Archd. NY vocation crisis: surge after Pope Benedict’s visit

I found this nice story from the NY Daily News.

Pope Benedict’s visit proves a godsend for city seminary


Friday, April 25th 2008, 4:00 AM

A clergy-starved Archdiocese of New York was facing a crisis – until Pope Benedict arrived.

For the first time in 108 years, St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers was preparing for a year with no new students. [!  How is that possible!?]

But, after the Holy Father’s whirlwind city tour, dozens have heard the call.

"It’s been like a tsunami, a good tsunami of interest," said the archdiocese’s vocations director, the Rev. Luke Sweeney.

"I’ve been meeting people all week and have a lot of e-mails I haven’t had the chance yet to respond to. It has been incredible."

Only 23 seminarians are expected to be ordained into the city’s priesthood during the next four years, following decades of decline in the ranks.   [Unbelievable!]

In 40 years, the numbers of Catholic men of the cloth in the city has been cut in half, to only 648 – even as the number of Catholics has swelled to 2.5 million.

The city’s ratio of priests to congregation members is now among the worst in the country, according to a study carried out by the Catholic World Report.

And before the Pope’s visit, nobody had signed up for this year’s intake of trainees.

"We are facing a severe shortage," said Sweeney, the mastermind of a recently launched recruitment campaign that uses the slogans "The World Needs Heroes" and "You Have To Be a Real Man If You Want to Become a Priest."

"We were hoping the Pope would convince many who were considering the priesthood to make the next step. It looks like he did."

In only three days since the Pope left New York after a visit that included speaking to 25,000 young people on the seminary’s grounds, dozens of prospective priests have contacted Sweeney.

"One said he came, saw the crowd, heard what the Pope said and then called us," said Sweeney. "He said his questions and concerns were answered when he heard him speak."


There is no lack of vocations, people.  There are defects in the way the call is being "broadcast" and then fostered. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. sem. in NYC says:

    The part about their not being any new seminarians is a bit misleading. The philosophy requirement was extended by a year, so the pre-theologians who would have risen to first Theology will be doing another year in the Philosophy level. That having been said, it is a very small group who would have risen.

  2. KK says:

    A week ago today, one of our seminarians (a senior preparing to depart for Rome for 4-years) told me, “We don’t have a crisis of vocations, we have a crisis of faith.” I think he has it dialed-in.

  3. Fred says:

    Something is very wrong with the understanding of the nature of the priesthood when a diocese of millions of Catholics has so few vocations.

  4. Francis says:

    Something is VERY wrong with the man in charge of that diocese. How can we expect vocations when the bishop treats his priests so poorly? The long-suffering Church in New York needs relief, Holy Father. We need a shepherd!

  5. The following photo includes most of the boys in our TLM community of appropriate age to serve at the altar:

    In the typical TLM community almost every boy wants to be an altar server, and a majority of them at some stage aspire to be priests, because the priest who plainly and unambiguously offers sacrifice for the propitiation of sins is such a compelling figure for admiration and emulation.

    If both trends continued, our local TLM community with a population closer to 2 hundred than 2 million could eventually surpass New York in its vocations!

    “Save the liturgy, save the priesthood!”

  6. Richard says:

    It’s a faith crisis, not a vocations crisis.

    By their fruits ye shall know them.

    I’m happy to hear things are looking up now for St. Joseph’s. If these are true vocations, I hope they can keep them and form them well.

  7. Woody Jones says:

    As I have said before, St John Bosco was said to have asserted that one third of all boys have a vocattion to the priesthood or the religious life. Even if he was “off” by half, that would be 1/6. I think that one of the problems with failure to discern the vocation is the lack of silence in which the young man may meditate upon his call, if any. The TV, radio, iPod and internet are the worst enemies of vocations, I think (I have also heard a senior Legionary say that the internet will corrupt the boys if they view it for any length of time–I suppose because of the temptations to view certain things). I guess that watches before the Blessed Sacrmanent, retreats and the like are the solution, but how to get the lads to do it is the question.

  8. There is no lack of vocations. If one looks to those dioceses with holy bishops they are not suffering this lack. A holy bishop makes for holy priests which makes for young men responding to God’s call. The same is true of religious orders. Those that are true to the ideals of their founder and who live truly holy lives are flourishing. Those who do not are dying and will die. There is no “crisis of vocations.” There is a crisis of priestly holiness. The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 30th May, is the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. This was established in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. Pray for the conversion and sanctification of priests on this great feast of Divine Love and in the Novena in preparation. We need your help and support. Without it we are in great danger, for satan loves to destroy holy preists.

  9. The TV, radio, iPod and internet are the worst enemies of vocations

    No doubt, these are contributors to the dearth of vocations in many places. However, as my post above may suggest, I believe the primary problem is within the Church itself rather than in the outside world. There is evidence in that when boys see priests in powerful liturgical roles that a boy naturally wants to emulate, the call is heard. Reverent and beautiful liturgy — whether ordinary or extraordinary — proclaims the importance of the priest. But insipid priests and insipid liturgy inspire neither faith nor vocations.

    “Save the liturgy, save the priesthood!”

  10. Cassanda says:

    It’s tough to get too excited about this before we see the fruits. After an emotional experience with the visit of the Pope, we get applicants. Mature discernment or emotional knee-jerk? Time will tell, but it doesn’t sound promising.

    The Holy Father answered in response to the bishop’s question on vocations that vocation are a “sure sign of the health of the local Church”. Are we to believe that the health of the local Church has suddenly revived? Possible, but not likely.

    What’s more important than the numbers going in are the quality of priests coming out. Reviving a local Church and reforming the seminaries takes more than a PR trip by the Pope.

  11. Mark M says:

    I noticed your comment “unbelievable”, Father.

    I think part of this is to do with a lacklustre attitude existing in many Dioceses. For example, the City of Edinburgh currently has 27 Parishes and 14 Parish Priests. They are planning for having only 12 PPs in 5 years (understandable)… but, wait for it!!! …they are planning for only 8 in ten years! To my mind this is a defeatist attitude: the only logical plan would be for 27 Parish Priests–one for each Parish–but I can say it until I’m blue in the face and it seems to make no difference!

    Anyway, kudos to the young men of NYC! God bless you all!

  12. Mark M says:

    Woody: but even these things can be put to good use. I just love it when the Catholic Sermons Series (and WDTPRS Podcazts) are updated.

    Henry: Amen. Great to see all those servers. :)

    To quote a Priest I know, “O Lord, grant us Priests. O Lord grant us holy Priests. O Lord, grant us many holy Priests!”

  13. Transitional Deacon says:

    I think the Holy Father hit the nail on the head by dedicating his trip to “Christ Our Hope”. The problem is not just a lack of faith but a lack of hope. Because people have lost both faith and hope they are not having sufficiently-large families to produce the vocations needed. There is nothing to look forward to in the future — why subject our kids to that? That is the mentality. It is also not that there are not vocations out there, it’s that there is NO SUPPORT for those guys who do have vocations, because mom and dad want grandkids, darn it!

    I preached about this on Good Shepherd Sunday. My question: What if Jesus is calling some men from our community to be priests? Would we “follow his voice”? Our culture in no ways supports this. Not only do many young men find the priesthood in no way attractive because of a lack of evident priestly holiness, but also because their parents and our culture have so indoctrinated them against it that they find it difficult to see it otherwise.

    I am not at all surprised that the Holy Father’s visit has produced this immediate result, and I pray that it will bear fruit in the long term. I am sure it will. There are many men in seminary today who are here because of a World Youth Day with John Paul II or seeing him in Rome or even watching him on TV (myself — the Jubilee Year coverage on EWTN – thanks be to God for EWTN).

    Viva il Papa!

  14. Gordon says:

    I have said before on these posts,& others too have said same thing, that thousands of good ppl were turned away from the seminaries & religious orders in the 70s /80s to recent times, simply because they were “into” tradition. Not even the old mass, which most had never seen, but the new mass etc done the proper way. Folks who would give benediction 2 times a week and so on. And we see what was accepted for the priesthood, & how long many of these “right” types lasted….Now we all see the sad results,as well as the fact few now get the Faith taught to them,the mess of the liturgy in too many places. Now what about all those “Lost Vocations” Those who were told in their teen years to “go experience the world” which was said to me. In charity I’ll not say by whom. And when ppl see the confusion in the calendars noted in another post, how are we to view a life in the religious state or consider the diocese?? All these folks who’s true vocation has been denied them…what is One to do? And we see dioceses crying out for priests, but they didn’t want us then. Do they want us now? Of course I do wish NYC well.

  15. Nick says:

    The term “vocations crisis” is misleading.

    The undeniable FACT is there are religious orders and diocese which are surging in vocations. It is NO MISTAKE that these religious orders and diocese have a clear and REAL attachment to Tradition, especially the TLM.

    Im discerning a vocation now, and I will tell you one thing that really worries me is how I will be treated by the seminary and bishop for my love of tradition and orthodoxy. I fear that if I sign up for the wrong seminary I will be force fed watered down Catholicism and miss the opportunity for learning the essentials like Latin, miss out on learning from the classical theological texts and miss out on TLM training. I still fear that many of the seminaries are not cleaned out of the “Spirit of Vatican II” mentality and I dont know if I can take the risk. How can I enjoy learning about the faith when “textbooks” are by liberals like Kung and Co.

    Other religious orders like the Jesuits come off as so corrupt and unfriendly to tradition that Im sad to say I dont think I could ever consider them.

    I do find hope in groups like the FSSP, and support their cause 100%, it just hurts me to think I would have to leave Oregon just to find a seminary dedicated to tradition.

    I can say in my PERSONAL calling, there is NO vocations crisis, but the negative vibe and fruit I see around me scares me and hurts me. I strong believe Im not alone in this manner, I believe there are a lot of people like me who are hesitant to sign up because of the poor examples we see, especially the folk-style Masses we are forced to endure. Imagine how devistating it is when a traditionalist minded Catholic struggles to find a reverent NO Mass in the area.

    And these vocations directors and Bishops wonder what is going on? They are missing the big picture themselves. We dont want free hats and free pencils and free retreats at the vocations table, we want a guarantee we wont get punished for loving the Church.

  16. Thomas says:

    Almost everything is working against vocations, even parents, and that can be one of the most vital things. Many young men who may be called are not prepared to enter the seminary–sometimes intellectually, very often spiritually. And even then, common wisdom seems to be that they complete college; this has its practical benefits, but I can hardly imagine how vocations are squelched by life at Universities, especially where there are not good campus ministries.

    Perhaps if there were some institute of priests who live in community near universities, devoted to the formation of young men who think they may be called to the priesthood; these same young men living in community and celebrating the liturgy with regularity and reverence while still earning civil degrees. Maybe I’m just crazy to imagine this could happen.

  17. Mark says:

    I have an observation around the concept of role models. Strong, intelligent leaders in any field or vocation attract individuals to emulate or aspire to the role that an exemplary individual portrays.

    How many boys who have played basketball wanted to be ‘like Mike’? – as in Michael Jordan. How many road cyclists wanted to be like Lance Armstrong? I wonder how many young men, after 911 wanted to be firemen? My guess would be many.

    Jesus Christ himself was and is the ultimate role model – and a rather successful role model given the success of Christianity. The second most read book after the Bible in the world is “The Imitation of Christ”.

    Psychologically, it would seem to me (I’m no psychologist) that someone who portrays heroic virtue will attract followers. Excellence begets excellence. Look at what the military portrays in its recruitment ads – especially the Marine Corps in their commercials of late – their honor guard.

    When one attends a Mass such as the ones portrayed on EWTN in the Extraordinary Form, there are a large number attributes which reflect and demonstrate excellence: the vestments, gestures, the singing of the epistles and gospel, etc. as well as the high physicality of the choreographed ceremony. The Mass in the Extraordinary Form portrays honor, discipline, respect, and excellence among many other superlatives. These key elements are missing in large measure across parishes around the world. Why is that?

    This blog has given a vast array of intelligent answers to this question. So I will leave it unsaid – we all know the answer.

    In my opinion, when the priesthood once again displays as its norm, attributes of excellence and heroic virtue, we will see a tremendous surge in vocations. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass provides a strong foundation and an environment that foster these virtues.

    Gloria laus et honor tibi sit Rex Christen Redemptor.


  18. Diane says:

    I agree with several comments here, especially Henry’s.

    We too have a robust altar boy program, and we not only have young men heading off to seminaries (diocesan and religious orders), we have young women heading off to convents of a traditional nature. There are many young, discerning people in my parish.

    There is another point here too. Those parishes that have a strong focus on Eucharistic and Marian devotion will have good vocation rates. It goes to another point raised by several here: Noise.

    Noise can come in many forms. As has already been mentioned, it can come in the form of continuous listenting and talking with cellphones, iPODS, computer, etc. However, noise can come in other forms too, such as too much activity – period. Young people today have been taught that they must always be “doing” something.

    We need our priests and our bishops to talk about moderation and the need to set aside all activities in favor of pure prayer time. And, we need them to guide us into interior silence. Some come to adoration and carry in the “gotta be doing something” approach to it. There is no better way to build a relationship with Jesus Christ than to spend time in adoration, in total silence, simply giving ourselves to Him, regardless of how it makes us feel. It is most precious to Our Lord when we give Him our time when we least feel like doing so – another misconception among a generation taught that “feelings” are equal to “good”. God will often test us to see if we will continue coming after He withdraws consolations. This must be taught.

    How can young people hear the voice of God when no one is teaching them how to listen for it?

  19. Diane says:

    Just so there are no misunderstandings, in my last point I made a connection with Eucharistic and Marian devotion, with lack of noise.

    It is not only the lack of noise, but the graces that come from Eucharistic and Marian devotion.

    The work of Fr. Antoine Thomas with very young children in teaching them how to adore God is setting them up for a good foundational prayer life – without noise. We need parish priests leading these kinds of efforts at that level. They need to get out of administration and leave that for lay people and get down to business of building faith in ways like this.

    This is where I think dioceses have been mistaken in trying to make big youth gatherings full of activities and constant noise. They need to do the opposite and bring them into total silence for periods of time and explain why there is a need for it.

  20. RBrown says:

    The TV, radio, iPod and internet are the worst enemies of vocations,
    Comment by Woody Jones

    The worst enemies of vocations are to be found within the Church–confusion about the nature of the Priesthood and the Eucharist, Protestant style liturgy, p-poor seminaries, and lax observance in religious house. Those in the Church can do nothing worse than blame those outside the Church for the lack of priests and religious.

  21. Diane and others have commented that dioceses and parishes that “do it right” reap good vocations. The unfortunate other side of the coin is that people in the Church who do not want “good and faithful priests” (as most here would understand that phrase) have worked hard in recent decades to screen them out. Archbishop Eldon Curtis (Omaha) was perhaps one of the first to go public on this nasty scandal.

    Archbishop Elden Curtis

    “I personally think the vocation “crisis” in this country is more artificial and contrived than many people realize. When dioceses and religious communities are unambiguous about ordained priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines these calls ….. then there are documented increases in the numbers of candidates who respond to the call.

    “It seems to me that the vocation “crisis” is precipitated and continued by people who want to change the Church’s agenda, by people who do not support orthodox candidates loyal to the magisterial teaching of the Pope and bishops, and by people who actually discourage viable candidates from seeking priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines the ministries.

    “I am personally aware of certain vocation directors, vocation teams and evaluation boards who turn away candidates who do not support the possibility of ordaining women or who defend the Church’s teaching about artificial birth control, or who exhibit a strong piety toward certain devotions, such as the Rosary.”

    This was written in 1996. But “Goodbye, Good Men” is still happening to this day to orthodox faithful young men who are being run off from certain well-known U.S. Catholic seminaries.

  22. Nick says:


    You are very correct, the outside noise is NOTHING compared to the in-house problems of the Church. The outside noise would be virtually irrelevant if strong orthodox Catholicism was being lived in any given area. The orthodox sermons and reverent Masses would cut through those outside noises and easily remove the desire and distraction of them.

    How many diocese are going to keep pouring money into “vocations programs” before they realize this problem isnt about “good advertising” and “getting the word out”?

  23. Carolina Geo says:

    “I think that one of the problems with failure to discern the vocation is the lack of silence in which the young man may meditate upon his call, if any. The TV, radio, iPod and internet are the worst enemies of vocations, I think ”

    Frankly, to this list I would add the Novus Ordo Mass. As other posters have intimated, one needs to be able to hear God calling. The first and foremost place where one should be listening for God’s call is at Mass. But at the Novus Ordo Mass, when is there ever an extended silence in order to listen to God? There is always some activity or talking going on.

    A friend of mine recently went to the traditional Mass for the first time. He commented afterward that he didn’t think it was for everyone, as it was too contemplative and that people wouldn’t want that. My response is that that is EXACTLY why people need the traditional Mass: so that for one hour a week they can be in peace, silence, and calm. Then people can begin to listen to God’s call.

    If bishops want to solve the shortage of priests, they need to heavily promote, sponsor, and celebrate the traditional Mass.

  24. Michael says:

    “confusion about the nature of the Priesthood”

    This is important, I think. We now have laymen and women performing many of the functions once exclusively reserved to the Priest. There seems to have been a deliberate effort to remove the distinction between Priest and laity. I can easily imagine a young man thinking to himself “Why should I put up with the hardships when I can do the same thing the Priest does,?”

Comments are closed.