by Sam Alzheimer
In the United States, there are lots of “awareness days” and even “awareness months” for all sorts of causes. For Catholics, though, one in particular stands out. It’s National Vocation Awareness Week, which the U.S. bishops have moved to the first full week of November.
Why celebrate the week, which begins November 1st? Here are three good reasons:
1. The Church needs more priests!
Nationwide, only about 30 priests are ordained for every 100 priests who die or retire (article). About 3,500 parishes do not have a resident priest, a trend which gets worse each year. Some dioceses are doing better than others, but overall, we need more priests to preach the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments.
2. Young people need help listening for God’s call.
After the decision to follow Jesus, your vocation is the most important decision in life! We owe it to our young people to teach them the truth about priesthood and religious life—meaningful and deeply rewarding vocations—and to help them discern their own calling.
3. Parents and grandparents need to become more open to their loved ones becoming priests or religious.
In an annual survey, 40-50% of newly ordained priests report that their families initially opposed their vocations. This shows that Catholics of all ages need education and catechesis about vocations within the Church. The good news is that seminary enrollment is increasing (slightly), and that many traditional religious orders are seeing healthy growth. Top researchers, though, say this growth needs to be much more robust if the Church is to have an adequate number of clergy to serve the Catholic population, which continues to grow.
What can you do to help? To borrow a phrase, “think globally, but act locally.” Start in your family (see tips here and here) but also act in your parish. There are lots of great resources to reach youth with a pro-vocation message. (Here and here, for starters.) There’s even a new book to help you start a “vocation ministry” in your parish. If you want to start right away, this bulletin insert is a great resource for November 1st.
Should we be reaching out to young people via committees, books, and brochures? Of course. Is it enough? No. Most of all, we need vibrant communities truly living our Catholic faith, where young people are formed to be prayerful, committed followers of Jesus. This is the “rich soil” which can yield “thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8).