. which are “surging against the spirit of secularism.”

“These communities give great importance to prayer and to the fraternal life lived in community; they insist on poverty and obedience: all take the religious habit, a visible sign of their consecration,” he explained.

“[They] call man to his transcendent destiny and constitute a force of renewal, of which the Church has a great need.”

USA Today on Religious Vocations

In this article, the USA Today comments on the CARA report earlier this month on women religious who took their final vows in 2010. The article focuses on the disappointing statistic that more than half of the sisters were discouraged by a family member in pursuing their vocation.

In most families that I’ve encountered, the problem is that religious vocations are not adequately valued. Contraception, the natural but at times inordinate desire for grandchildren, lukewarm faith, poor formation, and secular values are but a few of the factors that come into play, along with the normal emotions that go with having a loved one more away, potentially forever.

Maybe in the cases in which the family isn’t on board with the decision, the young woman’s vocation may be a catalyst for the conversion of the family . . .