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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Young Indian Catholics turn away from vocations"

From Radio Australia
By Murali Krishnan

With India modernizing at breakneck speed, more young men and women are choosing financial gain over spiritual vocations.

The lure of attractive jobs and the increasing attacks on Christians are just some of the reasons young people in India are moving away from a career in the Church. So why are youngsters moving away from a career in the church?

Presenter: Murali Krishnan
Speakers: Father Babu Joseph, a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishop Conference of India; Chinamma Jacob, president of the Council of Catholic Women of India

The decline in the number of young Catholics joining the religious way of life is impacting on the more than 30,000 educational institutions and 6,000 hospitals being run by the Catholic church- all manned by nuns and priests.

Some of the forces contributing to a lack of priests in Europe and the United States have begun to take shape here. Earlier hundreds have been allowed to go, siphoning support from India's widespread network of Catholic churches, schools, orphanages and missionary projects.

India, Vietnam and the Philippines are among the leading exporters of priests, according to data compiled by researchers at Catholic University of America in Washington.

But high-ranking members of the clergy have now reason to ponder over the dipping number of nuns and priests.

The attraction of other professions, the desire to begin a family and not wanting to go in for a religious vocation are among the reasons coming in the
way of young people taking to nunhood or priesthood, say church officials.

Catholic girls, for instance, especially in the southern state of Kerala, are taking to the nursing profession in a major way.

Father Babu Joseph, a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishop Conference of India explains the reasons behind this trend.

JOSEPH: We do notice a considerable decline in the number of young women and men joining in religious congregations and the priesthood. Most of these vocations have been coming from the traditional christian belt of India, namely Kerala, Mangaluru and Karnataka and Goa. There is a decline for a couple of reasons. Number one would be because of the small size of families; earlier there used to be bigger families and therefore one or other of the children joining religious life would not affect the family or parents in their old age. This is a big reason behind the decline. Secondly, there are also bigger career options today available.

KRISHNAN: Parents are having fewer children, with even observant Catholics freely admitting they use birth control.

Families are moving to cities, far from the tight-knit parishes that for generations kept Indian Catholics connected to their faith.

Also educated young Catholics are increasingly attracted to fields like engineering and technology.

Chinamma Jacob, president of the Council of Catholic Women of India says faith formation activities should be stepped up to arrest the drift.

JACOB: We must hold faith formation in a better way. Earlier you know it was very particular that the children go for Sunday classes and attending Saturday mass and first Friday devotion. Now these times are being taken for tv, internet etc. So we must see that the children are given better education in these faith formation activities.

KRISHNAN: Another factor keeping them away are the attacks on Christians as witnessed in of the eastern state of Orissa last year contributing to the steady decline in nunhood and religious life.

Father Joseph says this is a contributory factor.

JOSEPH: Well it could be a contributory factor, but I would not consider that as a major reason why the decline. Although there might be a decline in the number of young men and women joining in the congretations work, particularly in North India where the disturbance is most. But I think in the other parts of India where there is relative peace and calm existing, even there you do find a decline in the number of people joining these kind of professions. The modern trends, the consumeristic society and of course less appeal to religious organisations and religious institutions also are contributory factors.

KRISHNAN: Catholics represent 2 per cent of India's billion plus population. But they have played an important role in weaving the country's social safety net, establishing schools, hospitals, old-age homes and other organizations that serve many non-Catholics.

But this is changing.

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