Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The importance of a "culture of vocation"

An article in USA Today can serve as a reminder of the importance of encouraging a culture of vocation. (See: Study: Nearly half of new priests were discouraged against seminary)

A survey produced for the US bishops by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University found that almost 45% of Catholic priests planning to be ordained this year said that they had been discouraged from considering the priesthood.
Of those, nearly 6 in 10 said a parent or family member was the source of the discouragement. Fifty-one percent said a friend or classmate had counseled them against the priesthood, and 15% said a priest or other clergy had. The percentages add up to more than 100 because respondents could select more than one category.
This does not surprise me and I expect the percentages would be larger in England.

In my diocese, Fr Stephen Langridge, Southwark Vocations Director has been working hard to encourage a "culture of vocation" in which a vocation to the sacred priesthood is seen as something possible and desirable within families and parishes. (Above is his excellent vocations poster from a few years ago.)

This is important because it is easy to become discouraged if our own local vocations work does not result immediately in young men signing up for the seminary. We should not underestimate the importance of speaking about vocations regularly, inviting seminarians to events, letting people know about things that happen at the Seminary (as St John's Seminary at Wonersh has done recently by sending parishes a free colour magazine with articles about the students and their formation.) All of these initiatives help to "normalise" the idea of a priestly vocation - or perhaps it might be better to say that they help to rescue the idea of a priestly vocation from the atmosphere of secular ridicule.
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