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A new book was issued in December which sheds light on the priestly vocation crisis and what is drawing young men to the priesthood today. Entitled: Renewal: How a New Generation of Faithful Priests and Bishops Is Revitalizing the Catholic Church (Encounter Books, 2013) it studies the reasons behind the past decline and the current rise in vocations.
The authors Anne Hendershott and Christopher White say that the more parishes and dioceses and religious organizations compromise “with society and the world, blurring its identity and modifying its teachings and ethics, the more it will decline.”
Ms. Hendershott said that “good and holy priests provide wonderful role models for young men who might someday consider joining the priesthood. Conversely, in some parishes—run by progressive pastoral administrators—young men are less likely to answer the call to a priesthood that has been so diminished that the priest is a visiting ‘sacramental minister’ who arrives in time to consecrate the Eucharist and play a subservient role to the female ‘pastoral administrator.’”
Equally disturbing is the role or lack thereof that Catholic Colleges play in the nurturing of vocations. Says Ms. Hendershott: “There was a time when Catholic higher education saw it as their role to nurture priestly vocations. Now, most Catholic colleges and universities seem to do what they can to inhibit them.” However orthodox schools like Franciscan University, Ave Maria, and Christendom College have bountiful vocations. At Franciscan University, the Blessed Junipero Serra Fund provides spiritual and financial support to the 50 or 60 or so young men who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
Mr White says that “successful dioceses are led by bishops who are unafraid to be countercultural through their defense of the dignity of all human life, their support of traditional marriage, their efforts to protect and promote religious liberty, their willingness to live faithful and celibate lives.” Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston was advised to close the seminary when he arrived 10 years ago. “Now,” says Ms. Hendershott, “there are 70 men in Boston studying to be priests, and the seminary has had to turn away candidates for lack of space.”
Both authors are optimistic about the future. Young men and women are being trained to pass on the Faith in its fullness by orthodox colleges, FOCUS, etc. “A Church that continues down this road,” says Mr. West, “will find both its pews and altars full and will be attractive to the world around it!”
For more information, read the entire article in the Catholic World Report or order the book!
The IRL has recently launched an innovative new vocation resource called Project: Speak Lord. The program consists of FREE monthly audio downloads of informative, inspiring and lively talks concerning vocational discernment and the consecrated life.
Collaborating with Lighthouse Catholic Media, the IRL’s goal is to provide young adults with solid offerings on the subject of vocations that will challenge their hearts and minds. Speakers include: Mother Teresa, Archbishop Sheen, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. Thomas Nelson, O.Praem., and Dr. Scott Hahn.
The audio downloads are sent once a month. Users must register to receive the first talk, then will receive monthly email notices of the next talk. Additional information will be sent to those enrolled in the program.
Mike Wick, our Executive Director said, “Most Catholics do not receive this type of information in religious education classes, and might not even get it in most Catholic high schools, colleges or parish youth groups. Although there are many audio and video Catholic resources online, none of them specifically focuses on priestly and religious vocations.”
To sign up or receive more information, click here.
The main headline on AOL today was the news that a Catholic priest announced to his parish that he was leaving the priesthood because he had just become the father of a child. The article included comments from some parishioners who expressed the hope that the Church would once again evaluate the stance against a married priesthood. There is no mention of the fact that this priest was ordained with full knowledge that celibacy was a promise he made and was expected to keep. It is sad that people do not keep their commitments/promises and hurt others around them. (See US divorce rate)
This is why it is all the more encouraging that Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) announced that the number of men enrolled in diocesan seminaries is up 16% since 1995 and 10% since 2005. There are currently 3694 graduate-level seminarians. The factors cited in this increase include the appeal of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, the feeling that the worst of the sex abuse crisis is behind us, and encouragement from parishes and bishops.
Rev. Mark Latcovich, president and rector of St. Mary Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio, said that they have the largest class in decades (72). He says that current seminarians and priests are “our best recruiters. If they are happy and witnessing their faith and opening their hearts, that enthusiasm and joy is contagious.” (See the complete story in the Washington Post.)
In my own parish, we have had three vocations to the priesthood in the past 10 or so years. The seminary next door, Saint Mary of the Lake, has seen a large increase in enrollment.
For those discerning a vocation, Father Basil Cole, OP, lists the 9 signs that you have a vocation (summarized briefly) : God-centered, joy in serving others, holy hatred for sin, holy dissatisfaction with oneself, humility, fidelity to prayer, loving truth, undivided heart, love of the Church.
May the Church around the world be blessed with holy and persevering vocations!
Sr. Jeanette Marie, the Vocation Directress for the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, was heartened as she said to hear the Holy Father, Pope Francis, describe one of the things that prevents young people from entering religious life. The issue is Commitment!
As everyone knows, the popularity of marriage is in a steep decline. People live together and then move on. It used to be said that “I am living with him/her to see if marriage is in the cards” which it usually wasn’t. Now it is: “I am living with him/her until the next him/her comes along.”
This problem casts its long shadow on religious life and vocational discernment. A religious vocation is to eternity. Sr Jeanette wrote that we live in a culture that fails to see the good of making a lifetime commitment; a culture that says, “I will choose this vocation provided that everything goes OK.”
In his talk, Pope Francis said, “To become priests [or] Religious – is not primarily our choice. I don’t trust the seminarian, the novice who says: ‘I have chosen this path.’ I don’t like this. It’s not right! But it is the response to a call and to a call of love. I hear something within me, which makes me restless, and I answer yes. The Lord makes us feel this love in prayer, but also through so many signs that we can read in our life, so many persons that He puts on our path.”
Sr. Jeanette believes that there are three things you can do to come to a decision about religious life:
- learn about religious life and celibacy
- pray about your vocation, seeking the guidance of your parents and spiritual advisors
- plan to arrive at a firm commitment towards your calling – before it’s too late!
The Mercedarian sisters will have a discernment retreat for young women October 11-13, 2013, in Baton Rouge, LA. Now is the time to test your commitment to follow the Lord in faith!
In the following video, Fr. Joseph Eddy, Vocation Director for the Mercedarian Friars, relates his vocation story. As is usual with many if not most vocational stories, he came from a devout Catholic family. As our National Director, Rev. Thomas A. Nelson, O.Praem., states in his vocational CD’s, as the family goes, so goes priestly and religious vocations. With the decline of the traditional family, there are fewer vocations. If we want priestly and religious vocations, we must build up holy family life again, rooted in the sacraments and prayer. We must pray for Catholic family life.
Father also has a list of the 7 quick questions to ask yourself if you want to discern if you have a vocation. This is geared towards religious life and the Mercedarians but it could apply to anyone. Parents could even answer these questions for their children and if one seems to have a vocation, then they can give them the encouragement they need to explore that beautiful calling from God, one that is vital to the Church and her evangelization efforts.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: Parents should respect and encourage their children’s vocations. They should remember and teach that the first calling of the Christian is to follow Jesus. (CCC 2253)
- having parents who have different hopes for their child’s future;
- living in a society that marginalizes priests and considers them irrelevant;
- misunderstanding the gift of celibacy;
- being disillusioned by the scandal of priests who abused minors;
- and seeing priests who are too overwhelmed by their pastoral duties to the detriment of their spiritual life
The solution as every one knows lies within the family. Children need to be taught to pray and to see the priesthood as a gift. Obviously, too, involvement in good, solid, orthodox activities for boys are important – altar serving, good Catholic schooling, solid CCD, charity work, introduction to good priests and religious men and women.
For more information, see the Catholic News Service.
Watch this video of young sisters joyfully living out their vocations as a brides of Christ. Seeking joy in the world and finding it was not enough, these sisters found that doing the Will of God brought them happiness and was incredibly freeing.
“Imagine Sisters” is a web and campus-based movement that aims to inspire the imaginations of young women to consider the beautiful call to consecrated life as a sister. With the guiding truth that one sister can change the world, Imagine Sisters strives to connect the world with sisters passionately embracing their call to serve the Lord.
The Web site is coming soon but in the meantime, watch this beautiful video!
On April 29, Pope Benedict XVI ordained nine men to the priesthood. In his Regina Caeli address following the Eucharistic celebration, he provided us with a beautiful image of a vocation:
Dear friends, let us pray for the Church, for every local community, that it may be like a watered garden in which all the seeds of vocation that God scatters in abundance sprout and ripen. Let us pray that this garden may be cultivated everywhere, with the joy of feeling that we are all called, in the variety of our gifts.
Let us pray for all men and women to prayerfully discern their vocation from the Lord. If we do this, we will have strong families, vibrant religious life and a holy nation.
At the 2011 National Meeting, Sr. Marysia Weber, R.S.M., a Religious Sister of Mercy, gave a very popular talk on the effect of the new forms of media on priestly and religious vocations.
Sister made the point that studies have shown that people today are more narcissistic, hardly a good foundation for religious life. There is also more of a blurring between fantasy and reality. One example was that of a youngish priest who spent hours on a social networking site after 11:00 pm each night. As a result, he was late for Mass, lost his prayer life, and could not fulfill his pastoral duties.
And how do people hear the voice of the Lord when they are glued to technology 24 hours a day? Can they really give it up for, say, monastic life?
“The internet is a useful tool, but it can be harmful if not used with discretion or excessively,” she said.
If you want a very thoughtful and insightful perspective on these questions and issues, please visit our website to order Sister’s talks. Three topics are covered: The Church and Electronic Media, Unanticipated Effects of Regular Internet Use, and The Interface of Virtual Reality with Actual Reality. They are available on CD and also in MP3 format.