Wednesday, 26 August 2009

How do you attract vocations?

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...."


Louise said...

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.


The vocation to the priesthood or religious life does not indicate that the call to Holy Matrimony is somehow not a good thing. It is a sacrament, after all.

But the call to celibacy for the kingdom is higher because it requires a huge sacrifice.

Because Holy Matrimony is such a good thing, it is a real sacrifice to give it up. Obviously.

aussie_oi said...

Adelaide will ordain 2 permanent deacons in September and has 10 other men in study for the permanent diaconate. Their committment is already an encouragament to the archdiocese and the prayers of the whole people of God will also see a gradual rise in candidates for priesthood. Adoration and communal prayer for vocations has increased a lot in the last few years.

Peter said...

I am very suspicious of this 'we can't look elsewhere for priests (or candidates)' line.

I think it verges on a self serving crypto-racism or cultural elitism/ghetoism (take your pick). The (ultra liberal) Toowoomba diocese has trotted out the same objection - "they need to be inculturated" (I suspect this means they need to be shorn of their belief to confirm with our own unbelief!)

And if a particular diocese has a (dire and accelerating) lack of priests, and others have some to spare, then why not - we are after all ONE CATHOLIC church aren't we? Not just little (tinpot) 'national' churches.

In my view, Bishops who will not entertain these measures are utterly derelict in their duty to feed their flock.

And of course, if there wre never any movements of clergy, Christianity would still be stuck in Palestine, and no priests would ever have come to this country.

Terra said...

It is great that Adelaide has some prospects for the diaconate. Lots of scope for solemn masses! However, deacons cannot confect the Eucharist or hear confessions. This is not a solution.

Mac said...

Welcome Back!
Just my humble opinion.

I feel there are two requirements for religious vocations; an example at home reinforced by education at school. Today both are lacking.

I remember reading a saying "Men go mad in herds but only come to their senses slowly and one at a time"; I suspect that will prove to be the case with the Church.

Would I be wrong in blaming the problem on post VaticanII madness? If it is so it strikes me that we can only start at the schools, and them wait for the children of those children to mature. A slow process! But then I often wonder what the effect would be if we replaced the "four hymn sandwich" we experience at sunday Mass with some "sackcloth and ashes"?

Lastly, much Prayer!

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone consider a vocation in the Archdiocese of Adelaide? It is liberal and certainly under the previous Archbishop corruption of various sort became endemic.