“The Continuing Vocation Crisis in the United States”

Recently, I posted

I just read a piece by Fr. Mark Pilon at The Catholic Thing about the vocations crisis.  He compares the small numbers of ordinations in large dioceses in metro areas such as New York City and Los Angeles, with the relatively large numbers in small dioceses such as Wichita.  He tries to get a handle on what the differences are.

Inter alia, he wrote (my emphases and comments):

At the same time, it’s highly questionable just how truly committed to Catholic education most of the schools are in large archdioceses and even in smaller dioceses. How many of these local churches effectively oversee the hiring of faculty to assure that the Catholic educators are themselves practicing and faithful Catholics? Students being educated in a school where there is a pro forma, watered-down religion curriculum, and who are also well aware that some or many of their other teachers either disagree with Church teaching or don’t practice their faith at all, are surely less likely to be the kind of committed Catholics from whom vocations will emerge. So, the study might just look at how many dioceses are insisting that to teach in a Catholic school, the faculty member must be a faithful Catholic who actually practices the faith. [And what to say about their families?]

Another datum from these two small dioceses is that they have had a succession of bishops who themselves were firmly committed to building a strong and affordable Catholic education system and who were personally involved to one degree or another in the vocation program itself. Of course, that involvement is easier in smaller dioceses, [I’m not so sure that’s true.  Priorities must be set.] but given the small number of candidates today in large archdioceses, certainly some involvement will be more possible today than in previous times. The first bishop of my own diocese, Thomas Welsh, was very much involved in strengthening the religious curriculum of the schools he inherited, and he was very directly involved in the vocations program. He had been the rector of the major seminary in Philadelphia and understood well the needs of young men studying for the priesthood – including some regular personal contact and support from their bishop. That’s one reason why the Arlington Diocese does not have a priest shortage.

Read the rest there.

The crisis of priestly vocations is largely artificial.   It has, in some cases, been manufactured.

Tradition is the counter-measure to the crisis.  It works where it is tried.

Also, we need to pray explicitly for vocations and keep the sound of that prayer ringing constantly in the ears of parents and their sons.  Again, I propose that every parish adopt the following prayer, to be prayed while kneeling by the entire congregation at every Sunday Mass immediately after the Gospel.

Use it exactly as it is.  Do not change a word, except to substitute “diocese” for “archdiocese”.

LEADER: Please kneel for our prayer for vocations.  Let us ask God to give worthy priests, brothers and sisters to His Holy Church.

ALL: O God, we earnestly beseech Thee to bless this (arch)diocese with many priests, brothers and sisters, who will gladly spend their entire lives to serve Thy Church and to make Thee known and loved.

LEADER: Bless our families. Bless our children.

ALL: Choose from our homes those who are needed for Thy work.

LEADER: Mary, Queen of the Clergy!

ALL: Pray for us. Pray for our priests and religious. Obtain for us many more.

It works.

A friend back home – whom I miss rather a lot – sent me one of the original holy cards, which I prize.


I also recommend that you get copies of this as gifts for your priests and for seminarians.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Pingback: TVESDAY CATHOLICA EXTRA – Big Pulpit

  2. Mike says:

    Thank you for the book recommendation, Father; that will fill the stocking of a seminarian friend who I’m sure will welcome the message.

    The dearth of vocations in large dioceses cannot but embarrass their Ordinaries, whose flocks are entitled to hold them and their predecessors accountable for not having provided the formation and catechesis that ought to be their primary and overwhelming focus (as opposed to hoisting virtue signals). As the numbers of traditional vocations begin to exceed those being produced by the dioceses, it seems very likely that the FSSP and ICRSS will experience open pushback from liberal prelates.

    Faithful orders and dioceses need all the time, talent, and treasure we can muster—and faithful priests, seminarians, and Religious need our prayers and support now, and in the foreseeable future, more than ever.

  3. majuscule says:

    Case in point about what happens when the bishop wishes to hire teachers for diocesan schools who are faithful practicing Catholics…or at least not anti-Catholic. There was the kerfluffle a few years ago when San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone received pushback from noisy faculty and students of schools in the diocese because he wanted his educators to be in line with Catholic teaching. This incensed a group of “Prominent Catholics” who took out a full page ad in the paper publishing a request that the Holy Father remove the archbishop.

    At least he is still there. Meanwhile His Excellency is improving things at the local seminary, which is now directly under his control.

  4. Jim R says:

    “Tradition is the counter-measure to the crisis. It works where it is tried.”

    A quibble: it is not “Tradition” that works, per se . What works is faith in what the Church holds and teaches. Simply put, people will not enter into religious life simply to be a social worker. There is nothing wrong with social work – indeed much of it is very good and necessary, – BUT to enter into a religious life requires a firm faith in Christ and His Church in order to sustain the individual in that life. Traditional worship and forms of expression have the time honored track record of promoting and reaffirming faith grounded in the Church. Tradition therefore works because it promotes the faith and supports the Church.

    Is it possible for non-traditional forms to generate vocations? I think the answer to that is, “Yes, theoretically.” Unfortunately, as we have seen, trying new and innovative forms has failed dismally. Such failure is not terribly surprising.

    Traditional forms have stood the test of time – what didn’t work historically has long ago been jettisoned. Now, by getting rid of traditional forms, the new forms introduce all manner of issues that have led to the diminution of faith, disconnection with the past and the disparagement of the Church. Why is anyone surprised that vocation has collapsed – both in the calling of new religious as well as the loss of vocation in so many others who once heard the call.

  5. frthomashoisington says:

    The Diocese of Wichita continues to grow in its Catholic identity: the rector of the Cathedral parish recently announced that Masses during Advent would be celebrated ad orientem.

  6. La Serenissima says:

    As an English couple now living in Italy, and having helped with First Holy Communion preparation in both the UK and here, may we respectfully suggest that parents, being the first and most important educators of their children, should set a good example … by attending Sunday Mass every week, for a start. Without such good example and encouragement, we’ve found, time and time again, that after making their First Holy Communion, you don’t see the children again … until, perhaps they want to be Confirmed, after which, sadly, they disappear off the radar.

  7. pbnelson says:

    At St. Agnes in St. Paul we pray exactly that, except for a small change: “… to bless this archdiocese with many priests, deacons, brothers and sisters…”

    Your version of the prayer leaves out the DEACONS, Father. Are we doing it wrong at St. Agnes?

    [Take a look at what I wrote in the post, above, including a close look at the image of the prayer card.]

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