I’ve written many times about the situation of vocations to the priesthood. We all know that there are certain parishes in dioceses which produce more priests. We all know that there are certain dioceses which produce more priests. We all know that there are certain religious groups which produce more priests. They have factors in common.
And yet, do other parishes and dioceses and religious groups change what they are doing?
Not much. It is if they really aren’t committed.
In life I have found that when I am going in the wrong direction, I have to, first, stop going in the wrong direction, turn around, go back, and then go in the right direction.
Right? Does that make sense? Is that your experience too? It’s not hard, right?
At California Catholic I read…
Why aren’t other dioceses looking to Lincoln?
According to the Official Catholic Directory and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Lincoln, NE is the only diocese in the United States to place in the Top 20 for the ratio of ordinands to population in every survey conducted from 1993-2012.
Despite having a Catholic population of only 97,000, the Lincoln diocese ordained 22 men from 2010-2012. Only seven dioceses in the entire country ordained more. One of those, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (with a Catholic population over 4.2 million) ordained 34 men during those same three years. In other words, L.A. only ordained four more men per year on average despite having a population 44X greater than Lincoln.
The Lincoln blueprint can be narrowed down to a few foundational elements:
Orthodox Bishops[Yep. This is a big one.]
Against all odds and the prevailing winds of the post-conciliar Church, Lincoln has avoided the craziness and irreverence that has afflicted so many other dioceses. This has largely been achieved through the stability and orthodoxy provided over the last fifty years by three men: Bishop Glennon Flavin (1967-1992), Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (1992-2012), and Bishop James Conley (2012-present). They succeeded despite the occasional scorn of their brother bishops, and by making the Church’s perennial priorities their own.
The National Catholic Reporter (known as the Fishwrap to Fr. Z readers) [And not only to Fr Z readers…. pretty much everyone now calls it that.] once bemoaned that it was as if the “reforms” so prevalent in the aftermath of Vatican II had missed Lincoln altogether. Exactly.
The Male Only Sanctuary
To a large extent, Lincoln has preserved a male only sanctuary. In this area the diocese has simply given more weight to tradition and common sense instead of “modern sensibilities” that are more secular minded.
The diocese remains the only one in the country to maintain an altar serving policy of boys only.
Lincoln also utilizes installed acolytes and lectors for the Holy Mass. Since it is an instituted ministry, the role of an acolyte is only open to men. Both of these instituted ministries commenced during Bishop Flavin’s time during the 1970’s.
Those in Lincoln will speak of the lack of Catholic tribalism and the absence of the liturgical wars so prevalent in other dioceses. In large part this is due to the environment established by Lincoln’s bishops. Reverent Novus Ordo liturgies have served the faithful well, preventing the frustration that so many encounter in other dioceses.
[… good stuff… but I want to keep this short… Suffice to say that during my last visit to NYC, I had a church full of young people from a High School in Lincoln. They were reverent, received Communion on the tongue, kneeling, without batting an eye… impressive…]
As stated previously, the Lincoln diocese has intentionally avoided the modern tendency to clericalize the laity by delegating liturgical roles to the faithful. Thanks to its use of acolytes and lectors, instead of the more common excessive use of readers and extraordinary ministers, the diocese has not blurred the lines between ministers and laity, or between sanctuary and nave. It’s obvious to see how this would reinforce the ministerial priesthood in Lincoln, as well as the continuity between both forms of the Roman Rite.
Proper liturgical orientation has been further reinforced through the manner in which many masses are offered in Lincoln: with the priest facing toward the liturgical east, or Ad Orientem.
A Catholic Education
While I have saved this for last, in many ways education is the primary ingredient to Lincoln’s recipe for success. Bishop Glennon Flavin’s vision for a diocese that allowed its children to go to Catholic school at an affordable cost and to be taught authentic Catholicism by religious sisters and priests is integral to the diocesan mission. [One of the parent/chaperons of the aforementioned group from Lincoln told me that tuition was in the neighborhood of $1200 per year. ]
Read the whole thing there. It’s pretty interesting.
Here is the bottom line.
The percentages of men to be ordained, and who are now active, against those who are retiring or dying are getting grim. I was recently in a diocese in Louisiana where some half of the priests are set to retire in the next five years. Disaster, right?
That percentage didn’t just happen.
It was engineered.
And the numbers in Lincoln, and in certain parishes, dioceses and religious groups known for good numbers of vocations didn’t just happen either!
You have probably seen the polls I have had here. I’ll post them again. Anyone can vote, but only registered and approved users here can comment.
And… yes… there are only male and female on both my planet and on your planet.
And…no… I don’t want to just pray for all “Vocations”, lumping them together in one amorphous prayer salad. Sure, pray that young people get married. But pray explicitly for PRIESTS.
There are outliers to your theory, Father, though I agree that you describe the predominant correlation. As with most things, causation is harder to pin down.
Groups which follow your description of being highly traditional (I know more about religious communities than dioceses): Eastern O.P., Orange County O.Praem., F.S.S.P. in Nebraska.
Groups which don’t follow your description and are either “middle of the road/totally NO” or even progressive-leaning, and yet are still seeing an increase in recent years: S.J., C.S.C., O.F.M. Cap., O.F.M. (several jurisdictions). By “recent” I mean very recent. In in the last five years compared to the postconciliar nadir. So it is an “increase” compared to the low point, not to the all-time high points between WWII and V2.
So, in my observation, while there IS a correlation, it isn’t a strict correlation. There is still a lot of mystery there.
[Yahhhh…. lot’s of mystery. Sure.]
Along with Spes Unica, I do notice that the neocatechumenal way also gets vocations, though I don’t know if it is men from my diocese or if my diocese just happens to be a place where they have a seminary.
Along the same lines as the article is a book I read a few years ago, recommended
The Papal Plan for Restoration: Restoring the Catholic Priesthood
A Study Guide for Catholic Laity, Seminarans, and Clergy – By Robert Wolfe
Perpetual or regularly scheduled Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament definitely makes a difference as well.
I’m always amused by the attempts that have been made over the years to discount the diocese of Lincoln, the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and other religious groups and dioceses that, because of their adherence to tradition, attract a large number of vocations.
For thirty years now, I’ve heard:
Yeah, but they’re taking in the ones that no one else wants.
Yeah, but the ones they’re getting are mentally and emotionally unstable.
Yeah, but it’s a fad and the numbers will start falling off in a few years.
Yeah, but wait a few years – these vocations are either going to be going crazy, or dropping out.
Well, okay, maybe they’ll stay, but they’ll be driving everyone else away from their parishes and schools.
Well, okay, but this is in Lincoln and few other places – people aren’t as sophisticated there as we are.
Well, I’m sure there are some deep dark secrets there – these folks have to be alcoholics, or child molesters, or crypto-fascists.
Probably the most intellectually honest comment I’ve heard from the left is, Well, okay, that’s good for them, but it’s just not for me.
Meanwhile the demographic solution keeps working, and liberal religious orders and dioceses which block traditional guys from entering the seminary are shrinking, closing parishes, closing schools, applying band-aid solutions to continue to provide sacramental ministry to dwindling congregations – all the while the solution to the seemingly inevitable demographic decline sits right in front of their closed eyes.
An excellent comment Father. I would actually disagree with your first ‘untrue’ – the successful orders & seminaries are taking the ones the others don’t want, but that’s because the batty vocations directors/novice masters want to screen out anyone ‘orthodox’. Their loss!
Whoa, folks. There are more vocations than to the priesthood and to matrimony !
There are also vocations to a solitary life in the midst of the world and to the religious life for both men and women. [But… we aren’t talking about that in this entry.]
I really detest when there comes around a regional head of an order seeking vocations – to the priest hood and not to other vocations that the order offers.
I really detest reading the diocesan bulletin having only a director for vocations to religious life which is exclusively priesthood oriented.
What would Mother Angelica say and do ?
I suspect that she would hope and demand that each individual find a vocation and find in their diocese the assistance to grow in that vocation.
[My blog post is about PRIESTHOOD. And, finally, without priests, those people who don’t enter institutes, or get married don’t have the Eucharist and don’t have confessors.]
I too have heard the “well, those folks up in Lincoln are just taking anyone, they’re winding up with problematic priests” slander.
Regarding Spes Unica’s comment: yes, there have been a few more ordinations in the CSC over the last few years (if I had to guess, I would say that our interlocutor is among them). But these guys, of course, are coming to the order from a wide variety of home dioceses. They also tend to veer more traditional as a group than their elders, much like young priests in many dioceses around the country. I don’t know that they provide a compelling countervailing data point. Even if they do reflect some other trend, that doesn’t mean that what Lincoln has been doing hasn’t worked, simply that there is some other array of factors that can also work. They needn’t be exclusive.
Of course the priest shortage is not an accident. The purpose of the priest shortage is to force Rome to turn to that allegedly great, untapped reservoir of priestly vocations: women. There are liberals who argue that the Church could end the priest shortage overnight by ordaining women.
The ultimate ailment that gives rise to this mindset is the absence of the Catholic faith among many, probably most, Catholics. It is a point of view that denies the supernatural and regards the Church not as the spotless Bride of Christ but as a merely human political institution.
I think that the “orthodox bishop” component needs some modifier(s). There are many bishops who personally are doctrinally orthodox, but are mostly laissez-faire in practice, or re-actively orthodox at best (respond only if people make big effort in complaining). That is, they are not PROACTIVE and COURAGEOUS. Since the vocation situation in so many dioceses can hardly get worse, one would think that some of these bishops would give the “Lincoln way” a go. A side benefit would likely be that many liberals with one foot already out the door, and whose disproportionate dissent and disobedience cause the Church so many problems, would finally just get all the way out the door and head down the street to their individual Protestant flavor of choice.
Maybe someone could get find an email list of all the bishops and vocation directors in the country and send them a link to Father’s post.
I read this on Southern Orders, Fr. McDonalds blog. I think I would agree that it is a blueprint for more vocations, and I also would agree that much of the current priesthood is the result of deliberate social engineering. Many within a church community don’t want Catholic priests, and many of those don’t want Catholicism either. They promote what fits their ideals, the liberal agenda and also a liberal women’s agenda. A shortage of priests creates an opening for parish life directors and communion services. These allow feminists to skirt around homilies, and lets them deliver reflections instead. Reflections are then used to promote a particular agenda. Altar girls displace altar boys so that a future generation of feminists can answer that liturgical call. I don’t think you can only look at what promotes vocations, but you also have to look at what within Church actively suppresses them. There are many examples other than these.
I’d argue another factor should be mentioned (that I hopefully presume is reflected in Lincoln): Widespread and easy availability of confession.
It’s hard to overstate the strength of temptations even well-raised young men have always experienced (St. Augustine will attest), but even more so in modern times in a frequently immodest world so thoroughly habituated to pursuing ambition and easy satisfaction of wants. These temptations are often corrupting or demoralizing or both, and I’m certain they affect interest both in vocations to the priesthood and religious life and vocations to marriage.
“It was engineered.”
The most succinct, accurate and clearly stated critique of the vocation crisis. There is a level of ecclesiastical self-contempt, well in the boundaries of mental unbalance, that fuels those in critical positions to deliberately undermine, tank, and dispose of applicants, candidates, and those in formation. It appears to be feed by a contempt for the Church, revenge for wounded egos and a loss of faith. It is a form of sadism, and it can be easily masked under the guise of spiritual discernment, raising therapeutic flags, concern for quality candidates. I have seen it all but boldly admitted. Rarely do you hear, “Is God calling this man?”
If they don’t fit the mold of a soldier in the deconstruction of Roman Catholicism and the establishment of the new “church” they are shown the door.
Not everywhere, but in many communities.
This is real.
I think the importance of the bishop in this area cannot be understated. Some Catholic blogs are reporting that the Pope routinely discards the recommendations of the Congregation for Bishops and uses his own contacts to find more progressive appointees (e.g., +Cupich appointment, which came out of nowhere it seems). Time will tell how these appointments to the episcopate.
Recently, my parish had training for new altar servers. Of the half dozen or so young people who came to the training, the girls outnumbered the boys by almost 2 to 1. At some of the weekend Masses, all of the altar servers are girls.
I think the importance of the bishop in this area cannot be understated. Some Catholic blogs are reporting that the Pope routinely discards the recommendations of the Congregation for Bishops and uses his own contacts to find more progressive appointees (e.g., +Cupich appointment, which came out of nowhere it seems). Time will tell how these appointments to the episcopate will affect vocations to the priesthood in those dioceses.
Recently, my parish had training for new altar servers. Of the half dozen or so young people who came to the training, the girls outnumbered the boys by almost 2 to 1. At some of the weekend Masses, all of the altar servers are girls.
It seems fitting to quote the observation made by another Nebraska bishop of recent vintage on the vocations crisis – and how it really wasn’t an accident:
“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; when there is strong support for vocations, and a minimum of dissent about the male celibate priesthood and religious life loyal to the magisterium; when bishop, priests, Religious and lay people are united in vocation ministry—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.”
– Archbishop Aleden Curtiss of Omaha, Christian Order, 1996
Have they looked into average family size in Lincoln? I’m sure that good catechesis leads to more families using NFP in an orthodox manner. Larger families often produce more vocations.
Also, I would like to see the stats on other dioceses that are producing a lot of priests per capita.
I bet bishops who support home schooling is another big factor in the number of priests.
Public schools are destructive in many ways. They have been slowly indoctrinating America’s youth since the 1970s. All the horrible, socialist driven pedagogical “research” of the 1960s started to get implemented in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was destructive. Now we are starting to reap the benefits of the teachers who were educated in the 1980s and 1990s. They are now the current teachers in public schools and they have been the big pushers of social reform. No wonder there has been such a sudden turn in collective American morals in such a short time. Eight years ago President Obama could campaign on the “I believe marriage is between one man and one woman” slogan and still be considered reasonable. Now, only eight years later, monogamous, heterosexual, lifelong marriage is considered bigoted hate speech? How did that happen so quickly? Answer = Public schools in conjunction with social media bullying. But, it was the Leftist schools that indoctrinated our youth to rebel and protest “everything traditional.” Wonder why there is a sudden explosion in “none”? Why is agnosticism growing rapidly among youth? Answer = public schools. Social media just gave a platform for all these new budding leftist graduating from public schools.
Wonderful post, Fr. I was disappointed to see some of the commenters of the original article dismissing Lincoln, as others have noted. Even within my own arena of the military chaplaincy, some of the older generation look down on them in a similar way.
Your intro intrigued me, though, as it brought up a consistent problem that applies not just to success stories in vocations to the priesthood, but also to many other areas of life. If you are going the wrong way, you back up and go the right way.
In my life, prior to succumbing to God’s call to ministry (He had to knock me upside the head with a spiritual 2×4), I was an infantryman in the Army. In land navigation, we use to learn how to properly navigate with a map and compass, and what to do if we could not find the right point. We would shoot a back-azimuth, return to a known point, and then proceed on the right heading. Today, most people have no idea where they are going without a GPS (I do not have one and have never had one, though I see the convenience that they offer many people). If you get lost or end up on the wrong path, then don’t worry, because it’ll just recalibrate to get you where you want to go from where you are.
There was honestly something virtue-building in having to go back and restart when you ended up in the wrong place. My grandfather had a little sign up in the breezeway of the IL farmhouse that said, “There is never enough time to do it right, but there is always enough time to do it again.”
May we slow down, return to a known point of goodness and virtue, and get it right this time.
I want to go back to the Jesuits, though, if I may. I was chastened in mind recently when I went to look up their vocations pages to see that they seem to have nearly 100 men in formation, taking their various U.S. provinces in total. They also have many (though not all) pictures of their seminarians wearing clerical dress. Noteworthy developments, all around. To sniff at it is to make the same mistakes Fr. Ferguson notes, just in the opposite direction. (Though not all directions are equal.)
A couple of other noteworthy aspects of the Diocese of Lincoln which very likely contribute to the large number of vocations:
a) the vital, enlivening presence of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a Carmel with at present about 36 nuns, and which has sent out two foundations since 2009. To my personal knowledge these nuns largely attribute their vocations to the family reading of the gospel and the lives of the saints as they were growing up. The number of young women flocking to this convent is unprecedented in the order. And what is the attraction? Evidently it is authenticity, for aside from modern conveniences St. Theresa herself would find herself totally at home. The Mass and all the offices are in Latin.
b) surely contributing to the low cost of tuition is the fact that Bp. Bruskewitz mandated that all priests in the diocese become certified teachers, though whether Bp. Conley has continued this I do not know.
Pray for vocations? Yes, but . . .
Emulate, the Diocese of Lincoln? Yes, and also . . .
In my semi-retirement for a living I drive foster children from their new foster homes back to their old schools. In this way the state endeavors to maintain some continuity in the child’s life.
Now for example I am driving Billy, an 11 yr old boy, who from the moment he gets in the car till the moment he gets out is listening to his Ipod and singing along. This is true both coming and going.
The same was true of Melanie, an 17 yr old girl, and Twyla, a ten year old, children that I recently drove.
I am convinced that from the moment most of this generation gets up till falling asleep at night, virtually all their time is taken up with distractions. How can God get a word in edgewise?
Often Catholic writers, pundits and priests will refer to a vocations crisis, but to me this is almost laughable. We have a leadership crisis. We have a parenting crisis, and have had one for the better part of fifty years.
We need popes, bishops, pastors, priests and parents to stand up against television and other mass media in the Catholic home. We need to create or re-create our own culture of reading aloud to one another in the evening, singing together, playing board games, praying the rosary, and going for walks together. Perhaps in that atmosphere the Holy Spirit could get a hearing.
With the culture of distraction left uncontested, for us to pray for vocations borders on tempting God does it not? like a man praying for financial relief while playing blackjack in the casino. It verges on the ludicrous.
IF our clergy could persuade only 15% of our young families to get the mass media out of their homes, we would have more vocations that we would know what to do with in 15-20 yrs.
But to do that, our clergy would have to set the example, and here the supreme importance of being current with what’s going on in the world of televised sports definitely gets in the way. In making the argument against TV, addiction to televised sports is the “argument” I run into again and again. On the whole mothers agree with me, but fathers no.
The Church is entertaining itself to death. Catholic parents, practically all of us Catholics in the West are deciding in effect that we do not want the sacraments. We emphatically prefer the Culture of Distraction to the Culture of Vocation, all prayers to the contrary notwithstanding.
Along with imitating Lincoln and praying for vocations this also needs to be addressed.
Would someone please tell me, on which planet is $1200.00 per year an afforable tuition?
Mind, I’m not saying this a low price for a Catholic education. Such an education has traditionally been out of reach for most working-class parents, as it was for my parents. Perhaps the Diocese of Omaha has a robust scholarship program for poorer children, I don’t know. Otherwise, they are badly out of touch with the lives which many of their parishioners have to live.
Also, traditional masses with lavish vestments take lots of money. It concerns me that the Omaha diocese, and others who might emulate it, may be come comfortable enclosures for the well-off to thank God for the pleasures in their lives while forgetting about the poor.
Pardon me, I meant to say that $1200.00 is a low price for a Catholic education.
I also meant “Diocese of Lincoln” not “Diocese of Omaha”. I should know better; I’ve been there although it was many years ago. This is what I get for writing in a hurry while preparing dinner and not proofreading.
Well said, Fr. Z! You have confirmed a long-held suspicion of mine: that younger Catholics WANT stability and tradition. My Alma Mater, Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, has had record enrollments in recent years. Why? I suspect that a large chunk of the reason has been that the College decided to fully embrace their Catholic identity and that is paying off. The monastery that co-sponsors the College (St. Benedict’s Abbey) has also become more faithful/orthodox and as a result, they have more vocations than they used to (though the community has shrunk considerably as so many have died in the last 15 years). I am not aware of a EF Mass being celebrated on campus, I can speak from experience that the NO masses celebrated there are done with a great deal of reverence.
On the other hand, it seems to me that the excuses hypocritically used by those of a dissenting bent to bar men to seminary continue to be sincerely used by those of a catholic bent to hurdle men to seminary.
In my anecdotal experience, unless the candidate conforms to a very specific mold and stays within a spectrum of opinions and experiences that fits a 3×5 card, he’s summarily rejected. Many men in this situation, young or not, then found themselves abandoned by the diocese, though for months it courted and wooed them relentlessly. Many of them became known around the diocese, especially among young men, when they were paraded as examples, among whom they may have found friendships who will be privy to the schizophrenic treatment dispensed towards them by the diocese. And such feedback goes around to bite the diocese back.
Again, I’m talking about a mostly catholic, not dissenting, diocese. For, while for a time those dissenters who were engineering the shortage reigned in most dioceses, their legacy of methods and criteria and policies lives on to haunt candidates away, even by their catholic successors. It is not enough that the engineers of dissent go away, their legacy must be eliminated too, even if kept in place by well meaning, but unconscious fellow travelers.
SpesUnica says: I want to go back to the Jesuits, though, if I may. I was chastened in mind recently when I went to look up their vocations pages to see that they seem to have nearly 100 men in formation, taking their various U.S. provinces in total.
Good, provided these young men are being formed up to be real priests and not leftist footsoldiers; but I don’t think this number, taken in isolation, tells us the whole story of how the Jesuits are doing, vocation-wise. I’d want to know how this figure stacks up against the numbers 25 or 50 or 100 years ago.
michele421 says: Also, traditional masses with lavish vestments take lots of money. It concerns me that the Omaha diocese, and others who might emulate it, may be come comfortable enclosures for the well-off to thank God for the pleasures in their lives while forgetting about the poor.
St. Thomas More addresses this issue very decisively in his Dialogue Concerning Heresies, which ought to be required reading for all Catholics. He says that if it were a question of either caring for the poor or providing rich appointments for worship, of course the poor come first; but in fact, God provides enough for both, and we ought to use what He provides for both. He also points out that the same people who complain about the use of gold, say, on a reliquary containing a fragment of the True Cross, have nothing to say about the gold that is quite thrown away on gilding household cups, knives and even roofs, and that, confronted by a poor beggar, they will dig through a big bag of gold in search of coins of lesser worth to give as alms. The bottom line being, we cavil at lavishing wealth on the things of God, but not at squandering it on our own frivolities.
And by the way, some of the most sumptuous parishes I have ever seen are Novus Ordo parishes, where the “worship space” resembles a posh country club more than a church, filled with creature comforts and designed to cater to upper-middle-class sensibilities, and where the worship itself is effete, insipid, decadent and effeminate, calculated not to bring us into contact with supernatural realities but rather to insulate us from them. People worry about the cost of a set of pontifical vestments for the traditional Mass, or a magnificent monstrance, but I have yet to hear anybody ask why the money spent on mahogany trim, state-of-the-art climate control systems, plush carpets or cushy pews in a Novus Ordo parish was not spent instead on the poor.
Imgilbert mentioned that “Bp. Bruskewitz mandated that all priests in the diocese become certified teachers.”
This strikes me as genius.
Pnkn do you know for as fact that the vocations director focuses exclusively on vocations to the priesthood? In my diocese although he’s at the seminary, the vocations director works with both men and women. It might pay to call and chat with him.
Re: vocations, more altar boys materialize in the absence of girls.
SpesUnica, As you have discovered with the Jesuits, some things are not as they seem. Some of the supposedly more faithful and orthodox Orders have very good PR machines. It pays to really look at things that are actually done and taught (sometimes by behavior) in parishes rather than what the Orders themselves tell you that they do or believe. I know this from unfortunate recent experience with one of the Orders you mention.
Put me down as one agreeing that there has been a long and concerted effort to do away with the all male priesthood. Introducing the novelty of altar girls was a thinly veiled attempt at pushing the womyn priest agenda. Everything in the post Vatican II era has been geared at reducing the role of the priest in the liturgy and increasing the inclusion of women instead. This has come at a great price in the form of fewer and fewer priests. In times past, this practice was clearly condemned. Pope Benedict XIV explicitly forbade this in his encyclical Allatae Sunt in 1755:
“Pope Gelasius in his ninth letter (chap. 26) to the bishops of Lucania condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women serving the priest at the celebration of Mass. Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: “Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry.” We too have forbidden this practice in the same words in Our oft-repeated constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 21.”
But Heaven forbid today anyone try to stop a female from exercising her ‘baptismal rights’ and serve at the altar or exercise some sort of ministry related to the Mass. Most bishops don’t want that fight on their hands and unfortunately most agree that women should not be excluded from those roles that once were solely for men in Holy Orders or in minor orders (which Paul VI for some reason suppressed).
At my parish here in the liberal and progressive Los Angeles Archdiocese, we have a very devout young man that has recently entered the seminary. I pray for him daily and that more faithful men heed the Lord’s call to His Priesthood. I also pray for strong bishops that love the timeless teachings and praxis of the Church, especially the TLM. The struggle against progressivism in the Mass is a long uphill battle against well entrenched feminists that have long dominated parish life and are woe to give up their status as a “Eucharistic minister” and “Parish administrator” But we either engage in this fight or we will rue the day that we stood back and watched as the priesthood was whittled down in the name of inclusion and fairness.
Orthodox bishops –
That is probably a huge point. Our Bishop of Allentown has made a point of meeting the young people in the Diocese, then carving out more time to meet with the young men, repeatedly offering them face to face interaction. His homily at my daughter’s recent confirmation was on fire with faithful Catholic teaching and desire for their holiness. The Mass was reverent and beautiful, something our parish always manages to some extent.
He has created Quo Vadis weekends at the nearby DeSales University for the young men to spend the weekend interacting and praying with the seminarians, younger priests and himself. He hosts a St Andrews dinner yearly, where young men are invited by their parish priests to spend the evening with their priests, the seminarians and himself. He goes to the schools, the colleges, the sporting events, the family day at Dorney Park. The young men get to know him, trust him and be inspired by him.
Does the hands on approach also help reduce possible chancery mischief?
Our diocese has 9 new seminarians. Last year, I believe we had 14 total.
There are young people evenings throughout the diocese and vocations to marriage and the women’s religious life are also being encouraged, which seems right to me. Who knows what spiritual support the seminarians receive from the vocations of these women? Who knows what vocations are being brought into being through the commitment of these newly married couples?
Our parish has weekly adoration and a yearly vocations evening.
It all comes down to who the bishop of the diocese is. Bishops historically have been, for the most part, the weakest link in the Church. If you have a weak bishop that does not espouse the aforementioned qualities, you have a weak diocese and few, if any, vocations. What vocations the weak bishop and diocese does have often are “rejects” from other dioceses and religious orders, who need to merely pass the “doorknob test” (if the prospective seminarian can open the door to the vocation director’s office, he passes) to get into the weak diocese. They get ordained, and major problems ensue from there.
“Orthodox Bishops” How long, dear Lord?
We have some excellent bishops, strong men and true. And then the others. Too much emphasis, I fear, is placed on growing the diocese and the collections.
What value, if those brought in through the parishes have affirmed their belief in a faith not found in the CCC? What value, if RCIA is presenting Joan Chittister and Richard Rohr?
But who am I to judge?
Decades of failed catechesis, and all around us, people are making crucial decisions based on unformed and ill-formed consciences.
I pray for good bishops, but I pray still more for the good priests to remain strong, even when their bishop is weak.
There’s a misunderstanding of the permanent diaconate as a vocation separate and different from the vocation to the priesthood described in the article. That’s unfortunate, particularly since deacons’ sons becoming priests is not uncommon. From what I’ve seen, it’s also true that faithful bishops attract faithful men to the diaconate (the perm. deacons at my parish gladly serve at the EF, too.)
I’d like to see an article about Lincoln that presents positively what the women in the diocese are involved with. The presentation here emphasizes liturgical exclusion as an effective policy (which I’m not disputing), but what are they doing? Given how many new priests cite the support of their mothers for their vocation, it would be smart to look into where the women of the dioc. are very active and what groups or devotions foster their commitment. Without that, we’re missing a lot of the story of Lincoln’s success.
A lot of the things mentioned above can work on the parish level as long as there is not interference by the bishop. My Dominican parish celebrates the mass (OF) reverently according to the rubrics with excellent music; only boys serve at the altar; confessions are available 7 days a week; we have adoration every Friday after the midday mass and overnight twice a month; our CCD program is huge because couples are open to life and large families are the norm. I could go on.
And guess what? We have vocations! In recent years four sons of our parish have been ordained (two Dominican, one Jesuit and one diocesan) and we have at least seven currently in formation (four Dominican and three diocesan).
I have never ever met a seminarian who had been the beneficiary of too many prayers… likewise young men discerning whether or where to attempt entrance.
I can’t change a diocese’s or seminary’s policies with regard to vocations, but I can pray, and I do, though I should pray more.
“I am convinced that from the moment most of this generation gets up till falling asleep at night, virtually all their time is taken up with distractions. How can God get a word in edgewise?”
One of the chapters of Cardinal Sarah’s book God or Nothing begins with a quote from Georges Bernanos (from a collection of essays, “Tradition of Freedom”) asserting a position which struck me as extreme and yet virtually undeniable:
“You understand absolutely nothing about modern civilization until you first admit that it is a universal conspiracy against all interior life.”
I want to echo the point about reading the lives of the saints. This is hardly a new path to vocations – consider Ignatius & others who were inspired by this route – and is anecdotally cited as a source of contemporary vocations. Promoting good lives of the saints for children, parochial schools, etc., could pay big dividends down the road either in priestly vocations or general holiness. Lives that are poorly written or take a naturalistic approach, dividing each saint’s life by affirming biographical basics while dismissing supernatural elements, I suspect would not be so helpful.
Very gratified to see both my adoptive home diocese (Sioux Falls, SD) and my current domicile (Archdiocese of Milwaukee) making these CARA lists! My wife and I have four boys (expecting a fifth child in Sept., sex unknown) and doing our best to foster their interest in the priesthood and religious life.
I’ve often thought that there was one modern innovation in the Church I could
get behind– performance review for bishops. Perhaps our leadership could be
a bit more committed to finding and ordaining vocations if there was an …incentive.
The scenario I imagine is that a certain minimum number of ordinations per
capita is decided upon, and if the diocese does not meet that minimum goal,
then the Ordinary loses his voting rights at the USCCB, and becomes ineligible to
head a committee, etc. until he gets his diocese back on track. After all, if a
bishop cannot lead and implement effective policies in his own diocese, why
should he have a say in the bishops’ policy-making nationwide?
Father Z, thank you and California Catholic for sticking to the subject matter of the CARA report and omitting some of the more extraneous content present in the prior source article that California Catholic mentioned. My initial exposure to the material was through that prior source and it was disturbing. The scorn, brickbats, etc… that were all too present undermined most of any positive impression. I really had to put it to the side and leave it for a day or two – I haven’t yet had the time needed to get past the agitation and compose anything resembling constructive commentary on that site.
As to the actual content…
I wish the article had fleshed out the Lincoln diocesan view of (permanent) deacons more, with all the talking it did do about priests and acolytes.
I’d also like to see if the CARA studies correlate what we’ve seen here in Boston. When we got some demographic data a few years ago, it seemed clear to me that the crux was having observant catholics. “Trad” or “V2” or any of the labels to the approach to observance were secondary. Some groups might be more likely than others to be observant, but the point was being observant – weekly Mass attendance.
The ratio of ordinations to weekly mass attendees in the diocese has remained very consistent for decades – whether in the glory years of 40+ ordinations/year or far leaner years.
Maybe we can get Bishop Bruskewitz to come to Chicago. That would be a good thing.
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here in poland there are few, if any, women, anywhere near the altar. there are no female altar servers and most of the time the male acolytes or altar servers read and/or provide assistance to the priest. the eucharist is only distributed by ordained priests. poland continues to be one of the largest exporters of priests around the world. there are no coincidences. only results.
i apologize. i meant to add…i have no working shift key, so no capital letters.
Even if it means the death of the Church (which we know will not happen), some people will never accept where the vocations are, because they belong to the to “Sing a New Church” into being generation.