Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Priest shortage? Not everywhere

Folks have been discussing the shortage of Catholic priests for years now. While there has been much ink spilled and pixels piled in the mainstream media highlighting the fact that falling numbers of men are entering the seminary, there has been very little discussion out there on practical solutions to reverse this trend.

That's why I was happy to come across the hopeful outlook in the short video clip below. Christopher White, the man being interviewed, has co-written a new book that highlights an encouraging trend of growth in the number of priesthood vocations. The book is called Renewal: How a New Generation of Faithful Priests and Bishops Is Revitalizing the Catholic Church.

From the title, it's apparent that Mr. White's argument is the same one that seems common-sensical to me (and to many others): vocations to the priesthood are growing most robustly in dioceses where the teachings of the Church are presented as unmitigated Truth and where orthodoxy and defense of the faith are the norm. Conversely, wherever the teachings of the faith are muddled, watered down, inconsistently emphasized or worse, the Catholic faith itself suffers, and vocation numbers remain stagnant (at best).

In the book, though, it is not Mr. White's opinion that is important as much as it is the clear numerical evidence that strongly backs up he and his co-author's contention that being profusely, ya know, Catholic, is the most logical and provably effective way to increase vocations. From level of the family, all the way up to the bishop: with every layperson and priest in between. Everyone being "together" on this is vital for success.

Vocations are growing the most in dioceses where there is a strong and healthy Catholic identity among the clergy and the laypeople, where orthodoxy and catechesis are integrated seamlessly with outreach and service to the broader community. In other words, evidence seems to show that where communities of Catholics 1) have a clearer understanding of who they are; 2) are informed about what they believe and why; and 3) better grasp how their Catholic faith is to shape their conduct and influence their worldview, then these communities also do something else: they produce vocations to the priesthood.