The last two Morceaux dealt with college and graduate seminaries, those special places in which formation for a life of priesthood takes place. Since our celebration earlier in the month of World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the topic which has been dominating a lot of my thought and prayer and conversation over the past few weeks has been the issue of vocations to the priesthood in our Diocese of Baton Rouge.
It’s no real secret that we could use more priests, but it’s a complicated issue.
For my part, I prefer not to use the term “priest shortage.” Even with recent retirements and resignations from among our active clergy we still have triple the number of priests in our diocesan territory than we had 50 years ago when our diocese was founded. Of course, we also have twice as many parishes and almost five times the number of Catholics! So still there’s more priestly work to be done than is easily managed.
The most thought-provoking side of the problem, to me anyway, is the hesitation that so many young men feel in even thinking about the possibility of priesthood as a life’s work. Sure a life of ministry has its challenges, but so does every other career. Ordained ministry has its rewards also, and in fact I think priesthood’s full of the kind of satisfaction that’s hard to come by in other lines of work.
Maybe most guys are just skeptical that people really want them to be priests? Maybe our good humor and jokes about how unusual a priest’s life and lifestyle can be has the sad side-effect of discouraging vocations? Okay, if that’s true, then let’s together just make a simple agreement: we’ll make it clear how much we’d love for more talented and sincere young men among our families and friends to consider priesthood. It sure would be better to have more priests, instead of more lawyers or accountants or professionals of other kinds! And on a personal level, deep down I just wish I could convey better to others the wonderfulness and joy that being a priest is for me: for others to share this is not only a personal affirmation but one of the best ways a man can spend his life.
If you or somebody you know would like to talk to me – or Father Matt Lorrain, our diocesan Vocations Director who lives here at the Cathedral rectory – about priesthood or seminary or just “making a decision” along these lines, by all means give us a call. We’ll give you the straight scoop. Even more than that, we’ll give you friendship and support in your discernment and pursuit of that goal.