CATASTROPHIC: Pray for vocations to the priesthood

910526FrzOrdinationI’ve been writing with friends about vocation numbers.

From one of my interlocutors today:

Catastrophic (HERE):

“The past few weeks have again seen a number of ordinations of new deacons and priests in the dioceses of northwestern Europe. 24 of them, in 13 (arch)dioceses, to be exact. In total, the area in question (the countries of Germany, the Netherlands, the Flemish part of Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland) is covered by 46 dioceses or similar circumscriptions, which means that 33 of them had no deacons (permanent or transitional) or priests to ordain on or around Vocations Sunday. Of the newly ordained, 6 are permanent deacons, 14 are transitional deacons and 4 are priests.”

And in the Eternal City:

The Holy Father ordained as priests four men from Rome’s Major Seminary: three born in Rome, and one from Bologna, ages 26 to 29. Two from the Neo-Catechumenal Way: a 28-year old Italian and a 38-year-old from Mexico. The other four were: a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy (Italian, age 38); a member of the Family of Disciples (Peruvian, age 34); a man for the apostolic prefecture of Azerbaijan (apparently a native of that country, age 35); and a 28-year-old Italian for the diocese of Nocera.


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  1. arga says:

    Comparisons with recent years would be helpful. Is the trend in those places downward? Stagnant? Either way you are right: it’s a catastrophe.

  2. boredoftheworld says:

    Europe? It’s imams they need isn’t it?

    Sorry, it is a catastrophe and I shouldn’t be joking about it.

  3. Nathan says:

    If this is correct, then there are no priestly ordinations this year in the Netherlands, 1 in Belgium, and 3 in all of Germany. In a sane world, wouldn’t that trigger apostolic visitations and censure (if not interdict) for those countries? Why are the German bishops seeming to pull such influence in Synods and in the Vatican when it is abundantly clear that their model is failing?

    Even if the German hierarchy is just in it for the Kirchensteuer, as has been articulated in some quarters, isn’t it completely self defeating in that regard to have fostered no priestly vocations? I don’t think the Germans will be willing to pay the tax or identify as Catholic for the tax purposes if there are no priests at all to baptize, marry, and bury people.

    What I have observed is that, when I’ve traveled there in the past few years, it takes some legwork to find a Sunday Mass, even in some fairly large towns, as each parish seems to have at most one or two Masses, if at all, all with different times so that the same few priests can offer Mass in the different parishes.

    In Christ,

  4. Absit invidia says:

    What excuses is Card Kasper going to make? His brand of neo pagan c-atholicism that he has been peddling in Germany is what brought this. He can’t even try to distance himself from this catastrophe.

  5. Gus Barbarigo says:

    Maybe this situation is the annihilation of nations about which Our Lady of Fatima warned us; we are seeing a spiritual, doctrinal, and clerical annihilation of certain countries. The Mohammedan “refugees” will see to the physical annihilation of Church physical property in due course, and martyr any of the remaining faithful who will complain about that.

  6. paladin says:

    This seems to be of a piece with the embrace of the Zeitgeist by dissidents within the Church, the un-beautification of Churches and liturgies, the blurring of the distinction between clergy and laity , and so on. It’s hardly a coincidence that the solid, orthodox religious orders are bursting at the seams with waiting lists of applicants, or that those same (solid) orders expressly dress the part (e.g. full habit and veil/scapular, or cassock, or other traditional, counter-cultural dress which clearly speaks their identity to the eye).

    If a young Catholic lady, for example, is shown the example of a polyester pant-suit-clad religious sister (who wears no symbol of her position which would distinguish her from anyone else wearing, say, a cross as jewelry) whose main goal in life seems to be the same sort of social activism (often regardless of the teaching of the Church and Her priorities) that her college peers also support, then why on earth would she voluntarily give up all future hopes for marriage/family/romance, and agree to live in community with other personalities with whom she’s inevitably going to come into conflict (it takes supernatural obedience and grace to live well in a religious community), when she could do the very same work WITHOUT taking on all those (seemingly pointless, in her eyes) sacrifices?

    Why would a young Catholic man, seeing the example of a (forgive the stereotype) Birkenstock-clad, hippie-esque priest (though you can easily substitute a “Call me Bob” type of parish priest whose ambitions involve desperate attempts to win approval from the populace) whose only approach to the liturgy is to mangle it for the sake of following sentimental moods-of-the-moment, whose aspirations apparently consist of crusading for platitude-laden versions of agenda items approved by the DNC, and whose actions and words try to eradicate all differences between clergy and laity… then WHY would the young man take on celibacy, and special obedience to a bishop (with transfers always pending, every [x] years), and the headaches of parish administration, if he can be a “social crusader” on his own time (and actually date and marry a woman, to boot) without any of those (apparently useless) sacrifices? The liberal Church is promoting its own obsolescence!

    You’d think someone in that camp would notice…

  7. Grabski says:

    Nathan. Sadly it seems driven not only by the church tax but by divorced and others to de-enroll and reduce the same

    Can’t derail the gravy train, seems like


  8. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    All snark aside, some of these Bishops still honestly continue to use the phrases “New Pentecost” and “New Springtime” to describe what has happened to Catholic Europe in the last 60 years.

    Why can’t we all just return to sanity, accept what policies failed, drop the ideologies, and get back to rebuilding the Kingdom?

  9. That Guy says:

    So if I were a Bishop, faced with the decision of what parish to close down next, here’s what I’d tell my sheep: “Folks, here’s the deal. We have 100 parishes in the diocese, and only 50 Priests. No longer will any of these priests be travelling on Sundays to cover Masses and multiple parishes. You find a parish with a priest and go there. When the time comes to decide which parish to shut down next, the question I’ll ask each pastor is “how many vocations have you had in the last 10 years?” I’ll award 3 points for priestly vocations, 2 points for nuns/brothers, 1 for permanent deacons. Lowest point parishes, pack it in. A church that produces no vocations is doing it wrong, and needs to be shut down. “

  10. G-Veg says:

    Just 2 in Philadelphia… 2! We have so few seminarians that the Seminary is being sold and a new location, on a “Catholic” college campus is being finalized.

    Who knows, maybe that will help. I know there are really good folks in our hierarchy and I love our Archbishop. I know they are fighting for us here but I wonder if the broader church really understands how damaging it is to discourage our sons from becoming priests? It isn’t a passive disincentive to actively push our sons into any field but the ministry but it sure feels that way and I note that our elementary schools and high schools are pretty passive about this legitimate choice to consider.

    Do the pew-sitters like me really GET the seriousness of this all?

  11. mburn16 says:

    “14 are transitional deacons and 4 are priests”

    Is the timeline for transitional deacons highly predictable? That is, are the Priests from this year all (and all of) the transitional deacons from two years ago…and would we expect all 14 of those transitional deacons to become Priests at the same time in a couple of years?

    If so, perhaps it slightly blunts the crisis. Going from 4 to 14 is definitely a major step in the right direction.

  12. mysticalrose says:

    I do pray for vocations daily and I hope my sons will be priests. But I think the problem is not necessarily that there are no vocations, but that those who are called are unable to see their vocation to completion . . . how many young men have had vocations and yet were turned away by liberals or turned off by effeminacy? I attempted religious life myself, and what I witnessed in my order was scandalous and diabolical. I certainly wouldn’t want to send my sons into that kind of an environment. I know a lot of people who comment here belong to TLM parishes and have some association with the related seminaries. But for those of us in regular NO parishes without that traditional connection things can be really tough.

  13. lmgilbert says:

    At the entrance to our churches and in our bulletins, do we not frequently encounter invitations to “come and see” weekends for those who are thinking about the priesthood or religious life, who have some level of interest? Yet, it is amazing—stupefying, really—that while so many dioceses and orders have “come and see” weekends for interested young men and women, almost never is there a full-on campaign from the pulpit, much less a diocesan campaign to get them interested. Yet of all vocations, surely the priesthood is full of the most interesting possibilities— to say nothing of its absolute necessity for our life of grace.

    For me this was well illustrated lately in a life of St. Augustine by Possidius that my wife and I are reading in the evening. In it Possidius quotes an acerbic response of St. Augustine to an inquiry from another bishop. The Vandals have invaded from Spain and are wreaking havoc throughout North Africa. The question is whether they, the bishops and priests, may flee, given Our Lord’s saying, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.” Saint Augustine’s partial response: “When the people remain and the ministers flee, taking away the ministry, what else will this be but a damnable flight of hirelings who have no care for the sheep? Indeed, the wolf will come, not a man, but the Devil, who has frequently persuaded the people to become apostates when they were deprived of the daily ministry of the Lord’s body. Therefore, your weak brother for whom Christ died shall perish, not through your knowledge, but through your ignorance.”

    Now, from the vocations promotions standpoint, besides the argument, “We really need priests,” the other is that in the priesthood one is in contact with families in their most intimate and cherished moments, at baptisms and marriages, but also at funerals, etc. In other words, there are a lot of consolations in living the life of a priest. In other words, you may be celibate, but nevertheless you will not lack a family life. In any case, all the arguments that I see advanced by vocation directors are essentially this-wordly. immanent. It seems that the brunt of Augustine’s argument is almost never advanced, namely that without the priesthood there is no eternal life. If a man is looking for a “career,” a way of life in which his life will make an impact, what greater impact could a man have than effecting ( albeit ministerially, but really nevertheless) the salvation of his fellow man? What could be more glorious than to be intimately associated with Jesus Christ in a work of such moment? Yet, it is a very long time since I have heard this trumpeted from the pulpit.

    If priests and vocation directors anywhere are a saying anything of the kind, I have not heard it. But why? I think it may be a species of false humility in which they would seem to be ( and are afraid to seem to be) implying the following syllogism: “The priesthood is the greatest vocation available to a human being; I am a priest; therefore I am among the great.” Yet, we had an old monsignor at St. Petronille’s in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Monsignor Eugene Luke who amused my parents and others greatly by saying from the pulpit more than once, “I am the greatest man in Glen Ellyn” (population 22,000). In my mind now there is no doubt about it. So he was. And perhaps it was his very exalted notion of the priesthood that was the catalyst for fourteen vocations to the priesthood in the course of his long pastorate there, roughly 1945 to 1973.

    Shortly now, in 2017, there will be many ordinations to the priesthood—nowhere near enough, but a cause for rejoicing nonetheless. Which of these ordinands, priests now of Jesus Christ, is not qualified to say with the psalmist, “You have given me your saving shield; your right hand has upheld me; and you have stooped to make me great”? And if we Catholics can rejoice in being, “ a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” ( 1 Peter 2:9) to whom is that due but our priests? Of all possible careers, of all possible vocations, of all possilble life paths, surely the priesthood of Jesus Christ is by far the greatest. Yet, have we not failed to celebrate this sufficiently, both from the chancery, the pulpit and at the dinner table?

  14. thomistking says:

    I can’t help but wonder if part of the problem is that many of these European bishops intentionally reject qualified men, as a way of trying to force the ordination of women (or at least married men). . . . That they would possibly be willing to sacrifice souls for a political agenda is chilling.

  15. Phil_NL says:

    OK, I must say this data is perhaps correct in terms that the situation is dire, but it’s definitely not correct as far as the numbers go.

    Next month a former member of our parish will be ordained as a priest, in the Netherlands (diocese of Rotterdam). His name is not on the list in the article that’s cited. Maybe because his ordination is a few weeks later, but maybe the compiler missed more.

  16. Catholic Hokie says:

    If my counting is correct, in the Diocese of Wichita, there will be 10 ordained to the priesthood next month, as well as ten ordained to the transitional diaconate. For a fairly small diocese, those are big numbers. While the overall situation, as Father Z states, is dire, I think it’s important to remember that there are some pockets where vocations are booming.

  17. Incaelo says:

    The compiler here.

    I have added the following to my blog post, as some have drawn conclusions from it which I did not intend and which are not supported by what I wrote.

    “This post has drawn a lot of attention, which is fine. But it is perhaps good to remember that, while I do mention that a fair number of dioceses have had no ordinations in recent weeks, this does by no means mean that they will have none this year at all. Although the weeks around Vocations Sunday traditionally feature many ordinations, especially to the diaconate, there is no rule that these can’t take place at other moments in the year. The list I present here is therefore no complete list, and dioceses may announce ordinations to take place in the coming weeks and months.

    With this blog post, I wanted to offer some reflection of the new priests and deacons being ordained, and although the priest shortage is real and a matter of concern, that is not what my blog post is about.

    Also, the 14 transitional deacons in my list will be ordained to the priesthood later this year, joining the four priests already ordained, and those who will be ordained at other moments this year.”

  18. PostCatholic says:

    On the other hand, one is hard-pressed to find a Catholic in Norway, e.g. I would guess that the population of ordinands is a commensurate subset of the Catholic devout in many of the nations listed above. Are you sure there’s a catastrophe of new clergy as opposed to a catastrophe of adherence in general?

  19. Tom A. says:

    Praying for vocations is one thing. Actually producing vocations is another. I don’t hear SSPXers lamenting their priest shortage. Why? Well for starters, they dont have one. They know what draws young men to the priesthood and its not effeminate liturgy. This priest shortage crisis is man made and the only prayers that may help vocations is the total repudiation of Vatican 2.

  20. frmh says:

    This summer, the Archdiocese of Southwark, England, which covers the whole of south London and Kent, (inhabited by 4.5 million souls, and of that, approximately 500,000 Catholics) has 1 ordination to the sacred priesthood.

    And this year, no one has applied to the seminary for Southwark.

    There are more apostate Catholics in our diocese going on jihad in Syria than there are applying for the sacred priesthood.

  21. Verygrateful1 says:

    2 points:

    1) I live in an archdiocese run by a young arch-heretic cardinal. Why would a serious Catholic parent encourage their child to be trained and persecuted by this evil man. [First, we must be careful about judging hearts. Second, parents must encourage children to do God’s will, whatever the circumstances.]

    2) Someone elsewhere claimed that the traditional orders are not attracting many vocations because the parents teach their sons to despise the organizational church. What is the truth on this? [I haven’t heard of that.]

  22. Mike says:

    Like the SSPX, the FSSP and ICRSS seem to be doing all right for vocations. Does taking seriously the Faith and the relationship of man to his Creator matter, d’you suppose?

  23. rdb says:

    Vocations are like fruit. One does not grow apples or oranges. One grows apple and orange trees. If you plant a tree in the proper soil, give it the necessary water, nutrients and sunlight, you don’t need to ask the tree, “Have you ever thought about producing apples?”. There is agri-culture and vocation-culture. We are going on 50 years of clear and convincing evidence of where Priestly vocations grow. Places of prayer, adoration and most importantly, the offering of the Sacred Liturgy with reverence, devotion and the joyful seriousness it deserves. May I also add a “secret ingredient”? Male only servers.

  24. aliceinstpaul says:

    The Lord said the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church, but he didn’t say they wouldn’t prevail against the See in Rome. [We should be a little careful with a statement about the “see of Rome”. While the Diocese of Rome is subject to the problems that any other place is, Peter is the Rock.]

    Maybe we should change out viewpoint. Maybe we should pray for priests not to staff parishes on Europe, but pray that we be granted priests who will lead crusades back to Europe to fight for the new Holy Land the way that we once had Catholics fighting for the first Holy Land.

    The Lord allowed the Holocaust. I’m sure it was (is?) unfathomable to us finite humans how the Lord who said Abraham’s offspring will number the Stars in the sky or grains of sand could allow that, especially when we found out how many Jews died. But now the nation of Israel exists, and the heroes who began Israel were tempered like steel by those trials.

    What comes in Europe may be unequally unfathomable. We need to pray for courage and wisdom. We need to bring up our children to survive and rebuild –wherever– after what comes.

  25. Dirk1973 says:

    I live in Flanders, the Flemish part of Belgium and the catholic Church is destroyed. It’s the result of 50 years of modernist leadership. They want a Church of laymen (especially women) and if you have even the slightiest bit of traditional reflex you are denied as a seminarist. They do everything to please the mass media but whatever they try the media keeps attacking them and the Church. Everything is possible except tradition, if you say the words Latin Mass they turn red and smoke comes out of their ears. So we used to have one of the most catholic regions in Europe with our many wonderful cathedrals and churches and now they are all empty ….

  26. hicks says:

    This is deliberate. They don’t want more vocations to the priesthood. They want to destroy the priesthood as we know it, just like they want to destroy marriage. The world is in flames, and our Church’s shepherds are helping to hand out the torches. [Not all of them!]

  27. Tom A. says:

    I have to agree with Hicks here. We the faithful see our shepards “handing out the torches” and Father you are right that not all of them are. But what we the faithful dont see are any shepards stopping their fellow shepards from “handing out the torches.”

  28. kbf says:

    @G-Veg “Do the pew-sitters like me really GET the seriousness of this all?”

    I’d suggest not because for years Sr Polyester-Pants and Fr Indifferent have been banging on that we are all “the Easter people” and diluting the mass to a merry-go-round. In my home parish I have never once heard the PP talk about vocations, and his whole “I’d just doing the bare minimum and tipping up to read the words while the Catechists and Sr make it up as they go along and looking as perplexed at the nonsense as you are” attitude says more than his words ever can about his own attitude towards the priesthood. That sounds harsh, but his get up and go got up and went years ago and it’s a parish whose shepherd is in charge but not in control. At my daughter’s confirmation last year the Bishop complained to me when I suggested it was about time for Fr to retire gracefully that he didn’t have any priests – I drew his attention to the circular logic, but it wasn’t what he wanted to hear. instead he has appointed a few nuns to run parishes while the priests are busy telling everyone that “Sister is just like a Parish Priest”.

    3 miles away you go into a different archdiocese and the village chapel that serves the parishes around the periphery of a medium sized town was never re-ordered and has been saying the EF since the close of Vatican 2. I’m lucky in that regard, EF and good OF to go to, and the main town parish down the road from it is solid. ArchBp Longley is a good man.

    BTW Fr, seeing that photo, I just wondered, do you wear red buttons on your cassock?

  29. hicks says:

    “Not all of them!” is absolutely right, Father. Archbishop Sample is my shepherd, and you’d better believe if he told us he was planning on storming hell with water pistols we’d be right behind him. What the Church could do with just twenty more like him. These dark times make our good bishops and priests shine all the brighter. God bless you and your brother priests who are daily slugging it out.

  30. Sonshine135 says:

    “But Father….What about the Francis effect? Why do you hate Vatican II?”

  31. Spade says:

    “The past few weeks have again seen a number of ordinations of new deacons and priests in the dioceses of northwestern Europe. 24 of them, in 13 (arch)dioceses, to be exact…Of the newly ordained, 6 are permanent deacons, 14 are transitional deacons and 4 are priests.”

    Welp, by their fruits you shall know them.

    And if the tree is rotten, do you really want more fruit from it anyway?

  32. Chuck says:

    I am in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and our Pastor noted that we had only 2 men ordained to the priesthood on Saturday. He also noted that it has not been this low since the 1800s. My shepherd Abp Chaput is a good man and I am proud to be in his flock…but now my prayers for him will include looking toward Lincoln.

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