If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Rockford diocese defying national statistics"

From the Northwest Herald (Illinois)
Photo by Travis Haughton
It’s a question that many young men struggle with – and a question upon which the future of the Catholic Church depends.

The Rev. John Gow, one of seven men ordained into the priesthood by the Catholic Diocese of Rockford in May, grappled with this question as a student at Elgin Community College, spending his time in prayer and attending daily Mass.

“I was beginning to hear a call but it was such a different thing,” said Gow, now associate pastor at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Cary.

“How do I know this is real?” he said he would ask himself.

So, Gow decided to consult a mentor – a priest with whom he had grown close.

“I knocked on his office door when Mass was done,” he said. “I asked, ‘How did you know that you were called to be a priest?’ ”

Fast-forward about eight years to this spring, when Gow was preparing to celebrate his first Mass in Hampshire, his hometown. He knew he had found his calling.

“You knew that what you were about to do was really, really big. Obviously the nervousness was there,” Gow said. “I vested in the basement and moved to top of the church.”

Thirty seconds later, the opening hymn began.

“I got this overwhelming feeling,” he said. “Everything I had been anticipating for years had finally reached its apex at that moment.”

It’s an apex that Gow and his class of seven ordinants in the Rockford Diocese recently have experienced.

Seven new priests doesn’t seem like many for a diocese of 450,000 Catholics (Yes it does!)– but it’s definitely a blessing as national priest shortages threaten the future of the Catholic church.

“We’re doing very well, thanks be to God,” said Penny Wiegert, editor of the Rockford Diocese’s newspaper, The Observer. “We are very fortunate here in the diocese that we have exceeded the national norm [of new priests].”

How the diocese – which includes McHenry and Kane county parishes along with nine other northern Illinois counties – is able to grow and sustain priests in the area might stem from the positive relationships local families have with their church leaders.

A study done by the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, a department of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, found that almost eight out of 10 men being ordained said they initially were invited by a priest to consider the priesthood.

Wiegert added that although the number was “unusual” for a diocese of that size, it had become a usual pattern during the past few years. Seven men also were ordained in 2007, and a few years before that, 11 were ordained. (Incredible!)

There are 165 active priests within the diocese and 45 retired priests, or one for every 2,700 Catholics. The national priest-to-Catholic ratio is one per 4,700 Catholics. But this blessing is clouded with an unknown future, as priests age and retirement rates climb faster than ordination rates.

“It would be a blessing to have more priests than we need,” Wiegert said. “We’re keeping up, but we’re meeting the needs that we have right now – yes, we have made great progress in the past 10 years. We could use more priests always.”

No comments: