Is the “vocations crisis” over?

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:

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal after their final profession, 2010

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal after their final profession, 2010 (from the CFRs' Picasa album)

  • 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!

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6 Comments

Filed under In the News, Reflections

6 responses to “Is the “vocations crisis” over?

  1. Kim

    What an inspiring post! I think your prayers are making amazing things happen for your diocese! I love that quote about a “crisis of response”!
    P.S. I just re-read your post on my blog!

  2. Dee

    What a wonderful post! And so true, it definitely got me to thinking about the “crisis” that everyone have been talking about. I believe this crisis of response is defintely experiencing a reversal.

    May God be with you as you journey towards your response.

    • Thanks, Dee! A friend of mine from Seattle had mentioned the SMMC, but I hadn’t ever read about them till I looked at your blog. What an inspiring story! I will be praying hard that the Lord provides for your entrance and graces you with patience and peace!

  3. Brian Roebuck

    I am happy for the good news. Sometimes us young Catholics worry we won’t have priests, nuns, and monks to go to for advice on spiritual matters.
    I am happy so many want to walk in this world holding the loving hand of our blessed Church.

  4. Pingback: More Good News: Ordination Numbers Are Up! | By Love Alone

  5. Anne Mccormack

    I live in Glasgow, Scotland. The lack of vocations in the United Kingdom is truly shocking. It is now a very secularised society. I also find that in the U.K. Christians seem now to be very much second class citizens. In many work places the wearing of the crucifix is banned, but veils may be worn by the followers of islam. I think the suppression of Christian values has led to total apathy within the younger generation. This is a Christian country but you would never know it. So come on Americas’ Catholics pray for the Church over here, we really need your prayers. We all need to live in peace and harmony, but the inequality over here re: religious and personal choice is upsetting many Catholics and members of other churches. Pray for vocations here, it would be nice to see a habited religious every so often. Couldn’t tell you last time I saw one and I’m 61 years old now.

    Well done America in your surge of vocations. Long may it continue.

    Anne McCormack

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