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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Perfect Priest

From the blog of Fr. Zuhlsdorf - a post about the sometimes unrealistic demands placed on a parish priest. You can view the full post HERE, and read the content of a "chain letter" he posted below:

The "Perfect" Priest

The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect priest preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens.

The perfect priest smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on parish families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed.

If your priest does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other churches that are tired of their priest, too. Then bundle up your priest and send him to the church on the top of the list. In one week, you will receive 1,643 priests and one of them will be perfect. Have faith in this procedure.

One parish broke the chain and got its old priest back in less than three weeks.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"A Guy’s Guy: Dolan’s Personality May Help Archdiocese Recruit More Priests"

From The New York Times
By Paul Vitello

The big recruiters talk about him as if he were future Hall-of-Fame material — the kind you build organizations around. They talk about his “skill set,” the leadership qualities that make the young ones double their commitments.

They speak of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee, the gregarious, football-coach-size prelate whom the Vatican named on Monday to take the helm of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

They hope he helps attract more men to the priesthood.

“He’s a professional extrovert, a banterer, a sports fanatic,” said the Rev. Edwin H. Obermiller, director of vocations for the Congregation of Holy Cross at the University of Notre Dame. “He knows how to talk to young men.”

In his first foray after being introduced as New York’s next archbishop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Monday, Archbishop Dolan visited St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers — where three diocesan priests are to be ordained in May, compared with the 30 or 40 who graduated each year in the 1960s — and promised to make recruitment one of his top priorities.

The depth and difficulty of the struggle to overcome a decades-long and nationwide priest shortage can be measured by how church officials define success.

Three graduates from St. Joseph’s this year is considered a disappointing number. On Monday, Cardinal Edward M. Egan referred to the lagging ordinations there as one of the chief disappointments of his nine-year tenure as New York archbishop.

But at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, where the rector, the Rev. Donald J. Hying, credits Bishop Dolan’s “radiant joy” and “charismatic nature” with bringing new vigor to recruitment efforts, the graduating class this year will be six.

“We haven’t ordained six priests since 1992,” Father Hying said. He said the seminary expected to graduate “five or six each year for the next few years.”

Recruiting young men to make the commitment to become priests is a complex process that involves guidance by priests as well as the self-explorations of the candidates, said the Rev. Luke M. Sweeney, director of vocations at St. Joseph’s. An important if intangible factor is how a candidate imagines himself in the future, a priest in full — and his bishop can be an important role model.

“Whenever he met with them, Cardinal Egan did an excellent job of connecting with our seminarians,” Father Sweeney said. But Archbishop Dolan brings “a different skill set” to that meeting.

“Each man brings to the job his own abilities, and Bishop Dolan is obviously blessed with a particular ability to reach out and inspire potential recruits,” Father Sweeney said.

On Monday evening, after a vespers service at St. Joseph’s chapel in which Archbishop Dolan addressed the seminarians as “the future of the priesthood I love,” many of them stood around gaping with what seemed a mixture of curiosity and awe as he held court in a scrum of television cameras and sound booms, answering questions from reporters.

The bishop laughed a lot. He spoke glowingly of the Green Bay Packers, the Mets, the Yankees, hot dogs and jelly doughnuts. At one point he shouted over reporters’ heads: “Hey, when’s opening day at Yankee Stadium?”

One seminarian, standing with his chin resting on his closed hand, smiled broadly when asked by a reporter what he thought of the new guy. “They asked us not to make comments,” he said, turning to walk down a hall to a dinner in honor of Cardinal Egan and his successor.

“But I like him.”

A moment later, Archbishop Dolan followed him down the same hallway, a long stone corridor whose walls were lined with class photos, beginning with the classes of the 1950s and ending with 2008. The gallery told the whole story: With each passing year, the camera angle of the class picture gets tighter to frame the recent classes of three and four.

Archbishop Dolan’s qualifications as a recruitment magnet for young priests include a stint in the late 1990s as rector of the Pontifical North American College, the seminary in Rome for American priests pursuing post-ordination studies. He has also written a book, “Priesthood in the Third Millennium,” composed mainly of a series of lectures he gave while in Rome, which is used in some seminaries in the United States as a textbook.

It is hard to recruit people to the Catholic priesthood these days, experts say. Many social trends work against it, from declining church attendance to the declining size of Catholic families that once happily dedicated one in the bunch to the seminary.

Father Sweeney, who visits high schools and colleges to talk to young men about the job, said that most young men have the same questions: “Will I be able to live a celibate life? Will I be able to give up on having a family? Or on the idea of making lots of money.”

The biggest question, “Is this what God really wants for me,” he said, is the hardest.

What seminarians and prospective seminarians see in Bishop Dolan, said Father Hying of the Milwaukee seminary, is “a man who has answered all these questions and who is an obviously happy person with holiness and peace inside him.”

“That’s always good for us,” he added.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate

"The Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate are a contemplative-active community of religious women, founded in Guelph, Ontario by Mother Mary Josephine Mulligan and Father W. Lloyd Ryan on August 1, 1977, within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton.

The general aim of the Community is to strive for holiness of life in imitation of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Holy Mother, Mary. This will be attained through a life of liturgical and private prayer, the practice of the three Evangelical Counsels and in conformity with the teachings of the Holy Father and the college of bishops in union with him.

In response to the needs of the Church the Sisters have as their Apostolate the education of youth, particularly in the field of catechetics and the care of the elderly."
H/t to Sister Elizabeth Marie, SOLI

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Heeding call to priesthood DON'T AWAIT DIVINE E-MAIL"

From Fredericksburg.com
BY Amy Flowers Umble

As a young adult, Keith Cummings felt God calling him to become a Catholic priest.

He responded by leaving the church.

"It was a radical way of life, and one that I was not ready to embrace," Cummings said.

Overwhelmingly, young Catholic men are turning away from the priesthood.

The number of American priests began dropping in the late 1970s and has declined ever since, creating a priest shortage in the country, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

Religious scholars and the Vatican offer a number of reasons for the decline: smaller Catholic family sizes, a tarnished image of Catholic clergy following sex-abuse scandals, a cultural shift in American priorities and the celibacy requirement.

But the impact is pretty similar. Parishes often struggle without priests. Some share clergy. Some shut down.

But this isn't much of a problem in the Arlington Diocese of the Catholic Church, which extends from Northern Virginia through Spotsylvania County. In fact, while nationally the priesthood has declined, the diocese has had a growing number of priests since its formation in 1974.

Now, more than 160 diocesan priests serve in 68 parishes. The number is adequate, but if more priests came on board, the diocese could open more parishes for the growing Catholic population.
With that goal, the diocese has an active vocations program to help those who, like Cummings, may feel a calling but hesitate to take the leap of faith.

Over the course of 20 years, Cummings came back to the church occasionally. In 2005, after the death of his mother, he began attending Mass several times a week. He knew he would probably end up a priest.

Still, Cummings--who worked as a computer scientist in King George County--doubted his worthiness. Priests, he thought, were a lot like the saints: extremely holy.

He brought his concern to the Rev. Brian Bachista, vocations director for the Arlington Diocese. It's a common worry.

"What we say off the bat is that you're not worthy enough, and you're not holy enough. There are no perfect priests," Bachista said. "We're all called to be faithful Christians and the reason one explores the priesthood is not their level of holiness but because they believe this is what God created them for."

On Easter 2006, Cummings said he definitely felt God calling him to be a priest with a very strong, peaceful feeling.

It took nearly a year to apply to seminary. The proc-ess involves a 38-page application, eight letters of reference, a criminal background check, a psychological evaluation, two essays and a 10-page biography.

"The process is similar to applying to a college, with a much more detailed analysis on our personalities and spirituality," said Jason Burchell, a Courtland High School graduate studying to be a priest.

The application is long and difficult, but Cummings said he understood.

"The church takes very seriously the problems of the past," he said.

The process weeds out the majority of applicants, Bachista said. They are not asked to continue to seminary if they've committed any sexual abuse or if they have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, he said. Also, anyone who comes to the priesthood immediately after a job loss or breakup is asked to wait a year.

After making it through the screening process, potential priests enter seminary. The diocese sends priests to one of six seminaries. Cummings attends a Massachusetts seminary, geared toward older men. Burchell, 29, attends one in Maryland.

For most men who, like Cummings and Burchell, already have college degrees, it takes about six years of study to become a priest. The diocese pays the $30,000 annual tuition. About 75 percent of those with degrees will go on to become priests. About 50 percent of those without college degrees will finish. Those who become priests serve in the sponsoring diocese.

Most of the 33 men now studying to become priests first finished college and had another career. The trend, Bachista said, has been for older men to enter the priesthood.

But he sees that changing and attributes it to Pope John Paul II's outreach to youth.

Burchell said that many of his generation felt closer to the recent pope and this, in turn, changed them from a "me-first" generation to one prepared to serve.

The sacrifices of the priesthood are great, he and Cummings said. Even now, they spend much of their time in class, teaching and and serving. And in the future, they expect to work hard as priests.

"All of our life is a balancing act between the sacrifices we make and the compensations we get from those sacrifices," Cummings said. "This is a radical sacrifice but we are compensated by Christ himself."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blessed Damien of Molokai to be Canonized on October 11

From an Associated Press article:

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A 19th-century Belgian priest who ministered to leprosy patients in Hawaii, and died of the disease, will be declared a saint this year at a Vatican ceremony presided over by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Rev. Damien de Veuster's canonization date of Oct. 11 was set Saturday.

Born Joseph de Veuster in 1840, he took the name Damien and went to Hawaii in 1864 to join other missionaries of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Nine years later, he began ministering to leprosy patients on the remote Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai island, where some 8,000 people had been banished amid an epidemic in Hawaii in the 1850s.

The priest eventually contracted the disease, also known as Hansen's disease, and died in 1889 at age 49.

"He went there (to Hawaii) knowing that he could never return," The Rev. Alfred Bell, who spearheaded Damien's canonization cause, told Vatican Radio. "He suffered a lot, but he stayed."

De Veuster was beatified — a step toward sainthood — in 1995 by Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican's saint-making procedures require that a miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession be confirmed in order for him or her to be beatified. De Veuster was beatified after the Vatican declared that the 1987 recovery of a nun of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary was a miracle. The nun recovered after praying to Damien.

After beatification, a second miracle is needed for sainthood.

In July, Benedict declared that a Honolulu woman's recovery in 1999 from terminal lung cancer was the miracle needed for de Veuster to be made a saint.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints said Audrey Toguchi's 1999 recovery from lung cancer defied medical explanation. Toguchi, too, had prayed to Damien.

The Vatican announced the date for Damien's canonization and that of nine others. Five will be declared saints at a ceremony April 26, with the rest, including Damien, on Oct. 11.

Bell said Damien's concern for others was a model for all the faithful today, particularly the young.

"Father Damien's example helps us to not forget those who are forgettable in the world," he said.

"'God created me a deaf person for his glory,' explains priest"

From Catholic News Agency
By Sr. Lou Ella Hickman

Corpus Christi, Texas, Feb 21, 2009 / 04:16 pm (CNA).- When Father Tom Coughlin began seriously considering a priestly vocation in high school, little did he realize how long and winding the road would be to becoming the first deaf priest ordained in the United States.

Fr. Tom began applying to various seminaries after he graduated from high school, but was turned down from one after the other due to the fact that he is deaf. Instead, he went on to study and graduate from Gallaudet University in 1972 with a BA in English and then in 1976 obtained his MA in Religious Studies from Catholic University. He entered the Trinitarians in 1972 and was finally ordained by Cardinal Lawrence Sheehan of Baltimore in 1977.

He met with so much opposition before and after ordination that he almost quit, explained Fr. Tom to Sr. Lou Ella Hickman of the South Texas Catholic Newspaper. “Most people were not prepared to welcome a deaf person. I was all alone, but the vocation director Father Joseph Lupo told me ‘You have to open the door. You have to suffer so others won’t.’ And I saw his point. Following Christ you have to make sacrifices. One has to enter the mystery of suffering in order to pray better. Mary, Joseph, the apostles all suffered but they understood the meaning of God’s love.”

Fr. Tom also received support from Cardinal Pio Laghi, former Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States, also gave his support to Fr. Tom’s effort to start a community that would minister to the deaf.

Years later, Cardinal O’Connor of New York invited Fr. Tom to set up a House of Studies for deaf seminarians in Yonkers, New York which was later transferred to the Archdiocese of San Francisco upon the death of Cardinal O’Conner.

Bishop Allen Vigneron of the Oakland Diocese erected Fr. Tom’s deaf community to the status of Private Association of the Faithful – one of the first steps in the creation of a creation of a religious institute. As result, the community moved from San Francisco to Oakland. Then, in 2007, the community moved from California to San Antonio, Texas as the cost of living there was too high.

Now that the community has moved to San Antonio, Fr. Tom explains, “The vocations are coming to us.” That translates to nine members. One is in theology and hopefully will be ordained in about two years. There are three novices, one postulant, two are in philosophy and one is earning a master’s in Spanish. As all of the prayers and formation is done in sign language, if someone is interested he would have to proficient in signing in order to join.

Fr. Tom is currently in contact with ten men who are interested in joining the community.

At present, the down side to this community is that they depend one hundred percent on donations, however, Fr. Tom is also very interested in admitting more men so that the deaf in other cities such as Chicago and New York can benefit from their charism, the special God-given gift that the community lives out. And for Fr. Tom, that is best part of his ministry. He described it simply, “The Word became Flesh. In sign language God’s word is more clear’ not just verbal but made flesh. This is our charism.”

Litany in Honor of St. Francis de Sales, Patron of the Deaf:

For the Church, that we may become more aware of the great giftedness of those with disabilities, — St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.

For the Church, that we may like Christ, reach out and empower those with disabilities, — St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.

For each local Church, that we may respond with care and respect to the needs of those with disabilities, — St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.

For an increase of religious vocations to and by those with disabilities. — St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.

To learn more about Fr. Tom’s community, visit: www.Dominicanmissionaries.org.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Follow Up to the Fr. Tolton Article

After posting THIS ARTICLE on Fr. Augustine Tolton, I received an email from Fr. David Streit, S.V.D. in Rome. It seems the article stirred some memories and he wrote me the following, which I post here with his permission...

"Reading your story on Fr. Tolton brought back memories
for me, since the Divine Word Missionaries have been in
charge of St. Elizabeth's (St. Monica's) parish in Chicago
for generations.

I spent my time as a deacon at St. Elizabeth's. The church
at the time (since replaced) was a converted hall. The rectory
was the closest thing to a slum I have ever seen in my life, full
of cockroaches and rats. Many of the people in the parish lived
in a series of truly appalling low income high rise buildings
called the 'Robert Taylor Homes' (since demolished by the
City of Chicago). I remember sweating blood at the thought
of going to visit sick people in those awful buildings.

The neighborhood was in really poor shape, but the
Black Catholic community of St. Elizabeth's had a collective
memory of Fr. Tolton and were proud of him.

The Divine Word Missionaries (SVD) were the first congregation
in the U.S. 'post Tolton' to accept Black candidates for the
priesthood and religious life. Our pioneering seminary,
St. Augustine's in Bay St. Louis, MS, was founded in
the 1920s by stubborn German SVDs who didn't let
a little thing like the prevailing racism keep them from admitting
and training Black candidates from all over the South and the
The attached pictures show the first four Black SVDs who
were ordained on May 23, 1934. They were Fr. Vincent Smith, SVD,
Fr. Francis Wade, SVD, Fr. Maurice Rousseve, SVD, and
Fr. Anthony Burgess, SVD. Shortly after, Bro. Vincent Webb, SVD
professed his vows as the fist Black religious Brother. He just died
a few years ago after 68 years as an SVD Brother. Our Holy Spirit
Sisters (SSpS) were among the first Sisters to open and teach in
Black schools in Louisana, Mississippi and Arkansas. The very first
congregation founded by African American women were the
Oblate Sisters of Providence, founded in Baltimore in 1821.
They pre-dated Fr. Tolton by 50 years. (Picture below)

The 4 Black SVDs pictured below are usually called the first African
American men ordained as priests, but I believe that what is really
meant is that they were the first ones ordained in the U.S. (as the article
mentioned, Fr. Tolton was ordained in Rome.)

Since then, about 100 of the African American priests in
the U.S. have either been SVDs or had their training with SVDs
and later were incardinated in dioceses as things opened up.
At least seven African American SVDs have been appointed
as Bishops in the U.S.

February is Black History month, and it's a good time to
remember Fr. Tolton and those courageous men and women who followed him."

Fr. Dave Streit, SVD

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fr. Augustine Tolton - America's First Black Priest

From the Examiner.com

By Pamela Luther

With Illinois’s political dirty underwear hanging out to dry in the past few months, it looks like more political negative dispersions are falling upon us Is there any one who has not heard enough of Blago and now the evolving comments by Burris? My "profound" editorial comment is “Ugh”. So much for that, as far as I am concerned. I want to examine a person of integrity.

One illustrious man of exemplary character from Illinois impacted Chicago and the mid-state region. This was America’s first black priest, Fr. Augustine Tolton.
He was born into slavery in 1854 in Missouri. He was baptized Catholic and was apparently catechized (taught) in the faith as a young person. There are several versions regarding his escape from slavery, but they all grant that his mother escaped with him (age 7) and her other children to Hannibal, Missouri where they crossed the Mississippi in small boat into Illinois, a free state.

They made their way 21 miles north to Quincy, IL where they ultimately resided and worked in a tobacco factory. Young Augustine was befriended by an Irish Catholic priest who allowed Tolton to attend St. Peter’s parochial school. Although Illinois was a free state, racial biases ran strong during the Civil War era, and his going to this school caused controversy among those in the parish. Even though Tolton was very bright and was involved serving the parish as an altar boy, the hullaballoo ballooned. His mentor, Fr Peter McGirr, sensing the vocational call this young man had, encouraged him to finish his education. Tolton and his siblings stayed in the parochial school in spite of the social backlash.

In spite of adversity and racism, Tolton finished school and graduated from Quincy College, a Franciscan college. As he prepared to enter the priesthood, it became clear that the racial barriers still existed. Every single American seminary rejected him as a student, even the one that trained priests to minister to the black community!

His benefactors finally were able to assist Tolton enough that he was able to go to Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. There he became fluent in Italian as well as learning Latin and Greek.Tolton was ordained in Rome in 1886. Shortyly after his ordination, he was informed that his mission would be to “negroes in the United States.”

Upon returning to Quincy, he celebrated his first American mass at St.Boniface parish and was appointed to serve at St. Joseph Negro Church in that city. He was such an articulate preacher that many whites were flocking to the parish; thus causing great controversy again because of the ugliness of racism. Tolton graciously decided to move on.

Because of prejudice and the attitudes of the times, Fr. Augustine Tolton received a significant amount of flak while serving as pastor of St. Joseph’s Negro Church in Quincy, IL. He was very successful and became well known as an inspiring homilist with his eloquent voice and impressive education.

“The large number of people who sought his classes of inquiry, the crowded Sunday Masses, the coming together of people of both races in his church brought down on him not only the jealously and scorn of some white priests, but also the envy of some Protestant Negro ministers”. (rootweb)

This did not go over well in the post-Civil war years where racism persisted in spite of the emancipation of slaves. It appears that Tolton agreed to leave the city—I assume that he didn’t want to be the source for disunity within the Church.

He went to Chicago where he was well received. In Chicago, he led the development of the “Negro national parish” at St. Monica’s Catholic Church at 36th and Dearborn with the help of St. Elizabeth’s parish. He was very successful earning national attention and a parishioner count of 600 people. He was affectionately known as Good Father Gus. The parish ultimately became an mission of St. Elizabeth's.

Fr Tolton had some health issues and died from heat stroke one hot Chicago summer day in July, 1887. He was buried in Quincy, IL at a priest’s cemetery, as he had requested. Apparently his coffin was buried very deeply so that another priest’s coffin could be placed over it. According to sources, it is surprising that, given the times, it was amazing that he was even allowed to be buried in a “white” cemetery, and speculation exists regarding racism following him to the grave.
I find this man to be incredibly fascinating. He overcame insurmountable odds in order to fulfill the call God had given him. He bore the “yoke of slavery and racism’. Even in the face of all odds, he received an unbelievably rich education and ministered to the black community of his time. He was called upon by bishops from large dioceses to help establish parishes for black Catholics. The hope of possibility, the achievement of all he did demonstrate the power of God, the importance of mentors and strong self-determination to live out the Gospel in the face of all negative odds. That to me is very inspiring!
Read the full story in this book:

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.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Altar server program provides grounds to foster vocations"

From The Colorado Catholic Herald
By Patty O'Connell

COLORADO SPRINGS. One more way of fostering vocations has been established in the diocese in the form of a server/acolyte program at Corpus Christi Parish. The system allows young servers to work toward the acolyte-in-training level, which Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan said he believes can encourage boys and young men to have a greater awareness of their calling from God.

Under the guidance of Father Mark Zacker, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish, the program emphasizes liturgical reverence and teaches servers to value their presence on the altar. Participants achieve various ranks by taking written and oral tests and accepting more responsibilities on the altar. Although servers include both boys and girls, only boys may achieve the rank of acolyte-in-training and are distinguished by the wearing of black-and-white cassocks and surplices.

The term "acolyte server" should not be confused with the liturgical term which refers to seminarians installed as "acolytes" in a diocese. This official acolyte role is reserved strictly for men in the seminary. However, according to church guidelines, altar servers may attain the rank of acolyte server.

Corpus Christi recently held a celebration for their acolytes-in-training, which was attended by Bishop Sheridan. The bishop wanted to encourage the boys in their service at the altar, and urge them to continue to the highest ranks. He said he appreciates this program because it encourages more children to serve.

"This is a response to what the Holy See is asking for. This is not just a matter of rote training. We teach them about the altar and Mass, and it may be the beginning of a vocation," Bishop Sheridan said. "It has been proven that priests come from the ranks of servers."

This, in fact, was the case for Father Zacker, who was an altar server from third grade through part of his high school years.

"I’ve had nothing but positive comments about this program," he said. "I wanted to raise the bar for the servers. They’ve accepted these responsibilities."

Mark Smith, a junior at Coronado High School, is an acolyte-in-training and is currently achieving the requirements to become a full acolyte server after which Bishop Sheridan will conduct an installation ceremony.

"I like being involved with younger kids in the parish and train them," Smith said. "I meet more people of the parish because I’m working with their kids and the parents come to me and talk to me. It makes me more attentive to what’s going on in the Mass.

"I think it unifies the community. It’s fun to see other people excited for their faith. I can see the younger kids striving to become acolytes-in-training."

After he is installed as a full acolyte server, Smith can serve Father Zacker as Master of Ceremonies for special Masses.

According to the 2004 document "Redemptionis Sacrementum" from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: "It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed "servers," provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension" (No. 47).

At Corpus Christi, Father Zacker said he wanted the best of the best to be accepted into this program, which incorporates the patens during holy Communion, swinging processional torches, the ringing of bells during consecration, and on special occasions, incense. There is a strict dress code, and servers must come to each Mass dressed appropriately, whether they are scheduled to serve or not, just in case they are needed. They are interviewed and tested at various levels and are expected to take their responsibilities seriously. Acolytes-in-Training can also be named as captains of a team.

"I like being one of the people in charge," said Tommy Ambuul, 12, an Acolyte-in-Training and team captain. "I find serving makes me closer to God."

Ed Wilmes is the father of 11-year-old Mark Wilmes, who is a pre-aclolyte, and 13-year-old Justin Wilmes, who is an acolyte-in-training. Wilmes believes this program has called attention to the sacredness of the liturgy.

"I think the program is excellent because it brings reverence to the Mass which is what the Mass deserves," he said. "The congregation is more apt to follow in that reverence. The kids are learning about the Mass. Serving in this way becomes a seed for the priesthood."

This summer, Father Zacker took all of the servers to a Colorado Springs Sky Sox baseball game as an appreciation for their dedication and service to this rigorous program.

"Before this program, I was begging for servers at every Mass," said Father Zacker. "Now we have plenty."

"Why are so many of us misled on religious vocations?"

From the Irish Times
By Paddy O'Meara


I WAS with a small group of students preparing for Mass – the final part of their school retreat. A girl mentioned, in a casual way, that her grand-aunt, then 80, had joined a religious order at the age of 17 and spent the remainder of her life in a convent.

One lad was astonished by this. The idea that someone would make such a choice as a teenager and go on to spend the rest of her days with a religious order was incomprehensible.

“You can have faith,” he said, “but that’s taking things to extremes.”

Others got involved in the discussion, but it was impossible to convince the young man that a religious vocation had merit and could bring contentment.

“You couldn’t get drunk or have sex” was his clinching argument for believing that there was something very strange about a person deciding to make a lifelong commitment to religious life.

The following Sunday, a priest in our local parish gave an inspiring sermon on vocation to the priesthood. There was no doubt about how privileged this man felt to be a priest.

He mentioned notable achievements of his life that most would be proud to have on a CV, but none of these, he said, came anyway close to the joy, reward and fulfilment he experienced as a priest.

Nor did he evade the issue of loneliness. It can be lonely at times, he admitted, but that is not unique to priesthood.

Each of us experiences that emotion – it is part of the human condition: married or single, those who yearn to be married and those whose marriages have ended, because of death or separation.

Sitting in my pew, it was encouraging to hear such a positive sermon on the priesthood and I began to realise that I had swallowed a great big lie about the lonely, disheartened priest, struggling with an ever- increasing workload.

The vast majority of priests I know don’t fit that description. In fact they are the very opposite: good-humoured, outgoing and enthusiastic about life. It was puzzling to understand why and how I had bought into the caricature.

Recent surveys have indicated that clergy are far more contented in their careers compared with other professions and a very big percentage would choose priesthood if they were to live life over again. This however is not how clergy are seen in 2009.

Listening to that priest, I began to understand part of the reason for the high level of satisfaction. He mentioned some of the “peak moments” of his ministry: comforting and praying with those in the final stages of life; supporting those battling with illness; being with families as they joyfully celebrate baptisms and weddings.

But back to that student who could not comprehend someone opting for religious life . . . after two days spent with him and his peers, what was disturbing was the frightening degree of unhappiness among some.

In most cases the problems were caused by misusing drink or drugs or a lack of respect for self and others in relationships. For others the source of pain was in the family. Parents were addicted to alcohol and then there was marriage breakdown or family disharmony. If these students and their parents are the “liberated generation”, then this liberation is not delivering happiness.

Various reasons are suggested for the decline in vocations to the religious life. A factor must be the lack of encouragement for the person considering “the road less travelled”.

Some parents actively discourage a son thinking about the priesthood from pursuing that path. They seem to believe that would amount to him signing up for a lonely, isolated life.

And still, despite the growing number of marriages ending in separation or divorce, romantic love and marriage are considered to be the high road to lifelong happiness.

By comparison, a religious vocation is considered as a risky choice, with hardship and loneliness almost assured. All of which ignores the data and research available on both vocations. Why has this lie such force and persistence? Why are so many of us misled?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Religious Victims of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Thanks to Fr. McNally, SS.CC. and "Zlatko" for letting me know who the religious community in the above photo are: the Religious Victims of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The following information about this community came from the Traditional Vocations blog.
"The Institue was founded in 1838 by Madam Julie-Adèle of Gérin-Ricard (1793-1865), who become Prioress under the name of Mother Mary, victim of Jesus Crucified. It's particular charism is to unite with the Divine Saviour in his victimhood and to imitate it in religion and charity.
The Community is dedicated to the perpetual adoration of most Holy Sacrament. Their motto is Una cum Christo hostia, Cor Unum. The Sisters make vows of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and enclosure.
It is by love that Jesus Sacrifices himself; it is by love that it is necessary to follow Him in His Sacrifice, and the treasure of this love is contained in the Heart. It is this mark of the Sisters, indicated by their title "Victims of the Sacred Heart", that indicates their vocation is totally founded upon Love.
The Community consists of one monastery, and -- as of 2006 -- 20 Nuns and a few Novices. They are served by Priests of the Fraternity of St Peter, and others celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum."
Religieuses Victimes du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus /Victim Nuns of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Rev. Mother Superior
Monastère des Religieuses Victimes du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus
52 rue Lavat
13003 Marseille (south France)
FRANCETel.: + 33 4 91 50 29 21

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Carmelite Priests to Minister in Sri Lanka"


"Hoping Presence Will Bring Vocations"

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, FEB. 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Discalced Carmelite priests are hoping their presence in Sri Lanka will lend support to the 50 Carmelite nuns on the island and give rise to native Sri Lankan priestly vocations.

According to the curia-general of the order, provision for future foundations of monasteries for Carmelite priests on the island is in response to bishops' invitations to support the nuns, who arrived to Sri Lanka in 1935 and now live in three carmels.

They also hope to foster Sri Lankan vocations, as the last native Sri Lankan Carmelite priest, Father Gabriel Gunasekara, died almost a year ago.

Only about 6% of Sri Lanka's 21 million people are Christian.

The island nation is the site of a 25-year conflict between the separatist Tamil Tigers and the government. The fighting over the decades has caused the suppression of some of the Carmelites' monasteries.

The recent escalation of the conflict and the plight of nearly a quarter million civilians trapped in the last corner held by the Tigers have raised international concern, including that of the Pope. The Holy Father on Feb. 4 said: "News of a worsening of the conflict and the growing number of innocent victims moves me to offer a pressing appeal to the combatants to respect humanitarian law and people's freedom of movement.

"May they do everything possible to guarantee assistance for the wounded and security for civilians, and permit their urgent food and medical needs to be satisfied."

"Nun beaten and robbed in Upper Darby; 2 youths sought"

From the Philadelphia Daily News
By Stephanie Farr

UPPER DARBY, Pa. - An 82-year-old nun lay motionless in an Upper Darby church parking lot after she was brutally robbed and beaten last week, until a schoolboy came to her aid.

"God sent him to save her, to save her life," said the Rev. Peter Quinn, pastor of St. Alice's Church, adding that the nun considers the still-unidentified boy her "angel."

Now, Upper Darby police are hoping for a break in the unsolved robbery.

The attack on the nun, who is with the Dominican Order and lives at the convent in St. Alice's parish complex, on Hampden Road near Sansom Street, happened about 3 p.m. Feb. 2 in the complex parking lot as she returned from service work in Philadelphia, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said.

The nun, who has not been named by police or the church, was in her off-white habit, carrying her purse in a canvas bag, when she heard someone calling out to her, according to police.

When she turned around, she was punched in the face and fell to the pavement, semiconscious, Chitwood said.

The nun remembers little about her attackers but believes that there were two, and that her main assailant appeared to be between 13 and 15 years old, Chitwood said.

While she was on the ground, the attackers pulled at her bag, all the while kicking and stomping her, not quitting until she let go of her bag, according to police.

The thieves got away with her identification card, her Social Security card, her keys and a few bank cards, Chitwood said.

After the attackers fled on Hampden Road, the nun lay frightened and paralyzed until a boy with a bookbag attended to her and rang the convent door for help, Quinn said.

"One bad kid and one good kid," Quinn said.

"Pray for the [bad kid] who had a bad experience in his early childhood, so that he could learn from that and be better.

"And thank God for the angel."

The nun suffered a fractured pelvis, injuries to her right eye and a facial cut that required five stitches, police said.

She was taken to Delaware County Memorial Hospital, where she was treated and released, and she has since had trouble walking, Chitwood said.

The parish complex is directly across the street from the site of a brutal November home invasion in which Hoa Pham, a Vietnamese immigrant and an active member of St. Alice's Parish, was murdered.

His alleged killer, Jermaine Burgess, was held for trial after a preliminary hearing Monday.

"It makes a person feel that these two things have followed one another in too short a period of time," Quinn said.

"Larger families see the attacks piling up"

And Baby Makes How Many?
"In an era of shrinking broods, larger families can feel under attack."

From the New York Times
By Kate Zernike

THE comment from the photographer at Sears was typical. “Are these all yours?” she asked, surveying Kim Gunnip’s 12 children.

“No,” Mrs. Gunnip replied, “I picked some up at the food court.”

But it was harder to find a retort for the man in line at the supermarket, who said within earshot of her youngest children, “You must have a great sex life.”

Now her family, like other larger families, as they call themselves, is facing endless news coverage of the octuplets born in California and a new round of scorn, slack jaws and stupid jokes.

Back when the average woman had more than three children, big families were the Kennedys of Hickory Hill and Hyannis Port, “Cheaper by the Dozen,” the Cosbys or “Eight is Enough” — lovable tumbles of offspring as all-American in their scrapes as in their smiles.

But as families have shrunk, and parents helicopter over broods tinier yet more precious, a vanload of children has taken on more of a freak show factor. The families know the stereotypes: they’re polygamists, religious zealots, reality-show hopefuls or Québécois in it for the per-child government bonus. And isn’t there something a little obsessive about Angelina Jolie’s quest for her own World Cup soccer team?

“Look at the three shows on TLC that have bigger families,” said Meagan Francis, the 31-year-old author of “Table for Eight,” which stems from her experience raising four children (she is expecting her fifth next month). “One is about religious fundamentalists, one has sextuplets, the other is a family of little people,” she said, referring to, respectively, the Duggars of “17 Kids and Counting,” “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” and “Little People, Big World,” about two dwarfs raising four children, three of average stature, on a pumpkin farm in Oregon.

“You get the feeling,” Ms. Francis added, “that anybody who has more than three kids is either doing it for bizarre reasons or there’s a medical anomaly.”

In the last several days, the British government’s environmental adviser declared it “irresponsible” to have more than two children. And Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, asserted that including contraception in the stimulus package could reduce government spending. Ms. Pelosi, herself the mother of five, was arguing against unwanted pregnancies, not families who choose to have big broods. But no matter — larger families see the attacks piling up.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Priestly vocations crucial for the church"

From The Catholic Star Herald

The incoming director of Vocations for the diocese, Father Tom Kiely, is well aware of the challenges facing the church, but is optimistic that there will be new vocations to priesthood.

“New vocations to priesthood are essential,” he said. “We cannot look at numbers and get discouraged. Nor can we put our heads in the sand and be in denial. In the face of a great challenge like this, we must prayerfully redouble our efforts to encourage young men to accept the call to priesthood, confident that the Spirit is at work in all of this.”

For Father Kiely, the pastoral priority of increasing vocations to priesthood is closely connected to the revitalization of parish life now underway in the diocese.

“It’s not a question of choosing between increasing vocations to priesthood and taking steps to call forth the talents of laity and to strengthen parishes. All these need to occur and are related. As parishes are united and become stronger, they will be better able to serve parishioners and to provide for the pastoral care of the people, including youth and young adults. By revitalizing our parishes, by offering the range of ministries that will respond to the needs of our parishioners, we actually will foster an increase in priestly vocations,” he said.

Father Kiely also said the attention to lifelong formation in the diocese also will help cultivate new vocations.

“By revitalizing Catholic life, by bringing about an increase in religious practice in our parishes, by forming all age groups in the faith, my hope is that parents and others will be more likely to invite young Catholics to consider priesthood,” said Father Kiely.

“Likewise, young Catholics, formed more deeply in the faith, will be more inclined to generously and confidently respond to God’s call that is often made through the invitation of others, such as priests, friends and family members, who ask, ‘Have you ever considered becoming a priest?’”

Father Kiely’s own family has had an impact on his vocation. He is a Third Order Franciscan, following the example of his mother. As a permanent deacon, his father was responsible for the pastoral administration of two parishes in the Diocese of Charleston. His brother is a Trappist monk at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina.

“A vocation is a call to be Christ in a particular way among his pilgrim people, but always as one of the pilgrims journeying with all the others toward Christ’s intimacy with us,” he said. “I am thankful to Bishop Galante for the priority he has placed on priestly vocations and for the confidence he has placed in me to help cultivate priestly vocations in the diocese. I look forward to collaborating with our priest promoters and our parishes to do this important work.”

"Seminarians serve as sports chaplains at Mount St. Mary’s"

From The Catholic Review
By George P. Matysek Jr.
Photo at left: A sports chaplain watches the soccer team in action at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg. Seminarians from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary serve as chaplains to all the sports teams at the university. (Courtesy Mount St. Mary’s University)

Coaches may be charged with making sure athletes perform at their very best at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, but it’s seminarians who help nurture their spiritual well-being.

For several years, men studying to become priests at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary have served as volunteer sports chaplains for every team at the university.

They pray with players and coaches, attend practices and offer support whenever it’s needed. It’s a partnership that benefits future priests and future college graduates alike, according to those involved in the program.

“They try to relate to us as college students,” said Colin Stuver, a 21-year-old senior and left-handed pitcher on the baseball team.

“They’re not too overbearing or easygoing,” he explained. “They’re right in the middle. They’re very well respected.”

Last year, when the brother of a fellow player died, it was the sports chaplains who helped console the baseball team, Mr. Stuver said.

The chaplains have become a familiar presence at practice, Mr. Stuver said, and are often seen tossing a football with the players and just holding conversations.

“They hang out at our practices and watch us,” he said. “It just shows they’re not there because they have to be. They’re there because they want to be there.”

Mr. Stuver said it was impressive to see his fellow teammates kneel in prayer with their chaplain before every game. He joked that team members felt lost on those few days when the chaplain couldn’t be there to lead prayer.

“Praying before the games helps collect our senses and realize why we’re playing,” the northern Virginian said.

Deacon Tim Naples, a 26-year-old seminarian and transitional deacon who will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., this year, has served more than two years as chaplain of the track and field team.

To participate in the chaplaincy, he had to show an interest in athletics, have a good academic record and get approval from seminary leaders.

Rev. Mr. Naples attends practice at least once a week and sometimes goes running with team members.

“I have a hard time keeping up with them,” he said with a laugh.

The former high school soccer and basketball player said sports chaplaincy is a ministry of presence. He often answers questions about theology or the life of a priest. He has held several spaghetti dinners for the entire team that were well attended.

“I’ve learned a lot from them about the virtues of fortitude and endurance,” Rev. Mr. Naples said.

Being a sports chaplain has helped him learn how to minister as clergyman, he said. When it’s appropriate, the chaplain has gently encouraged team members to go to confession or attend Mass.

The deacon believes the presence of chaplains in clerics helps promote good sportsmanship.

“If we can influence the athletes to be a little more virtuous in small ways, that’s good,” he said. “I’ve heard from other chaplains in the past that the students are definitely more conscious of their language when we’re around.”

The chaplains usually serve for more than one season – giving them the chance to get to know team members over a long period of time, according to Father Leo Patalinghug, director of pastoral field education and coordinator of the chaplaincy program.

“It helps the students in the university better know the seminarians,” Father Patalinghug said. “The chaplains encourage the athletes to use their God-given talents well.”

Pope Paul VI to a Group of Vocations Directors



Thursday, 26 October 1972

Beloved sons in Jesus Christ,

It is a joy - a great joy - for us today to receive this group of Vocation Directors from England and Wales. We are indeed pleased to have this happy occasion to address to you a word of encouragement, support and blessing.

The message that we have for you, and for all the Vocation Directors of the world who may hear these words of ours, is above all one of confidence in the Lord. It is a message that comes from our heart.

Your task of promoting vocations is an arduous one; there are many difficulties inherent in it. In every age of the Church your ministry requires much effort; today it involves a most special and unremitting dedication. It is necessary to follow closely the mentality of young people, to know them well and to be their friends. It is necessary to appreciate the obstacles that they face and the particular pressures they encounter in being modern Christians.

But it is likewise necessary for you to meditate on the riches of God’s grace and to realize fully the ever-present attraction of Christ’s priesthood in each generation till the end of time. In this regard, we say to you today: beloved sons, never underestimate the efficacy of Christ’s salvific work, of his redemptive life, passion and death. And never forget the undying and inexhaustible power of his Resurrection. The power of these mysteries of Christ are the source of renewed life and perpetual energy and enthusiasm in the People of God. The power of these mysteries is the source of new vocations in the Church.

It has always been so. And you can be assured that the vital activity of the Holy Spirit is not lacking in stirring up vocations in our own age.

Be confident therefore that Christ’s invitation is still extended personally in the hearts of young people: “You did not choose me; no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last . . .” (Io. 15, 16). It is up to you to help awaken a consciousness of this calling, to counsel generosity in accepting it and perseverance in fulfilling it. You know that you yourselves must radiate authentic Christian joy and that your ministry cannot be devoid of personal prayer and penance. And in the Eucharistic celebration the entire community of God’s people must be united in begging “the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest” (Matth. 9, 37).

And so, beloved sons, in Nomine Domini go forward in your work, with determination and with the realization of cooperating vitally in the mission of perpetuating Christ’s ministerial priesthood and the entire salvific plan of God the Father. And may peace and grace be yours in abundance.

"Prayer Is the Answer to the Vocation Shortage"

From the General Audience of His Holiness Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1994

"In discussing the foundation of consecrated life on the part of Jesus Christ, we mentioned the calls he extended from the beginning of his public life, generally expressed in the words: "Follow me." Jesus' care in making these appeals shows the importance he attributed to Gospel discipleship for the life of the Church. He linked that discipleship with the "counsels" of consecrated life, which he desired for his disciples as that conformation to himself which is the heart of gospel holiness (cf. Veritatis Splendor 21). In fact, history confirms that consecrated persons--priests, men and women religious, members of other institutes and similar movements--have played an essential role in the Church's expansion, as they have in her growth in holiness and love.

In the Church today, vocations to religious life have no less importance than in centuries past. Unfortunately, in many places we see that their number is insufficient for meeting the needs of communities and their apostolate. It is no exaggeration to say that for some institutes this problem has become critical, to the point of threatening their survival. Even without wishing to share the dire predictions for the not-too-distant future, it is already apparent today that, for lack of members, some communities are forced to give up works usually destined to produce abundant spiritual fruit. More generally, fewer vocations lead to a decline in the Church's active presence in society, with considerable losses in every field.

The present vocation shortage in some parts of the world is a challenge to be met with determination and courage. It is certain that Jesus Christ, who during his earthly life called many to consecrated life, is still doing so in today's world and often receives a generous, positive response, as daily experience proves. Knowing the Church's needs, he continues to extend the invitation, "Follow me," especially to young people, whom his grace makes responsive to the ideal of a life of total dedication.

In addition, the lack of workers for God's harvest was already a challenge in gospel times for Jesus himself. His example teaches us that the shortage of consecrated persons is a situation inherent in the world's condition and not only an accidental fact due to contemporary circumstances. The Gospel tells us that as he roamed through towns and villages, Jesus was moved with pity for the crowds which "were lying prostrate from exhaustion, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt 9:36). He tried to remedy that situation by teaching them at great length (cf. Mk 6:34), but he wanted the disciples to join him in solving the problem. So he invited them, first of all, to pray: "Beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather his harvest" (Mt 9:38). According to the context, this prayer was intended to provide people with a greater number of pastors. However, the expression "laborers for the harvest" can have a wider application, indicating everyone who works for the Church's growth. The prayer, then, also seeks to obtain a greater number of consecrated persons.

The stress put on prayer is surprising. Given God's sovereign initiative in calling, we might think that only the harvest master, independently of other intervention or cooperation, should provide a sufficient number of workers. On the contrary, Jesus insisted on the cooperation and responsibility of his followers. He also teaches us today that with prayer we can and must influence the number of vocations. The Father welcomes this prayer because he wants it and expects it, and he himself makes it effective. Whenever and wherever the vocation crisis is more serious, this prayer is all the more necessary. But it must rise to heaven in every time and place. In this area the whole Church and every Christian always have a responsibility.

This prayer must be joined to efforts to encourage an increase in the responses to the divine call. Here too we find the prime example in the Gospel. After his first contact with Jesus, Andrew brought his brother Simon to him (cf. Jn 1:42). Certainly, Jesus showed himself sovereign in his call to Simon, but on his own initiative Andrew played a decisive role in Simon's meeting with the Master. "In a way this is the heart of all the Church's pastoral work on behalf of vocations" (PDV 38).

Encouraging vocations can come from personal initiative, like Andrew's, or from collective efforts, as is done in many dioceses that have developed a vocation apostolate. This promotion of vocations does not at all aim at restricting the individual's freedom of choice regarding the direction of his own life. Therefore, this promotion avoids putting any kind of constraint or pressure on each person's decision. But it seeks to shed light on everyone's choice and to show each individual, in particular, the way opened in his or her life by the Gospel's "Follow me." Young people especially need and have a right to receive this light. On the other hand, the seeds of a vocation, especially in young people, must certainly be cultivated and strengthened. Vocations must develop and grow, which usually does not occur unless conditions favorable to this development and growth are guaranteed. This is the purpose of institutions for vocations and the various programs, meetings, retreats, prayer groups, etc., that promote the work of vocations. One can never do enough in the vocations apostolate, even though every human initiative must always be based on the conviction that, in the end, each person's vocation depends on God's sovereign decision.

A basic form of cooperation is the witness of consecrated persons themselves, which exercises a healthy, effective attraction. Experience shows that often the example of a man or woman religious has a decisive impact on the direction of a young personality which has been able to discover in that fidelity, integrity and joy the concrete example of an ideal way to live. In particular, religious communities can only attract young people by a collective witness of authentic consecration, lived in the joy of self-giving to Christ and to their brothers and sisters.

Lastly, the importance of the family should be stressed as the Christian environment in which vocations can develop and grow. Once again I invite Christian parents to pray that Christ will call one of their children to the consecrated life. The task of Christian parents is to form a family in which Gospel values are honored, cultivated and lived, and where an authentic Christian life can elevate the aspirations of the young. Because of these families the Church will continue to produce vocations. Therefore, she asks families to collaborate in answering the harvest master, who wants us all to be committed to sending new "laborers into the harvest."

Vocation Formation - Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage

Vatican City State, May 13, 1996

Alfonso Cardinal López Trujillo President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
+ Most. Rev. Francisco Gil Hellín Secretary

1. Preparation for marriage, for married and family life, is of great importance for the good of the Church. In fact, the sacrament of Marriage has great value for the whole Christian community and, in the first place, for the spouses whose decision is such that it cannot be improvised or made hastily. In the past, this preparation could count on the support of society which recognized the values and benefits of marriage. Without any difficulties or doubts, the Church protected the sanctity of marriage with the awareness that this sacrament represented an ecclesial guarantee as the living cell of the People of God. At least in the communities that were truly evangelized, the Church's support was solid, unitary and compact. In general, separations and marriage failures were rare, and divorce was considered a social "plague" (cf. Gaudium et Spes = GS, 47).

Today, on the contrary, in many cases, we are witnessing an accentuated deterioration of the family and a certain corrosion of the values of marriage. In many nations, especially economically developed ones, the number of marriages has decreased. Marriage is usually contracted at a later age and the number of divorces and separations is increasing, even during the first years of married life. All this inevitably leads to a pastoral concern that comes up repeatedly: Are the persons contracting marriage really prepared for it? The problem of preparation for the sacrament of Marriage and the life that follows emerges as a great pastoral need, first for the sake of the spouses, for the whole Christian community and for society. Therefore, interest in, and initiatives for providing adequate and timely answers to preparation for the sacrament of Marriage are growing everywhere.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"How Does a Vocation Begin?"

Fr. Stephen at Southwark Vocations posted the following:

"Somebody asked me recently how a vocation begins. At first I thought it a strange question - a vocation begins in the mind of God. But it is proper to ask how we perceive that vocation. In my experience, for many people a vocation presents itself initially as a series of little moments of a certain inner restlessness. You want to do something great with your life. You feel that God wants something more of you. You're concerned about the suffering of men and women - spiritual as well as physical. You enjoy the life you are living now, and yet you feel that there is something lacking. These feelings come and go, like waves on an inner ocean. Like distant whispers of a call that will become more clear in time.

How does a vocation begin? With these movements to love that prepare the soul to desire generosity and commitment. They could well be signs of a vocation moving us to awaken our hearts to God's will, urging us to struggle to conform our life to the dignity of a child of God, to pray, to listen attentively to what God may be trying to tell us. Our response is important. We have to try to ensure that we are not spiritually asleep when he calls - that his call doesn't fall on deaf ears.

Perhaps that is why our Vocations Retreats are so effective. They give us space to put ourselves in God's presence and to listen more attentively to his call. Next weekend we have another retreat coming up. This time it is for girls who are considering a vocation to the Religious life. No one, least of all me, can tell the participants they have that vocation. All we can do is offer them the possibility of time for a more attentive listening to those divine whispers."

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Vocations eLetter

Benedict XVI: Religious, imitate St. Paul in following Jesus

"The other vocation crisis - marriage"

From FaithMag.com
By the Most Reverend Earl A. Boyea, Bishop of Lansing

We have a vocation crisis in America. This is not what you think. It is a vocation crisis in marriage. Many are no longer getting married – and too many do not see their marriage as a sacrament, a means of grace for themselves and their families. Yet marriage and family are the natural heart of our society and the spiritual core of our church. Pope John Paul II stated in St. Louis in January 1999: “As the family goes, so goes the nation!”

Now, most of us know the solutions to this difficulty since we have seen very healthy marriages and thus know what they look like. I think of my own parents, who have been married for 58 years. They are not perfect. However, they do exhibit that fidelity, commitment and love which are the hallmarks of a good marriage.

Marriage is a communion of persons wherein new life is the fruit of love. The two purposes of marriage are the unitive (love of the couple) and procreative (blessings of children). Sexual expression is to be the deepest manifestation of these two purposes. Unfortunately, for the past 50 years, there has been growing not only a division between these two, but a chasm. It began with seeking to have marital relations without having children. Soon, however, sexual relations became completely separated from both love and children.
How do we get out of this mess? I would suggest five things.

First of all, we, married and single, need to know better who we are as created by God. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is vital to that process. Fundamentally, this means that we see ourselves as created in the image of the loving Trinity, where we really become human only in the total gift of ourselves, imitating the gift of Christ to us. The Trinity and the cross must be the center of every Christian’s life. This will give meaning to marriage, as well as to religious and priestly vocations.

Second, we need to counter the contraceptive mentality of our society, which has helped to create this gap between sexual activity, and love and children. The best way to do this is to promote Natural Family Planning. We know that commitment and companionship, based on hard work and dedication, are the solid bedrocks of a successful marriage. NFP supports this completely, and clearly invites into the marriage that one partner who is most needed: God. NFP is simple, satisfying and effective; and it engages the couple more completely in the family planning process. NFP does not change our bodily nature nor our bodily relationship; rather, it respects what is God-given.

Third, we need to recognize that marriage is good for us. Marriage “helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one’s own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1609) Marriage also can teach us the equality of men and women and their clear differences and complementarity by working toward a loving unity.

Fourth, we need to recall that marriage is good for children. Children in intact families are more likely to be successful and less likely to experience a myriad of evils that surround us. The roles of mother and father and their healthy interactions are important for the development of boys and girls and show them the beauty of faithful and eternal love. This is the best gift that a husband and wife can give to their children.

Finally, we need to pray and to celebrate the sacraments. Praying as a family, and praying as a couple are vital. Recourse to reconciliation and the Eucharist are essential for ourselves and for assisting our spouse and our family on their journey to heaven. Jesus commanded us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Not doing so would mean that we would have no life in us. How can we share life, our life or any life, with our spouse or children if we do not have that life within us.

Marriage is essential for our society, for our church, and mostly for our salvation. Let us work and pray for the building of this great sacrament of service.

"More Seminarians Than One Stage Can Hold"

"40-year peak in seminary enrollment celebrated at S.O.S. dinner"

From The Catholic Key Blog
By Jack Smith
Catholic Key Editor

Abbot Gregory Polan of Conception Abbey led nearly 700 voices in a round of “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” at the Downtown Marriot January 30. “We bless and we thank you Lord for countless blessings,” Abbot Polan prayed as he opened the annual S.O.S. - “Support Our Seminarians” dinner and auction in support of men studying for the priesthood from both sides of State Line Road and for Conception Seminary College.

As he has every year, KMBC-TV anchor Larry Moore served as master of ceremonies at the event which was the brainchild of Moore and his wife Ruth. Recalling the humble beginnings of the effort, Moore said in 1994 there was only one seminarian from the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph. “Things got even worse the next year,” Moore said, when there were none.

This semester, Conception Seminary College has 110 men enrolled – a 40 year record according to Conception Seminary Rector Father Samuel Russell, OSB. Father Russell shared the great news that 26 men are currently in formation for Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph and 21 are studying for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Not all are studying at Conception, so the great numbers there indicate an increase in vocations from many dioceses.

Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn was celebrating the loss of seminarians that night though. “In June we lost Doug Langner,” Bishop Finn said, “to priestly ordination. And in December we lost Angelo Bartulica to ordination.

“As God is good, we look forward to losing another two seminarians in May,” Bishop Finn said. “And the following year, if all goes according top the plan that we would pray for and hope, we’re going to lose another four seminarians to priesthood.”

Bishop Finn told the crowd, “We have to replace these men . . . This is a dilemma we’ve prayed for and worked for.” Bishop Finn thanked all those who work to support the formation of men to the priesthood and urged the audience to pray and “do everything you can to encourage your sons, your grandsons to listen carefully to the call of Almighty God.”

Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann said as a bishop, he receives a lot of “interesting” mail. But the mail “that brings the most joy” to his heart is from parishioners who take the time to relay “the difference a priest is making in their lives.” A letter that particularly touched him recently was from a woman he remembered from a youth group in his first parish. She wrote, “If there is a debt that we can never repay, it is the priesthood that serves us so faithfully and brings us our greatest gifts in the sacraments.”

Archbishop Naumann thanked God “for young men today that are open to that call to the priesthood,” and thanked all present for supporting them.

Larry Moore also thanked all those who help to make S.O.S. a success, in particular, Mike and Marsha Keenan who served as co-chairs of the event for the second time in a row this year.

Preliminary reports show $68,000 was raised this year from the auction and marketplace and $98,000 from ticket sales.

(pictured above: More seminarians than one stage could hold. One hundred ten seminarians from Conception Seminary College climbed to the stage for a round of applause at the annual Support Our Seminarians dinner Jan. 30. Most are not pictured because of the stage’s small size.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Pope discovered vocation in culture of death"

"The pope said in 2006 that it was a clash with the brutality of the Nazi system, "this anti-human culture", that confirmed in him the vocation to the priesthood."

By Asia News

It was the "brutality" of Nazism, of this "anti-human culture" that helped the young Joseph Ratzinger discover his vocation for the priesthood. "It confirmed to me that the Gospel shows us the right road, that we must help so that its road will triumph", said Benedict XVI. He was responding to one of the questions put to him by five youth of the diocese of Rome, who took part in a meeting to prepare for the upcoming World Youth Day.

A vocation that grew with the "beauty of the liturgy" and with "love of knowledge", that is, with theology.

Replying to a question about his vocation, the Pope said: "I grew up in a world very different to the present one, but at the end, things come together. At the time, on the one hand, it was still normal to go to church and to accept the Revelation; on the other, there was the Nazi regime that was telling me the new Germany would no longer need priests. But it was precisely this clash with the brutality of this system, of this anti-human culture, that confirmed to me that the Gospel shows us the right way, that we must help so that its road will triumph. My vocation grew almost naturally with me, without great conversion moments. Helped by my parents and by the parish priest, I discovered the beauty of the liturgy which, in a certain sense, opens up the heavens.

"In the second place, I was helped by the beauty of knowledge, understanding the Sacred Scripture as much as possible, entering in this Dialogue with God that is theology. Naturally, difficulties could not but be present, I asked myself if I would be able to live in celibacy for all my life, and I was aware that loving theology was not enough to be a good priest; one also needed to be always available for sick people, the poor and youth. To be simple with the simple. I asked myself if I would be capable of living all this. I was helped by the company of friends and good priests.

There was a spontaneous festive atmosphere in a meeting that swiftly turned into a celebration, with at least 30,000 Roman youth present. However there were also flags of Poland, Czech Republic and Mexico waving among the crowd in St Peter's Square, around Benedict XVI. A meeting that re-evoked memories of John Paul II, who came up with the idea of World Youth Day and who gave youth, in the now-distant 1984, the cross that the youth today carried inside the basilica, going to pay homage at the tomb of Wojtyla with Benedict XVI.

Choirs, dance and music welcomed Benedict XVI into the square, as did the words of Maddalena Santoro, the sister of Fr Andrea, who read some writings of the murdered priest, including: "I feel I am a priest for all, because they are sons loved by God: God loves Jews, he loves Christians, he loves Muslims." The pope embraced her and Fr Andrea's mother, Maria.

The questions posed by youth inevitably included one about the family, marriage and sexuality, asked to the Pope by Anna, aged 19 years.

His reply was that loving was often understood to be something egotistical, that consumeristic culture had emptied of meaning, whereas it was really letting go of oneself and therefore self-discovery. In the Bible itself, right after creation, "the sacred author gives a definition of marriage, following the other, so as to become a sole existence, flesh born of communion of love that unites and thus creates the future."

With time, all cultures became stained by the mistakes of mankind and thus the original plan of God was obscured, even if man could never completely forget or wipe it out. Thus it is with monogamy. Thus, marriage and affection become possible even if they appear impossible in the climate of our world. Notwithstanding all other models of life, there are many Christian families living with joy, according to the model indicated by the creator, We know that to achieve great success, in sport for example, training, discipline and renunciation are called for. This is how it is with life too: becoming men demands renunciation that is not negative, but which helps us become truly men, and if there is a consumeristic culture that does not want us to live according to God's plan, we must create islands of Catholic culture, in which to live according to the creator's plan.

And to the question "what is expected of us", Benedict XVI replied: "Making God present in society".

"To All Parents of Religious"

From CatholicExchange.com

By Rachel Watkins (no relation)

So, your child has vocation. Congratulations! He or she has told you about the desire to enter a seminary, cloister, order or monastery. This is wonderful news. You thank God for this gift to the Church; you make telephone calls to family and friends to announce the news. You find yourself busy with all that this decision entails. Eventually, in the days and weeks that follow you also find yourself pausing over a cup of coffee, lingering over your rosary beads and you find yourself saying to yourself, “What does this mean to me?”

I know exactly how you feel as I am one of you. My oldest daughter wears a simple gold band as an outward symbol of her promises to poverty, chastity and obedience. She is a bride of Christ. Her vocation is a source of great joy for our family but it does cause for some awkward moments, the first of which may come from our own hearts and souls.

We find ourselves wondering because, while our child has been given the blessing of a vocation, we aren’t sure where that leaves us. Not that we are asking for anything specifically but understanding is always welcomed. The particular vocation known as “parent of a religious” is rarely discussed, so in a spirit of solidarity, I offer you my thoughts on our mission.

Who are we as parents of religious? I have some familiarity with this role as do my parents. My youngest brother is a priest, now serving as an Army military chaplain. I remember the joy in my hometown when he came to celebrate his first Mass there over 8 years ago. An older parishioner took my mother aside, giving her a hug, she said, “You must be so happy. You are guaranteed a place in heaven for this!” My mother thanked her for her sentiments. Later alone with me, she laughed at the opinion offered, “Great, now I can begin that life of crime I always wanted!” Little did I know, back then, that I would join my mother in this challenging role.

While I am still learning how it all works, I already know parents of religious are guaranteed nothing — not even a seat in heaven. We will share the same feelings and concerns most parents feel but in a different way. We miss our children deeply and worry about them. This worry is especially true of parents whose children are missionaries abroad. And while their needs are taken care of by their orders or dioceses, we have concern for their wellbeing and support them financially with as much as our incomes allow. Our lives can seem almost easier with the care they receive from their dioceses or orders but that is not always the case.

In truth, ours can be a difficult lot. This is not to discourage anyone from encouraging their children to listen for God’s call. My daughter does not know about what concerns me. I say it only in an acceptance of the fact that our child’s choice is atypical, making us as their parents also uncommon. Our children have chosen Christ first and foremost for their lives and their loves. We could not be more proud, could we? However, we know that this choice comes at a cost rarely understood. We often find ourselves at a loss. We may stumble when trying to tell others what our children are doing. A teacher, a plumber, an at-home mom, even a tattoo artist, is easily understood but a monk, a nun, consecrated? These often require an explanation that extends longer than the line at the deli will allow.

The current secular atmosphere can make our children’s vocation suspect and our acceptance even more so. Even those who sit in the pews with us can question their decision in light of the scandals a few years ago. Their questions can range from the humorous, “Is there much a future in religious life?” “Eternal”, we want to reply.

“There certainly can’t be much money in that work,” rude folks may comment. And even the perplexing, “Don’t you think she should get a degree first so she has a back-up plan if it doesn’t work out?”

Doesn’t work out?

We do our best as parents to answer all the questions. However, quite honestly, after a while, it can become distressing. Some of the questions and concerns we can receive are so negative. My husband and I joke darkly to each other that we might have had a better reception if we had announced her decision to join a traveling band of jugglers rather than a recognized order in the Church. In the end, all these questions come down to this: Why would anyone choose religious life?

Why, indeed. Perhaps we have these questions ourselves. How did this call come to our family? While people may tell us we are holy for having a child with a vocation we know otherwise, don’t we? Their call from Christ came even with our failings as parents. Their “yes” to God came despite our many “no’s”.

Some of us may have rejoiced with the news, having prayed throughout our marriages for a religious vocation. Truthfully, though, for others it may have come as a shock or even a disappointment. For these parents, perhaps there is some shame in recognizing those feelings but perhaps not. These parents often find it hard to support their children in their call.

For those who are not parents of a vocation it may be hard to even understand this, but it happens; I know it does. My daughter tells me of her sadness in having companions who never get phone calls or letters from home. The perseverance these vocation “orphans” display despite the silence from home gives her additional strength for her own call.

In some families, such as my own, our children’s vocations were less of a surprise. While it may have come along without any real prompting on your part, you are pleased. In some instances, your child has always had a love for Christ and the Church that set him or her apart, like Samuel, hearing the Lord call his name when he was young. Their vocations seem more like an obvious choice. It is much like the parents of the gearhead who aren’t surprised when their child announces a decision to be a mechanic. Finally, he will be getting paid for all that he did for free, every chance he could. Finally, what he loves is also what he does.

So, here we are, parents watching them leave for seminary or college or the mission field. We packed them up, depending on their order, with many things or nothing. Depending on where they are located and their mission, we might hear from them every week or only a few times a year. There might be access to the Internet for e-mails or we may have to rely on erratic snail mails. They may be sent far from home or preach to us from a pulpit in our own dioceses.

Whatever your child’s call, they didn’t write about it in the parents’ books or magazines. There isn’t an article titled, “Now That You’ve Become the Parent of a Religious” to be found. As a result, much of what you learn comes as you go along. You come to know and accept the rules and norms of your child’s order. But honestly, some of these are easier to accept than others.

As much as I complained about shopping when my daughter was younger, I miss the fact that I don’t buy her clothes anymore. Her clothes are given to her and while I contribute to the costs of these through our donations, I don’t have the small pleasure of seeing a sweater that I know she would look great in and sending it to her “just because”. It is a silly thing I know, but one I take to prayer regularly.

Money as a whole is so different now. I am like so many other parents of a young adult, as I get letters requesting money, but mine come as those formal donation letters many receive. However, unlike so many other parents who might wonder where all their money goes, I know the money I send is never going to be spent unwisely on a weekend bash but on such necessities as milk and heating bills.

I worry about her daily, not with concern about what decisions are being made but more in regard with loneliness and acceptance. My daughter faces the rejection that Christ did during His life here on earth. I know people close the door in her face both figuratively and literally. I know they are really refusing Christ as they dismiss her, but I can’t stand the thought of anyone not liking her. She’s a great person. She’s beautiful, smart and funny. How could anyone not love her as I do? But they don’t, just as they don’t love God. I feel a closeness to Mary that I never had before, from the moment my daughter spoke her vows. She knows, more so than I, how painful it is watching your child be rejected.

But these are minor struggles and our lives are a blessing. As parents of religious, we all have peace knowing our children have found their vocations at a time when so many young people are still wandering. We miss them, but knowing where they are — a rectory, mission field or chapel — gives us a peace many parents lack. We also have a closeness that texting cannot replace. We join hands and hearts through the Tabernacle. Whenever my family communicates with my daughter, we close with the reminder that we’ll “see each other at the altar”. Every Mass reminds me of her and as I receive Christ I can imagine her doing the same though far away. We both say goodnight to the Blessed Mother and ask her to watch over us as we sleep.

So, there should be no complaints should there? However, if I could beg for a little latitude, I would like to grouse a bit without sounding ungrateful. A friend of mine told me of a recent visit to Italy to spend some time with her son who is a priest. As they walked about the city, her son in his collar, they were often greeted quite warmly. She blushed with pride as she told of the small items placed in her hand by shopkeepers and the kind words of thanksgiving given her. “The mother of the priest deserves great blessings!”, she was told repeatedly.

I do not often hear such words except from other families with religious. I get awkward smiles and “Oh, that must be nice!” before the subject is quickly changed. Or I will be subjected to the barrage of prying questions that reveal a dislike or distrust of the Church. I will openly admit that I wish my daughter’s vocation generated the same respect and pride that other professions do, such as doctor. The vocation of a religious should be seen to have equal value if not more. While a doctor may save the body, a religious is trying to save a soul. The body will eventually die; the soul, with good care and formation, will live forever. However, I know this adulation doesn’t often come and probably shouldn’t, as all praise and glory remain God’s and God’s alone. He called and my child answered; I am but a very small part of the picture. But, honestly and humanly, a more frequent favorable reception would be welcome.

Therefore, in companionship of a fraternity created by our children’s calls to serve Christ — Congratulations (again)! — you are not alone in your role. We may not have a weekly support group but we are in very special company, are we not? We have role models in the recently beatified Louie and Zelie Martin, parents of the Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and her religious siblings as well as the Blessed Mother herself. May they watch over all of us and grant us the graces and comfort we need on the tough days. I also offer the prayer below, written together with my husband and with my daughter’s approval. May it give you comfort just as it does us:


Lord, I thank you for my child’s vocation. Never cease watching over him/her. Grant him/her all the graces necessary to fulfill his/her sacrificial call; especially strength, dedication, and fidelity. Though we are not together, allow my prayers to give him/her comfort and strength. May he/she never regret his/her gift of self, despite the cost. Keep us united through the Eucharist and the love of our mother, Mary.

Grant us the courage to continue to be open to his/her call and to help spread our generosity to others. Allow us eternity together with you where we will rejoice forever for the gift his/her vocation is to the Church and to our family. Amen.

Rachel Watkins is wife of Matthew, mom to 11 kids, creator of the Little Flower's Girls Program (http://www.eccehomopress.com/), and a weekly contributor to Heart, Mind and Strength Radio with Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak and a frequent blogger at their site, http://www.exceptionalmarriages.com/.