Therefore, let us thank God through Christ in His Church, and let us pray that the laborers may further increase, for it is indeed a bountiful harvest!
The Christian blog Vox Nova has reported that vocations to the priesthood are increasing in certain dioceses in the United States. It specifically mentioned Los Angeles, San Bernadino, San Francisco, St. Louis, Galveston-Houston, Chicago, Norwich, New York, Boston (and that despite its recently checquered history), and Madison. (Indeed, a commenter on Per Christum noted that the Archdiocese of St. Louis is now raising funds to double the size of their seminary.) Roman Catholic Info says the same thing about Cincinnati; and Whispers in the Loggia adds Louisville (which was also given 29 permanent deacons), Sapinaw, and Paterson.
These US dioceses are part of an international trend, with vocations also increasing in Davao (Philippines), South Korea, the rest of Asia, Africa, and Latin America–in general, in areas where the particular churches have remained faithful to the received Faith. Worldwide, the gains have more than offset the losses, with the number of priests having steadily increased from 2000.
And it’s not just in the diocesan priesthood. The Anchoress reports that vocations are booming in religious orders as diverse as the Carmelites, the Norbertines (a once-great Order in Latin Europe that’s had quite a revival in the past century), the Franciscans, the Cistercians, and the Benedictines; and some are even running out of room, as also reported for the Dominicans. It’s a common pattern among religious institutes, and CNA reported last February that, in 2007,
“Catholic religious communities in the United States have increased the number of individuals they have in initial formation by 30 percent…”
My reaction is simple: Praise the Lord, et Deo gratias! If the reports are accurate–and I dearly hope they are–then it’s like seeing the sunrise after a long midwinter night. For the laborers have been few over the past decades, and the past dearth in vocations was a troubling symptom of the malaise that gripped the authentic Church, especially in the “West”, after the 1960’s (although CCC cites analysis showing the enduring resilience of the Body of Christ).
Now, this isn’t the place to analyze the causes of the vocations crisis (i.e., whether it sprang from Johannine policies like aggiornamento or was part of a general religious crisis in Northern countries); for those who are interested, they can find good brief analyses over at Ignatius Insight and A Room with a View and in a volume by Dr. Conrad Baars in his thought-provoking I Will Give Them a New Heart. But what we can say now is that it was indeed serious, and that it significantly weakened the oft-made claim that the one Church enjoyed a “renewal” in the past 4 decades, except perhaps in the subversive sense meant by Neomodernism.
Note that it wasn’t, as many might think, a problem limited only to God’s Church, as Neochristians like, especially, the Episcopalians and other “Mainline” Protestants can testify. Nor were its ramifications limited to Christians alone. Some years ago, a major news magazine (I think Time or Newsweek) ran a story on what it called the “nun deficit”. It noted that Christian (by which I mean Catholic) charities form the bulk of private social welfare, and are run mostly by nuns; so the shortage of sisters endangered welfare efforts that benefit Christians and non-Christians alike. Hence the news of an apparent vocations boom, and even a renascence in the true Church, is heartening, and should be seen as good news by all persons of good will.
So now the question is, why the increase? Roman Catholic Info and A Room with a View both say that vocations tend to increase when a community observes doctrinal fidelity and moral solidarity, and when its leaders encourage vocations, something corroborated by local leaders according to the Catholic World Report. I quite agree; for a community that affirms tradition and mission would, even on a natural, human level, provide people with the reason and will to serve. If The Times and Colleen Carroll Campbell are correct, this is something that Pope Benedict XVI is doing for the one true Church on a global level, and to good effect, deepening a resurgence that began under John Paul the Great (on which, see The New Faithful).
Therefore, let us thank God through Christ in His Church, and let us pray that the laborers may further increase; for it is indeed a bountiful harvest! I say again, let us pray! There any many prayers for vocations, like those at EWTN, the Circle of Prayer, the USCCB site, catholicism.about.com, and St. Charles Borromeo parish; none are obligatory forms, as far as I know; and the reader may choose among them or his own. What’s important is that we unceasingly pray with faith, hope, and love, as often as possible in union with the Divine Liturgy of the Mass, and that we help and encourage everyone to discern their call, always trusting in the grace and mercy of the Lord our God.
May He bless us all.