by Peter Menkin
For some years the general talk regarding people entering the Catholic Priesthood has been that numbers are declining, especially Americans seeking a vocation as Priest. Fewer Americans are interested in becoming a Priest, entering the Vocation that is so central to the Roman Catholic Church.
Many Priests serving Roman Catholic parishes are from other countries than the United States. In a report published in “Catholic San Francisco,” this description:
Nearly one third (31 percent) of the ordination class of 2010 was born outside the United States, the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines, Poland and Vietnam. Between 20 and 30 percent of ordinands to the diocesan priesthood for each of the last 10 years were born outside the United States.
As part of the celebration of ordination to the vocation of diocesan Priest, this YouTube was made and this writer inserts it here for its dramatic and documentary value:
August 18, 2009 — Archbishop Dolan Ordains 5 new priests to the Archdiocese of New York
Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports, In a message to youth, Benedict XVI put special emphasis on the importance of reaching youth with God’s Word. Priests are needed who are “…courageous announcers of the Gospel and, at the same time, reveal the merciful face of the Father."
The Pontiff invited young people "to not be afraid to respond to the complete gift of their own existence to the call that the Lord makes to them to pursue the way of priesthood or the consecrated life."
The Holy Father also recommended a return to "lectio divina," the reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer, because "the Word, believed, announced and lived pushes us to solidarity and sharing." This in December, 2009.
Pope Benedict XVI concluded his message by expressing his wish that the 25th anniversary of World Youth Day, to be celebrated March 25, 2010, be a day of "reflection and invocation to obtain from the Lord the gift of numerous vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life."
In 2006, CNA reports, There was the Second Vatican Council's universal call to sanctity. In each generationBenedict XVI said, Christ "calls individuals to take care of His people; in particular He calls men to the priestly ministry to exercise a paternal function.“
He stressed that “The priest's mission in the Church is irreplaceable. Therefore, even though some areas suffer a shortage of clergy, we must not lose the conviction that Christ continues to call men" to the priesthood.”
He added that "Another special vocation occupying a place of honor in the Church is the call to consecrated life.”
This consecrated life is a life of living a loving Christ, so it is explained. Though not a decision described as one of secular nature, but a Call by God to work and live as a Roman Catholic in Christ’s way and light.
Religious live the concecrated life, and religious include monks and nuns.
…[T]he principle aim of their lives, as the Code of Canon Law says: 'Contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer is to be the first and foremost duty of all religious'."
As he concluded his message, Pope Benedict issued a call to pray "for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life,” saying that “The Church's sanctity depends essentially on her union with Christ and her openness to the mystery of grace at work in the hearts of believers.”
“For this reason,” he said, “I would like to invite all the faithful to cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ, Master and Pastor of His people, imitating Mary who guarded the divine mysteries in her heart and contemplated them assiduously."
Part of the 21st Century Roman Catholic story, the recent report in the newspaper, “Catholic San Francisco,” offers that the median age for the ordination class of 2010 is 33.
Benedict said in 2006, through the centuries, men and women, "transformed by divine love, have consecrated their lives to the cause of the Kingdom," and "through Christ have known the mystery of the Father's love."
Facts about ordinands in 2010 by the Roman Catholic Church reveal, The vast majority (92 percent) of men being ordained to the priesthood report some kind of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Three in five (60 percent) ordinands completed college before pursuing the priesthood, with one in five (20 percent) also receiving a graduate degree. One in three (34 percent) entered the seminary while in college. So a press statement in April, 2010 reports.
What else of this problem about a shortage of Priest’s in the Roman Catholic Church, as this report on ordinands in 2010, and brief examination of the need and call to Priesthood continues?
Catholic News Agency in 2005 quotes Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, who celebrated the mass that Saturday evening for the three-day Serra Club Great Lakes Regional Convention in that year. During his homily, the bishop shed some light and cast some fears on the issue of current priest shortage in the Catholic Church. That is five years ago, so we know the issue is not just today’s issue in 2010.
According to limanews.com, he said it is easy for people to worry that Catholicism is on the downswing in an era of increased secularism, but he pointed to the words in the Gospel of Luke-"The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few"-and said they were still true today.
There exists a strong base of good people in the Church, of laborers that include priests and other clergy, he reportedly said. There will always be a need for priests, but there will always be a harvest, too.
"A vocation is never just what we do, it’s who we are," he was quoted as saying.
During the period of discernment, and even in the earlier days of life of the current ordinand which many said began for them as young as 18, a process of knowing God’s call becomes the formal and revealing mystery and center of the life of the future Priest.
In 2004, during the presentation of Pope John Paul’s Letter to the Priests, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and Archbishop Csaba Ternyak – said that priests who are faithful to their vocation are an inspiration for new vocations among young people.
During the presentation of the Letter, which the Pope traditionally releases on Holy Thursday, Cardinal Castrillon emphasized “the intimate connection of the sacrament of the Eucharist with the ordained priesthood,” as well as “the irreplaceable nature of the ordained ministry.”
This is the seminarian’s and the future religious’ journey towards holiness. For holiness means by one definition set apart from others, and this writer offers that the special nature of the minister, the spiritual leader, the pastor, the Priest in the Roman Catholic Church, as demonstrated in this article created from a series of reports over 6 years, is marked by a seriousness and “life experience to ministry.” The “Catholic San Francisco” article notes, “One important trend evident in this study is the importance of lifelong formation, and engagement in the Catholic Faith.
Images: (1) Pope Benedict, source unknown; (2) Anchorite, by Henry Worthy, Oblate Camaldolese Order of Saint Benedict. Henry lives in London and is an amateur photographer; (3) Icon of Christ by Zalewski.
This report appeared originally on the web at San Francisco Examiner.com