Dear Friends –
Every so often someone publishes a story on the vocational crisis in the Church.
In fact, just recently La Croix wrote on the situation in France. They noted that only 88 Catholic priests are being ordained this year in France, the country once known as the Church's "eldest daughter". The figure is 34 fewer than in 2022 when 122 men were ordained to the presbyterate. The story continues that it is the first time in recent years that the Church in France has ordained fewer than 100 new priests in a year.
Closer to home, here in our Archdiocese, Cardinal Tobin ordained 4 men to the priesthood for service in our local Church. We surely congratulate these men and wish them well in their priestly ministry … but we have 211 parishes!!
I am currently reading Divine Renovation’s newest book entitled, Preaching on Purpose: A Divine Renovation Handbook for Communicating the Gospel Today. In preparing preachers, it gives a good amount of background of the Church today. It contains this eye-opening section that reads:
[In Canada, home of Divine Renovation] In the next decade, it is estimated that a third of all religious worship spaces across Canada (9,000 buildings) will be closed, the vast majority of them are Christian churches … [in the 1950’s] only 5 % of the population didn’t go to Mass. Today, only 5% of Quebec residents go to Mass. In half a century attendance at Mass declined from 95% to 5%.
These are startling and frightening statistics!
At 60-years old, I know that there is more behind me than in front of me in terms of priestly ministry. But I am very concerned about what will happen to our Church going forward for you and your children.
Stephen White helps to better understand the situation as he contextualizes the situation in his article, Vocational Discernment and the Priestly Vocation Crisis. Therein he notes that the universal call to holiness is just that; universal. Each one of us is called to holiness because each one of us is loved by God, who wants us to be happy.
Further, he notes that the universal call to holiness takes different forms in each of our lives. Some are called to holiness by way of the ministerial priesthood, some are called to be holy through marriage, some through religious life, and so on. Moreover, each vocation is not only a personal call from God to follow Him along the path that will lead us to holiness and happiness. Each vocation has a communal or ecclesial dimension as well.
White points out that vocational discernment is no less important to the vocation of marriage than it is to the priesthood, and not just when it comes to picking the right person to marry. He shares, “In my own case, I am utterly convinced that I was better prepared for my own vocation as a father and a husband because I spent a lot of time as a young man considering whether God wanted me to be a priest. And I’m better able to understand how my vocation both depends on, and supports, other vocations because of this.”
His article states the obvious, that the vocation to marriage is in a sorry state in this country. Young people today are marrying later, if at all. When they do marry, they marry less and less frequently in the Church. There are a million reasons, some good, some less so, for young people to postpone marriage. Unlike the process of discernment and formation for the priesthood, however, discernment and formation for marriage and family life mostly take place in the home. Increasingly, the home is not a reliable house of formation.
As a parish, I think that we can do more to help homes become better places of formation to promote vocations of every kind. After all, from the earliest times, the home has been called the “domestic Church” precisely because Christ resides there too!
Our patroness Saint Teresa frequently speaks of the importance of keeping good and holy company. She speaks of friends and even confessors who came into her life at different times and drew her either closer to or farther away from God. “I have learned what great advantage comes from good companionship,” she wrote, a lesson she learned through hard experience.
We are called to be good and holy company to one another. Our parish is a place where we come to be re-energized so that we can then take the Good News to the world, to all God’s people.
Wherever you are on your journey, please take a moment in these summer months to recommit to that Christian companionship … to bringing Christ back to our homes, our community, our society and our world. And of course, should you have ideas on how I or our parish can better help in that process, please never hesitate to reach out to share your constructive thoughts and ideas.