The editorial for the Fall River Diocese laments that this year, there will be no ordination issue. No issue of hope oriented towards the future. For the first time in their fifty some year history, there is no ordination to celebrate. It is a sad state, but something which (I think) has not happened here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
To combat the decline, the editor suggests a new campaign: One every Eight. He suggests that at least once every eight years, son of each parish should enter the seminary for diocescan priesthood. He notes that with normal attrition rates, that would mean each parish would celebrate the ordination of one of her sons as a priest for the local church on average of every twelve years.
Wouldn't that be GREAT! What a sign to the world that the faith is something meaningful, purposeful and life giving.
Working the numbers in Cincinnati, we have roughly 200 parishes (it makes my Liberal Arts math much easier to do with a round number!) If a man from each parish enters once every eight years, that would mean 25 new applicants each year for the seminary. (We are looking about between 6 and ten right now for next fall.) With normal attrition rates, that would put us at somewhere around 150 seminarians for the Archdiocese each year. (We currently have 32.)
Is this doable? I certainly think so.
The parish where I was assigned before starting as Vocation Director has a school of around 800 children, again with easy math = 400 boys. Is it that hard to think that one or two of those boys currently enrolled there has a vocation to the priesthood? I think it is more than likely that at least 20 boys have potential vocations!
I think this is easily doable. In the last 12 years, my home parish of roughly 500 families has had two enter seminary, one ordained, and another preparing for entrance in another year. (Before my ordination in 2004, the last son ordained from the parish was in 1994, so that is right at the average we need.)
What is the secret? There is no secret. We had a pastor when I was growing up who was (and is) a great and holy man. He was not the greatest of homilists, but we all knew that he was present to the parish as a father to us all. I count it an honor that people compare me to him. In his wake, there has been a pretty good stream of priests coming through the parish who represent Christ to the parish.
It can be done, there is no vocation crisis, it is a crisis in response. Challenge the young men of your parish to respond, because they want and need the challenge.
(Thanks to John for sending me the ariticle, which I couldn't find online.)