Seek the Lord by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr
All God-given vocations are important. That is why God gives them! Our archdiocesan Prayer for Vocations specifically mentions the vocational call to a chaste single life “and faithful husbands and wives, who are a sign of Christ’s love for His Church.” The Vocations page on our archdiocesan website (catholiccincinnati.org/ministries-offices/vocations/) also reflects this broad understanding of the word “vocations.”
If you are young enough, you have been hearing the phrases “priest shortage” and “vocation crisis” your entire life. The problem is real, it is continuing and it is worldwide. The people of God need priests and deacons to bring Christ to others in word and sacrament. We also need the witness of consecrated religious, who give so much to the Church with their great diversity of charisms and ministries.
In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, our prayers for more priests have been answered over the past decade with strong growth in the number of seminarians and priestly ordinations. Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West expanded this year with the first new construction since 1962. While we thank God for this generous “yes” by so many priest candidates and benefactors, it has not made up for the loss of priests each year to death and retirement.
If you feel drawn to a religious vocation, do not be afraid to take the first steps toward discernment. Remember, the question is not whether you want to be a priest, deacon, sister or brother, but whether the Lord wants it. “A vocation is a mystery of divine election,” St. John Paul II wrote in his book Gift and Mystery. He noted that Jesus told His apostles, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit . . .” (Jn 15:16).
Bearing fruit by following God’s definite purpose for our lives is the surest way to happiness. My own 45 years as a priest and bishop have been richly satisfying, although certainly challenging at times. If you see the potential for a religious vocation in someone you know, please encourage him or her to fully explore that path – just as others once encouraged me.
Among Catholics of earlier generations, it was common for pastors, parents, other relatives and friends to foster religious vocations. That appears to be less true today. There may be several reasons for this, including a general decline in religious observance. Certainly, the priest abuse and bishop accountability crises are factors, but these cannot overshadow the selfless and faithful work of so many dedicated religious men and women striving to proclaim the Good News. As the Gospel of John promises, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5).
Please pray for our good and holy priests – priests who serve under a shadow created by the sins of others. Pray for those discerning a religious vocation, their families, and those involved in their formation. And pray especially that you may have the courage, wisdom and strength to seek and follow God’s plan for your own life.