I contend that the shortage of vocations is a self-inflicted wound.
Yesterday, here in the Diocese of Madison, the Extraordinary Ordinary and the seminarians concluded a week of praying together, talks, activities, hanging out with each other and priests. Among other things, we distributed a terrific book which you readers bought for them and the new guys were measured for birettas. If there is one thing that these guys understand: the bishop and vocations director have their backs. The bishop and director know that seminarians will play it straight with them. The whole diocese knows how much care the bishop puts into vocations. They are conspicuous. Result: young men answer invitations to consider the priesthood.
Marco Tosatti, in First Things, opines about a sharp downturn in vocations to the priesthood. My emphases and comments:
RETURN OF THE VOCATIONS CRISIS
by Marco Tosatti
The recovery in priestly vocations seems to be over. Between 1978 and 2012, after the great crisis of the 1970s following Vatican II, seminaries around the world enjoyed a season of growth. The growth was not constant, nor was it uniform across countries and continents. But the trend was clear. Numbers revealed recently by the Central Office of Statistics of the Holy See show that in the past five years, the vocations crisis has returned.
The greatest gains came under John Paul II. In 1978, the year Karol Wojtyla was elected pope, vocations worldwide totaled 63,882. In 2005, the year he died, they totaled 114,439. The numbers continued to rise during the reign of Benedict XVI: Vocations reached their modern peak in 2011, with 120,616—an increase of 6,177 since the papal transition year. After 2011, they drifted downward: to 120,051 in 2012, and 118,251 in 2013, the year of Benedict’s resignation. Thus, vocations in 2013 were down 2,365 from their height under Benedict, and up 3,812 from their height under John Paul.
In March 2013, Pope Francis emerged from the conclave as the new ruler of the Church. [NB] Data suggest that his pontificate has not accelerated the decline in vocations from their height in 2011, but has not reversed or arrested it, either. In 2015 there were 116,843 seminarians—a drop of 1,408 from 2013. If this rate of decline continues, then in a year or two vocations will be roughly where they were when John Paul died. Yet we will actually be in worse shape than we were then. As Catholics grow more numerous worldwide, the Catholics-per-priest ratio worsens. For instance, there were 2,900 Catholics per priest worldwide in 2010, and 3,091 in 2015. [Another thing: consider the number of priests who will die or retire. In most places, ordinations do not match attrition. I know one diocese where, in a couple years, some 50% of the priests will be out of active ministry.]
The vocations downturn is particularly evident in the West, especially in European countries where secularization and religious liberalism are strongest: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland. In countries such as Poland and continents such as Africa, where Catholicism remains more traditional, the situation is different. Vocations hold steady, and sometimes flourish. [There it is.]
A few examples will serve to illustrate. In the diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, a liberal atmosphere prevailed until 2003—a year that had six seminarians. Robert Morlino became bishop that year, and his efforts brought the number of seminarians to 36 in 2015. Following the advice of Robert Cardinal Sarah, Bishop Morlino recently suggested that the faithful should receive the Eucharist on the tongue and while kneeling. A similar situation may be found in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. Bishop James D. Conley has explained to the Catholic World Report that, in his opinion, the growth of vocations in his diocese had its root in fidelity to the traditional teachings of the Church.
In western Europe, the landscape is totally different. In Germany, vocations have become practically nonexistent. In 2016, there was just one new seminarian in Munich, the historic capital city of German Catholicism. In Belgium, the situation is perhaps still worse. In 2016, there was not a single new Francophone seminarian in the country. The heroic André-Joseph Léonard, archbishop of Brussels from 2010 to 2015, had given life to a new association, the Fraternity of the Holy Apostles. In a period of three years, the Fraternity had assembled twenty-one seminarians and six priests. The current archbishop of Brussels, Jozef De Kesel, was appointed a cardinal immediately upon his installation—an honor denied to Léonard. De Kesel quickly dissolved the Fraternity. The official reason was formal and flimsy; the real one was substantial. The Fraternity was not liberal enough; it respected tradition. [There it is.]
Brussels is not an isolated case. […] [Hardly.]
He goes on to write about the Franciscans Friars of the Immaculate and the Heralds of the Gospel who are being persecuted because the are traditional.
Where I am, we pray for vocations. Every Sunday, after the Gospel, we pray as we did at my home parish. HERE The prayer includes the line:
“Bless our families, bless our children. Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.”