Praying and Working for Vocations
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
©Catholic Online 2005
No doubt about it: there's significant interest in increasing the number of Vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated Life on the part of many concerned Catholics throughout the United States and other countries.
Bishop Robert J. Carlson, the Bishop of Saginaw and the former Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Vocations, once stated that on telling Pope John Paul II during the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver that he was chairman of that vital committee within the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Holy Father remarked, "I pray for Vocations in your country every day."
The recently deceased Roman Pontiff, too, cared deeply about the Vocations picture in "the land of the free." The same can be said about his worthy successor, Pope Benedict XVI.
So many creative initiatives aimed at promoting Vocations have been tried. Some have been successful, others have not. What has been observed is that Vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated Life come expressly from an authentic calling from God and--more often than not--are nurtured within a supportive family and by the gentle, persistent encouragement of Priests, Consecrated Religious, friends and/or some important person like a teacher or employer.
Moreover, the attention paid to attracting more Vocations reminds us of an all-too-forgotten truth: "We are all in this together." No longer can any Catholic genuinely claim that the reality of fewer Vocations doesn't concern him or her. Each Catholic has a legitimate, pressing responsibility to pray and work for additional Vocations, knowing well that many parishes no longer have a resident priest.
Young people should be aware that by becoming a Priest, Deacon, Sister or Brother, they not only respond affirmatively to the divine summons but they also answer the heartfelt pleas of so many of the faithful for "laborers in the Lord's vineyard."
It's been said that the Church in the United States will receive more Vocations when all Catholics perceive the challenge of increasing Vocations as one that affects them personally. Until that day, we'll labor under the burden of insufficient numbers of Catholic Clergy and Consecrated Religious.
Priests and Consecrated Religious share the burden of encouraging Vocations. Holy, happy Clergy and Consecrated Religious can't help but stir the souls of those who're seeking their true calling. By impressing upon their listeners that they would gladly make the same choice today, Priests and Consecrated Religious foster a love for their respective Vocations and perform a valuable task for the Church of tomorrow by helping to assure plenty of Vocations.
The plaguing question of why more Vocations aren't forthcoming in our land may perhaps best be answered by glancing at the scene in countries where an adequate supply of Priests and Consecrated Religious exists. Why do some of these materially underdeveloped countries experience a boom in Vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated Life? Because such Vocations are "natural"--they aren't out of the ordinary. It isn't unusual for Catholic families in these economically poor but spiritually rich nations to be the seedbed for a Priest or two and a Consecrated Religious Sister or Brother as well.
Sadly, in much of the West, Catholic families boasting of a Priest or Consecrated Religious have gone the way of Catholic families having four or more children. What was once fairly common is now virtually unheard of.
Yet, there's hope for more Vocations.
The old saying has more than a little merit: We should pray as if it all depended on God and work as though it all depended on us. With earnest prayer and diligent effort on the part of all Catholics, we can avoid the gloomy prospect of fewer Priests, Deacons, Sisters and Brothers. The Church of Jesus Christ in the United States and throughout the world deserves better.
(A slightly edited article that originally appeared in the "National Catholic Register." Used with permission.)
http://www.catholic.org , VA
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125
Vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated Life
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