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Vocations Surge - The Priest Shortage Isn’t Over, But Seminaries Are Filling Up
National Catholic Register ^ | January 14, 2007 | Tim Drake

Posted on 01/12/2007 1:18:10 PM PST by NYer

SAVANNAH, Ga. — It’s vocations awareness week — but most Catholics aren’t aware of which dioceses are having successes with vocations.

The list might surprise you.

Dioceses such as Boston, Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia and St. Paul/Minneapolis continue to have the largest ordination classes, in part because of their larger Catholic populations. When the number of seminarians is compared with the total number of Catholics in the diocese, however, a very different list emerges — one that shows that the largest number of priests per capita are coming from the Midwest and the southern United States.

“The south is very religious,” said Father Tim McKeown, vocation director for the Diocese of Savannah, Ga. “We’re about 3% to 4% Catholic, but there is a strong Christian ethos. I think that certainly helps.”

According to the Official Catholic Directory’s 2006 statistics, the Diocese of Savannah ordained five men in 2005, putting it at second in the Top 10 list of dioceses with the most ordinands per Catholics. With a total Catholic population of 73,649, that makes the ratio one ordinand per 14,730 Catholics.

Compiling data from the 2006 Official Catholic Directory published by Kenedy and Sons, the Register discovered that outside of Ogdensburg, N.Y., those dioceses with the most ordinands-per-Catholics are concentrated in the South. They include Savannah, Ga., Alexandria, La., Knoxville, Tenn., Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn. The remaining four are located in the Midwest: Fargo, N.D., Duluth, Minn., Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Springfield, Ill.

Comparing the 2006 data with that provided by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) from 2004, the Diocese of Fargo and the Diocese of Memphis appear on the Top 10 list of ordinands-per-Catholic both times. The only diocese to make both the list for most ordinands and list for ordinands-per-Catholics was the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

The Diocese of Memphis has quadrupled its number of seminarians in the past five years. Father Keith Stewart, vocation director, cited personal contact as the key.

“I’ve really worked with our priests to get them to extend a personal invitation to men,” said Father Stewart, who has been at his post for five years. “It’s been one of my biggest priorities because I’ve seen it borne out in experience that the personal invitation is what gets the ball rolling.”

According to Father Stewart, those interested in pursuing a priestly vocation come to him only after having initial contact with a priest.

“The priests are the real recruiters,” said Father Stewart. “Ninety percent of them come to me only after someone else got the ball rolling. I’ve only had one or two who have come to me on their own.”

A U.S. bishops’ conference survey bears that out. According to the study done by the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, 78% of the men being ordained said they were initially invited by a priest to consider the priesthood. That same survey showed that very few men are inspired to consider the priesthood by a website or advertisement.

“Ask any of our seminarians and they will tell you that they began to seriously consider the priesthood only the third or fourth time someone asked them,” said Father McKeown.

Toward that end, the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, which was on the Top 10 list two years ago, has instituted an Andrew Dinner in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus.

“In January and February we host three dinners in different parts of our diocese,” explained Father Timothy Shannon, director of vocations for the Diocese of Steubenville. “Parish priests invite anyone from junior high school through college whom they think might have an interest. It’s based on the fact that Andrew heard the call of God and brought Peter to Christ.”

The format of the dinner includes a testimony by a seminarian and a talk by the bishop.

The Diocese of Steubenville currently has 11 seminarians studying for the priesthood.

In addition to personal contact, vocation directors also point to the importance of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

Father Tim Donohue, assistant vocation director for the Diocese of Savannah, credits Eucharistic adoration as key to his own call to the priesthood and as influential in the call of others.

“It is a building block for vocations,” Father Donohue was quoted as saying in the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors’ newsletter. “I have discovered that more than a few vocations have come from men with a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, who found their calling by spending time with Christ in adoration or prayer before the tabernacle.”

Father McKeown also credits the importance of prayer. He said that was fostered under the diocese’s previous vocation director, Father Brett Brannen, who now serves as vice rector at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Under Father Brannen’s leadership, the diocese developed a prayer card. On the back side of the prayer card each of the seminarians is listed, one for each day of the month.

“We have a vocation prayer that’s been part of the diocese for over 50 years,” said Father McKeown. “The previous director had prayer cards made up and got them into the parishes and diocesan schools. He handed them out to those who were sick so that they can offer up their prayers for the diocese.”

Father McKeown said that when prospective candidates see healthy, young seminarians joyfully following Christ it is attractive to them.

“It snowballs. It resonates with them,” said Father McKeown. “They can put themselves in those shoes easier.”

While studies conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate have tended to show that priests are trending toward being older, more educated and foreign-born, that’s not quite the case among American-born ordinands.

“Our seminarians are getting younger, especially when you look at the American-born seminarians,” said Father Stewart. The Diocese of Memphis currently has 18 men studying for the priesthood. “We have only two second-career vocations. Most are right out of high school or college.”

Seminarian John Johnson, who is a transitional deacon studying at Mount St. Mary’s for ordination to the Diocese of Savannah, has observed the same trend. He said that the priesthood is attracting younger men.

“We have 150 to 160 guys here,” said Johnson. “All of them, with the exception of one or two, are about my age. There’s a fresh, vital spirit among the young guys. They are ready to go out, be good priests, remain faithful to their state in life, and do their best to serve and defend the Church.”

Another example can be found in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. There, 142 young men from across the United States are studying at St. John Vianney Minor Seminary. The Diocese of Duluth, which is on the Register’s Top 10 list, has 16 seminarians studying at St. John Vianney. In 2005, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis ordained 15 men to the priesthood. The archdiocese currently has 34 of its own young men studying at the seminary.

In an age where the Church has been marred by the past scandals of some of her priests, one would think that that would impact the numbers of men desiring to be priests, but Deacon Johnson said that isn’t the case.

“We all have a sense that we are in the wake of the scandals and we’re learning about the modern situation, but it doesn’t faze us,” said Johnson. “I felt that after the scandals there would be a sharp drop-off in the numbers of young seminarians, but it hasn’t been that way at all.”

TOPICS: Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Theology; Worship
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1 posted on 01/12/2007 1:18:15 PM PST by NYer
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To: Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

2 posted on 01/12/2007 1:18:52 PM PST by NYer (Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven. St. Rose of Lima)
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To: NYer

Good news. Ping for later.

3 posted on 01/12/2007 1:22:59 PM PST by Antoninus ( Rudy McRomney as the GOP nominee = President Hillary. Why else do you think the media loves them?)
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To: NYer

Talk about sacrifice. My Dad wanted one of us boys to become a Priest, but I guess we just did not have the calling. All of us are married with children now. I tell you that guys who do this are incredible. We all we to Catholic School from K-12 and still did not hear the call. lol.

4 posted on 01/12/2007 1:25:03 PM PST by napscoordinator
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To: napscoordinator

You'd all probably be eligible to be Orthodox priests. Or Eastern Rite Catholic priests.

5 posted on 01/12/2007 1:34:09 PM PST by kawaii (Orthodox Christianity -- Proclaiming the Truth Since 33 A.D.)
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To: NYer

NYer, that picture is from the Legion of Christ ordination I believe. I was present at their ordination at Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica this last Dec 23rd in Rome for it. My old college roomate was one of 55 (could be off a couple) ordained. 3 hour ceremony and quite amazing to see the fully lit up Basilica.

They are growing. Along with the North American College in Rome you are seeing a large number of young, dedicated, men making their way to priesthood.

Whole event was simply amazing.

6 posted on 01/12/2007 1:34:14 PM PST by MNlurker
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To: kawaii

Never thought about that. Interesting. I don't know if I could change my life that dramatically but thanks for the info.

7 posted on 01/12/2007 1:39:28 PM PST by napscoordinator
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To: NYer

I'm surprised the Archdiocese of Atlanta is not on the list. We have a lot of seminarians as well, and we crank out some good ones. Lots of holy young men in this archdiocese.

8 posted on 01/12/2007 1:57:26 PM PST by Juana la Loca
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To: NYer
I can personally vouch for the authentic Catholic spirituality of the priests quoted in the article from the Savannah diocese. Fr. Tim Donahue is my current pastor here at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta and Fr. Brett Brannen was his predecessor before his move to Mt. St. Mary's Seminary. And for what it's worth, a large chunk of the recent vocations in this diocese have come from this one parish.

Men in their early 40s who are Catholic in every sense.

9 posted on 01/12/2007 2:31:48 PM PST by marshmallow
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To: MNlurker
that picture is from the Legion of Christ ordination I believe

I believe you're correct!!


10 posted on 01/12/2007 2:32:37 PM PST by NYer (Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven. St. Rose of Lima)
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To: Juana la Loca

I wonder why too. If it's adjusted for population we ought to be up there. Lots of bright young men here on fire for Christ. Our parish sponsors two seminarians, and they are fine men and will be GREAT priests! Two of our former seminarians have come through as Parochial Vicars, and they are great too . . . only problem is they get their own parish and have to leave . . . < sniff >

11 posted on 01/12/2007 2:41:34 PM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: NYer

Funny moment.

Each candidate during the ordination ceremony is called upon and they must answer "Present" to show they are ready to fufill their calling. During this one of the candidates got up, but they took the mike away too quickly and it made it seem as if he declined to answer at the time...a bunch of us looked around like "Did he just not say "present?" Didn't expect to see this!" of course we come to find later that it was the fact that the mike was taken away. All of the brothers had quite a laugh over it...ridiculing him for a couple of days after the fact.

He was totally embarrased of course.

12 posted on 01/12/2007 2:48:02 PM PST by MNlurker
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To: MNlurker

I subscribe to Netflix, and just yesterday I saw "Diary of a Country Priest," mad ein in 1936, if I recall correctly. I recommend it. In passing it notes that already at that time many young priests were dropping out because the priesthood was not what they expected. A powerful story of a saintly priest with none of the tone of hagiography. Based on the book by Bernanos.

13 posted on 01/12/2007 4:06:41 PM PST by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: MNlurker

Poor man! I feel for him - once I had to say a few words in a foreign language to a huge group of speakers of that language and I did it very well. Then people in the back started yelling that the mike wasn't on. So I had to redo it, and for some reason redoing it gave me one of the most massive attacks of stage fright I have ever had and I could barely gasp out a word of my formerly fluent speech.

But one recovers...

14 posted on 01/12/2007 4:12:08 PM PST by livius
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To: NYer

I found the part in the article about priests being the best recruiters very interesting. I had considered the priesthood (before I met my wife) and yet I never had a priest ask me about pursuing it.

I still have hopes that one of my boys will answer the call.

15 posted on 01/12/2007 4:13:15 PM PST by Straight Vermonter (It takes a school to bankrupt a village.)
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To: marshmallow; NYer

I hope I get this attribution correct. I believe it was Fr. John Corapi (but it could have been Fr. John Trigilio) who said that the success of a Parish is measured in two easily determined statistics:

1-How many people attend Confession each Saturday?

2-How many vocations has the Parish given the Church in the past Decade?

The point was that one could take an average 6 page Church bulletin and get rid of 99% of the Collection total, Father Says...., the adverts, who is selling what and when and so on and predict how Catholic a Parish truly is by these two lines of print.

Judging by the criterion I mentioned, marshmallow, the Parish you mention is a Powerhouse of God! I'd wager Confession is also very well attended.

16 posted on 01/12/2007 4:20:27 PM PST by Frank Sheed ("It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged." --G.K. Chesterton)
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To: Frank Sheed

Any idea where you can find Fr. Corapi talks online (for free would be best)?

17 posted on 01/12/2007 4:58:56 PM PST by StAthanasiustheGreat (Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus Deus Aderit)
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To: Straight Vermonter; napscoordinator; kawaii
I still have hopes that one of my boys will answer the call.

Keep encouraging him without pushing him into it (kids often do the reverse just to make a statement). My Maronite pastor's grandfather was a priest (the pastor chose celibacy) and we have several children in the parish with uncles who serve as priests in other parishes. And then, pray. Ultimately, this is all in God's hands, not ours.

18 posted on 01/12/2007 5:08:11 PM PST by NYer (Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven. St. Rose of Lima)
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To: livius

"Poor man! I feel for him - once I had to say a few words in a foreign language to a huge group of speakers of that language and I did it very well."

Baruch atah Adonai, Elohaynu, melekh ho-olam...?
Oh, wait! Wrong thread!

19 posted on 01/12/2007 5:09:37 PM PST by Vicomte13 (Aure entuluva.)
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To: NYer

Wow! Answered prayers.

20 posted on 01/12/2007 5:10:52 PM PST by onyx (DONATE NOW! -- It takes DONATIONS to keep FR running!!)
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