LA archdiocese looks at different strategy for finding new priests
From California Catholic Daily
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles will begin asking parishes to actively help in the recruitment of new priests in an effort to respond to what appears to be a nationwide surge of interest in priestly vocations.
The Los Angeles archdiocese has “undertaken a change in direction for promoting vocations in 2008,” wrote Fr. James Forsen, director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations, in the April 18 Tidings, the archdiocesan weekly. Forsen wrote that the archdiocese subscribes to a to the “philosophy” of Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk that "the church has commissioned the faithful to create a culture of discernment."
Brother Paul is executive director of the Chicago-based National Vocation Conference, whose web site, VisionVocationMatch.com, in February published the results of an online survey that showed an increased interest in the religious life, especially among those under 30 years old. The survey indicated that 30% of religious communities in the U.S. have more individuals in their formation programs and that 62% of communities that participated in the survey reported an increase in vocation inquiries last year. (See “Seriously considering it,” March 2 California Catholic Daily.)
Citing the survey, Forsen noted in the Tidings article that “a robust surge in inquiries is bringing a new life and hope to vocation ministry.” As far as priestly vocations go, of the 133 male respondents to the survey, 88 said the vocation to the priesthood interested them most. (Sixty-one of them indicated interest in being a religious priest, while 27 said they would prefer the diocesan priesthood.)
“Why this sudden upswing” in interest in vocations to the priesthood? asked Forsen in the article. He cited a “growing disenchantment with living an unfulfilled and meaningless life away from God.” To tap into this apparent “upswing,” Forsen’s office has come up with a threefold strategy.
The first part of the strategy involves “action at the parish level,” he wrote in the Tidings. Using two of the archdiocese’s pastoral regions as “templates,” Forsen’s office will seek 10 to 15 parishes that would volunteer to promote vocations. The hope is to find “at least one qualified candidate per parish,” Forsen wrote. Parish staff will be trained to identify such candidates.
Since, said Forsen’s piece, “all vocations are relationship driven,” each parish will “adopt” a seminarian at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo in order “to put a ‘face’ on a vocation.” This effort will include diocesan seminarians as well as those interested in men’s and women’s religious communities. Other parish efforts will include passing a chalice and stole to a family, who will keep it for a week while praying for vocations. The chalice and stole will then go to another family.
Another effort, already under way, is the a priestly discernment group called “The Vocational Journey,” which is currently meeting at St. Monica’s parish in Santa Monica with the goal of cultivating “Bold Leaders for Christ.” Group members make a one-year commitment and participate in spiritual direction, retreats, and prayer.
The third part of the strategy involves parish lay ministers, who will pass out “vocation cards and materials that can be simply given to worthy men and woman that one knows,” Forsen wrote. Nearly all diocesan seminarians at St. Johns “are there because at some point in their lives a person said to them, ‘You'd make a good priest.’"
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