For many years now we've been told that everyone has a vocation.
The notion of vocation
Its true in a sense, but failing to differentiate between 'special' or 'higher' vocations (Pope John Paul II's words) to the priesthood and religious life, and everyone's call to holiness doesn't acknowledge the real sacrifices involved in those callings, and thus reduces the willingness of people to make those sacrifices.
We've clericalized the laity through the institution of Extraordinary Ministers etc, and secularized the priesthood and religious (for example by failure to wear clerical or religous garb, reducing the prayer regime, and abandonment of a commitment to asceticism), and in doing so undermined the specificness of the 'vocations' of all.
We've been told that all states of life are equally important - something that is clearly not true, since without a priest there are no sacraments and thus no Church, and without religious the Church loses its eschatological orientation.
The result has been a dearth of vocations and loss of sense of identity in the Church.
The missionary impulse
So how to rebuild?
Well many successful dioceses have reverted to the tried and true historical path, and called on the missionary impulse inherent in vibrant young churches (such as those flourishing dioceses in Africa and Asia) to help re-evangelize Australia. They've gone back to tradition more generally - and it has worked.
Some Australian dioceses - such as Wagga Wagga, Perth and Lismore are having considerable success in attracting both overseas and local candidates to ensure that Australians can continue to access the sacraments, and thus laying the necessary foundations for a "New Evangelization" (re-evangelization).
Not everyone however is convinced by the evidence of what works it seems, as The Record reports on Adelaide:
Adelaide's "vocation culture"
By Anthony Barich
"The Archdiocese of Adelaide aims to promote the priesthood and the permanent diaconate within a new “culture of vocations” to save itself from an impending lack of priests. A number of parishes in the archdiocese have already merged, and the concept of promoting a vocations culture, the brainchild of Archbishop Philip Wilson, has been “in gestation” for two years. Adelaide currently has two permanent deacons and two more who have nearly finished their training at the Adelaide College of Divinity, an inter-denominational institute used by Flinders University and comprising Catholic Theological College, St Barnabas’ Anglican Theological College and Parkin-Wesley College of the Uniting Church.
The development of the concept of promoting the priesthood within a ‘vocations culture’ coincides with the Archbishop’s Leap Ahead Project, which seeks consultation to address “major issues” facing the archdiocese over the next 10 years, including the looming priest shortage as many are due to retire soon due to old age or illness, or both. The diocese’s acting vocations director Fr Mark Sexton, who at age 50 is the last graduate of its St Francis Xavier Seminary that closed in 2000, said the plan to focus on local vocations would steer clear of scouting priests from overseas, as doing so would “deprive other countries of priests and the sacraments”.
If men from other countries ask the Adelaide archdiocese if they can study for the priesthood for South Australia, Fr Sexton said they would be asked to first enquire into their own diocese.“Priesthood is part of a culture of vocations, and we need to build it across the whole community. If we can get people thinking in terms of living their vocation as a mother, parent, teacher, etc, and if the younger ones hear people using those words unreservedly, they’re more likely to think ‘what’s my vocation, maybe I’m called to Religious life, or the priesthood,” he said.
He said the current perception is that ‘vocations’ only relates to priests and Religious, which must be changed if vocations to the priesthood are to rise.
Four men are currently in training for Adelaide – three at Corpus Christi College in Melbourne and one in Rome...."