My latest runs in this week's Catholic Telegraph, reflecting on last week's Vocation Director's Conference in Detroit:
Every year, the national organization of Diocesan Vocation Directors holds an annual convention that brings my counterparts from across the country for formation, training (especially for new Vocation Directors), key note addresses and just plain fraternization among priests. It tends to be an exciting week of activity and sharing of stories as we all compare notes of how we are doing in the home diocese. Admittedly, we do some bragging if we are doing better than others, but always in a friendly.
As we have compared notes so far, there are two very positive things that I thought I would share here. First, vocation numbers are up across the country: the increase that we have seen here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati (we now have 42 men, up from just 28 a few years ago) is being repeated elsewhere. Several seminaries have reported full enrollment, nearly every seminary reports positive increases, and the vocation directors have all been very aggressive in attracting new men to study for the priesthood.
Secondly, there is a wonderful positivity among my counterparts concerning the men who are entering formation, too. We, as vocation directors, are in awe of the men who are approaching us in their discernment of the priesthood. They are serious, yet fun; prayerful, yet engaged in the world; a sense of holy detachment while still being fully engaged in the modern culture. It is a wonderful and exciting time in the Church, with so many new movements and energies that are flowering in so many wonderful ways. As Vocation Director, I can see the fruits starting to ripen while still on the vine, and it brings great hope for the future.
But among the Vocation Directors gathered here in Detroit, there is also a determination. We recognize the current shortage that we are under, especially as many of my brother Vocation Director also serve in parishes. There is a drive to what we do because there is a strong recognition that in order for the Church to continue her God given mission of proclaiming the Gospel in the modern world, we must reach out to those men whom God is calling to the priesthood.
This last idea, that it truly is God who calls these men to the priesthood, is what focuses our attention. Jesus is truly the Vocation Director and our bishop sets the vision that each vocation director implements. Quite simply, we work for them, and it is an honor to do so. In order to stay in touch with Him who is our strength, we began each morning with an Eucharistic Holy Hour, we celebrated Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; we prayed the Rosary as a group. In all this, Christ remains the light guiding us in our work, for without Him; our efforts would be in vain.
In our efforts to build a Culture of Vocations within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, this centrality of Christ helps to foster an environment in which all Catholics work in the Vocation field, for we have all been called to some special purpose. It is in praying with and for one another that we find that true purpose, it is in our communion with Christ that we are given the grace to respond with that generous ‘yes’ that is demanded whenever Christ calls us forward.
May we all work for a greater awareness of the need to grow this culture, let us all continue to pray for those priests and religious we need, so that mission of the Church may continue to thrive and grow not only here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, but throughout our nation and our world.