Thursday, January 31, 2008

Catholic Schools and Vocations

This week, as many know, is Catholic Schools week, a celebration of Catholic education marked by doing all kinds of things that interfer with educating! (As I used to joke when teaching.)

To me, one of the goals of Catholic education is to instill in our students that desire to serve God as a priest or religious. And for sure, the Franciscans continue to pick off guys from Roger Bacon, as the Jesuits do from St. X.

To that end, Catholic schools should help students to be able to answer the question: 'What is God calling me to do?' instead of the more narcissitic 'What do I want to do?'

Looking over our current list of seminarians (29), I see what I count as 6 men whom I know have graduated from Catholic High Schools. 20% of our current roster. This from the 6th largest system of Catholic Schools in the country.

I raise this not as a complaint, but as a challenge.

For example, Elder High School in Cincinnati is the school that has the greatest history of alums going to the diocesan priesthood here. It is easy to see why: alums from the 60's tell me that there were TWO LAY TEACHERS! The rest were PRIESTS! The very building was soaked in a Catholic clerical culture (in a healthy way, not a clericallism.) As such, there would be ten to twenty men each year that would enroll in the seminary. Most of these were not ordained, but they sought the possibility, asked the question and responded to the invitation!

Now, there is one Elder grad currently in formation. Is that a coincidence that there is now only one priest on campus, and he is only parttime? There are certainly more contributing factors, but this certainly weighs large in the result, I think.

But Elder is not alone in this, the four boys high schools and rough estimates of enrollment, with current number of alums in formation with the diocese:

St. X: 1,513 boys; zero with the diocese
Elder: 960 boys; one seminarian
LaSalle: 785 boys, one seminarian
Moeller: 980 boys, one seminarian

For the record, the other three schools that I know about with an alum as a current seminarian: Badin, Alter, and Carroll.

On the memorial of St. Don Bosco, I think these stats should give us reason to pause. Our we, as Catholic educators, fullfililng our mission?


MaryMargarite said...

Here in Vegas our situation is worse than yours. We have three priests scheduled to be ordained in the next 8 years and about 15 priests retireing in the next 6 years. We just got a new vocations director and he is awesome, but he is fighting a hard fight. The only "Catholic" high school in Vegas has never produced a vocation of any kind and it has been in existence for about 50 years.
It is a sad situation.

Vixtoria said...

In Australia the situation is no better. For 40 years our Catholic schools have been Catholic in name only (CINO). The graduates of those schools are now parents and they have no sense of the Faith to pass on to their children who now attend the same CINO schools. Is it any wonder that there are almost no young men who have answered Christ's call to the priesthood?

I have six nieces who all attended Catholic schools and who began living with their boyfriends within one year of leaving these schools. I am sure that many people have similar stories.

In answer to your question - no Catholic schools in the main, in Australia at least, are not fulfiling their mission. They do a good job re social justice and appreciation for non Catholic religions though.


Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

I think you've hit on something, Fr. Schnippel. It strikes me that the lack of vocations, particularly from Catholic high schools, is powerful evidence of the weak sense of Catholic identity inculcated in them.

Without a deep sense of Catholic identity, there is no real sense of Catholic mission. Without a real sense of Catholic mission, the sense of a calling to the priesthood is bound to be drowned out in the remaining secular perspective.