Finally, some good news!
For as long as my friends and I can remember, Catholics have used the term “vocations crisis” to refer to the shortage of priests and religious that has plagued the Church for the past several decades. I have often wondered whether awareness of this “crisis” was a recent phenomenon, so I did a bit of research…
It seems that the term “vocations crisis” was being used as early as 1969, right around the time the “crisis” began. I’m not sure how often it was used in the years that followed, but if my Vatican archives keyword search is any indication, it looks like the use of this term exploded around the year 2000. My own experience tells me that for the past ten years or so, it has become somewhat of a buzzword among Catholics.
I got used to talking about the “vocations crisis,” too, until one day my spiritual director told me something that rocked my world: There has never been a crisis of vocations, because God has never stopped calling. What we have mistakenly termed a “vocations crisis” is, and has always been, a crisis of response.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? God would never abandon the Church, His Beloved Bride. He has always called, and continues to call, sufficient laborers for His vineyard. Sadly, many of those He was calling in decades past could not (or would not) hear His voice.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, with each decade that’s passed since the “sexual revolution” of the sixties, our culture has become increasingly hostile to the pursuit of a celibate vocation — and I am not speaking only of the secular culture! Even among Catholics, I have seen an astonishing lack of support from “good Catholic parents” who seem to think their child must be CRAZY to consider living a celibate life… And it seems that this hostility, both inside and outside of the home, has made many young people afraid to even consider a vocation. The result? A crisis of response that has lasted some 30-40 years.
So, what’s the good news?
Young people are answering the call, and LOTS of them!
Last March, I saw this post on Vocation Boom: “Vocations are on the rise, and here are the stats to prove it.” Then I came across an article about the recent CARA Study on vocations to the religious life in the United States, and this one from the National Catholic Register.
But the proof isn’t only in faceless statistics. Last year, I said goodbye to about a dozen friends who were leaving to begin their first year of formation for priesthood or religious life. That’s when numbers like these really began hitting home for me:
- Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles: 7 new aspirants last year. Among them, my dear friend Rose!
- Dominican Province of St. Joseph: 21 new novice brothers, whose average age is 24. I don’t have a friend among them (yet), but one of my high school classmates recently entered the local Jesuit novitiate at age 24!
- Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist: 22 new aspirants, the order’s largest group to date. Among them, Lucy, a friend of mine from college! The average age of the sisters in the order is 26; the postulants’ average age upon entering is 21.
- Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville Dominicans): 27 new postulants (4 more than last year), one of whom is from my diocese! The average age of this order’s 274 sisters is 24.
- Franciscan Friars of the Renewal: 9 new postulants in 2009, 7 more in 2010, 6 brothers (above) took final vows last fall. Congratulations, Br. Dismas!
- Sisters of Life: 8 new postulants last year, ranging in age from 22-25!
- One young woman from our diocese entered the Missionaries of Charity Sisters in January 2010.
- Two more entered the local Carmel in October.
- Another joined Mother Angelica’s Poor Clares (the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration) in Hanceville, AL.
- The major seminary in my home state welcomed 35 new seminarians last fall — a number they had every right to be happy about!
On a side note, I recently discovered that 5 of the 26 seminarians from my diocese went to the local public high school I attended… which wouldn’t be a big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that we were all there at the same time. This means that my alma mater produced 5 seminarians in 5 years! Plus a Jesuit novice. And (God willing!) a consecrated virgin. Not bad at all for a public high school!
Perhaps those numbers don’t impress you. Perhaps my friends and I are the exception… but I would venture to say that this is probably not the case. Seminaries across the country are welcoming young men in droves, and more than a few religious orders are growing at an almost alarming rate.
Is the “vocations crisis” over? I think things are definitely looking up, and I can say that with confidence and joy. My friends and I are the living proof!