If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bishop Burbidge Discusses Vocations, Priesthood, ...

Bishop Michael Burbidge was interviewed on WRAL TV's "Headline Saturday", and speaks about many issues related to the faith - especially vocations and the priesthood. While the "purpose" of the show was to discuss his first six months as Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh, he also deftly handles some rather pointed questions about "hot button" issues, doing great apologetics work and proclaiming the Truth all the while. We are truly blessed to have this great Shepherd leading our Diocese! DEO GRATIAS

For those hadn't yet heard, Bishop Burbidge is the president elect of the USCCB Committee on Vocations and Priestly Formation. In my humble opinion his brother Bishops couldn't have picked a better man - clearly they know the zeal he has for vocations and the priesthood!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Vatican enters team in Rome's Clericus Cup

ROME: The Vatican is getting ready to battle it out with priests in Rome. On a soccer pitch.
The inaugural Clericus Cup will kick off in February 2007 with the Vatican one of 16 teams taking part.

The final will take place in the Italian capital at the end of June, organizers said Friday.
"The Clericus Cup (is) an occasion for all those enthusiasts, and some former players — who are in seminaries today, attending university, studying to be a priest — to put themselves back in the game, dribbling, making saves and headers," the Italian Sports Center (CSI), which is organizing the event, said in a statement on its Web site. CSI is a Christian organization that promotes education through sport.

"The purpose is really to reinvigorate the tradition (of sport) inside the Christian community," CSI president Edio Costantini told Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday, crediting Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state and an ardent Juventus fan, with the idea.
"Sport is a magnificent tool for bringing the young together ... Aside from physical training, a soccer match can serve as a (means to) personal, social and spiritual growth," Costantini said.
Costantini hopes that many priests who have hung up their boots "to prioritize other aspects of the Christian mission" will start to play soccer again. "A priest that can get together with kids to play soccer is the best advertisement for sporting culture inside the Church," Costantini added.

The teams are likely to be made up of trainee priests, who are studying at the various pontifical universities in Rome. Games are limited to one hour — rather than the normal 90 minutes — which may tempt some of the older generation to play. The coaching staff will also be exclusively clerical, Gazzetta reported. It did not say who the referees will be.
The first edition of the Clericus Cup will be limited to teams from Rome, but the format could be extended to other regions throughout Italy, according to Gazzetta.

The late Pope John Paul II was a keen sportsman and played soccer in his youth, mostly as a goalkeeper.

Cloistered Monasteries: Vital "Green Lungs"

On Monday, in his remarks prior to praying the Angelus, the Pope recalled cloistered religious communities who, on November 21, celebrate the Day "pro Orantibus", which is dedicated to them.

"This is a particularly appropriate occasion," said the Pope to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, "to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves entirely to God in prayer and silence.

"Some people ask themselves," he added, "what meaning and value can the presence of such people have in our time, in which the situations of want and poverty we have to face are so numerous and urgent. Why 'cloister' oneself forever within the walls of a monastery, thus depriving others of one's abilities and experiences? What effect can prayer have for resolving the many concrete problems that continue to afflict humanity?"

Also today, many are surprised by "the people who abandon often promising careers to embrace the austere rule of a cloistered monastery. What is it that pushes them to such a radical step if not having understood, as the Gospel teaches, that the Kingdom of heaven is 'a treasure' for which it is truly worthwhile to abandon everything?"

Such people, the Pope explained, "bear silent witness to the fact that in the midst of the uncertainties of daily life, the only support that never fails is God. And in the face of the widespread need, felt by many, to escape the daily routine of the great urban centers in search of spaces suitable for silence and contemplation, monasteries of contemplative life are like 'oases' in which man, a pilgrim upon earth, can better draw upon the sources of the Spirit and quench his thirst on his journey.

"These places, then, apparently useless, are in fact indispensable. Like the green 'lungs' of a city, they are good for everyone, even for people who perhaps do not know of their existence."

Biretta tip: Catholic Exchange

Why Does the Catholic Church Ordain Only Men to the Priesthood? Part One

By Fr. Kyle Schnippel

With the recent illicit ordination by dissident Archbishop Milingo in New Jersey of two married men to the priesthood, and the repeated attempts by several women's groups to ordain women, most recently upon a boat on a river in Pittsburgh, the question of who has a 'right' to the Sacrament of Orders has been a heated topic of late.

According to Catholic Church theology, however, no one has a 'right' to be ordained; it is an individual's response to an invitation by Christ to serve His Church. The Church must also confirm and nurture this call, for no one is a priest just for himself; so the Church has the obligation to define who is eligible for this Sacrament, which must be done in a manner consistent with the Church's Tradition. Because this teaching went unchallenged for a vast majority of the Church's life, the teaching was left implicit in the deposit of faith. However, because of recent historical developments, the teaching was concretely defined over the last thirty years.

Inter Insigniores

In response to the call of Vatican II, there was a renewed effort to Ecumenism, the reconciling of differences between the Catholic Church and the various Christian denominations. As Catholics and Anglicans began this process, which continues to this day, the Anglican Communion was moving toward opening ordination in their communion to women. In response, Pope Paul VI issued a public letter to Donald Coggan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he stated: "We must regretfully recognize that a new course taken by the Anglican Communion in admitting women to the ordained priesthood cannot fail to introduce into this dialogue an element of grave difficulty which those involved will have to take seriously into account. (4)"

With Pope Paul's appeal to the Anglican Communion going unheeded, there was increasing voice for the Catholic Church also to examine the question. In response, Pope Paul issued Inter Insigniores: (Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood (15 October 1976)). In this document, Pope Paul, in quoting Blessed John XXIII, rightly praises the advances in equality that women have achieved over the past century. However, he also reaffirms and clarifies the Church's constant tradition regarding the admission of men only to the ministerial priesthood.

Paul VI begins his discussion with a short survey of history. He notes that "a few heretical sects in the first centuries, especially Gnostic ones, entrusted the exercise of the priestly ministry to women: this innovation was immediately noted and condemned by the Fathers, who considered it as unacceptable in the Church. (1)"
After the short discussions in the Early Church, there was only slight discussion in the Middle Ages; the question was not addressed again until the present day. Remember, the Church only defines a law if it has been challenged and thus needs to be clarified. For example, even though the Canon of Scripture was in place since the late Fourth Century, it was not definitively settled until the Council of Trent in the Sixteenth Century, for it was then that the Canon was challenged by the Protestant Reformers.

Pope Paul moves on to the attitude that Christ had towards women during His public ministry. He notes that Jesus did not "conform to the customs of his time, for his attitude towards women was quite different from that of his milieu, and he deliberately and courageously broke with it. (2)" This contravening of the cultural milieu makes it even more remarkable that Jesus did not choose women to be among his closest followers.

Even his Mother, who was so closely associated with the mystery of her Son, and whose incomparable role is emphasized by the Gospels of Luke and John, was not invested with the apostolic ministry. This fact was to lead the Fathers to present her as the example of Christ's will in this domain; as Pope Innocent III repeated later, at the beginning of the thirteenth century. (Inter Insigniores 2)

In the discussion of St. Paul's theology and writing, much is made of his statement in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." The argument is then made that there should be no distinction between the sexes in a truly Christian environment. However,
exegetes of authority have noted a difference between two formulas used by the Apostle: he writes indiscriminately "my fellow workers" (Rom 16:3; Phil 4:2-3) when referring to men and women helping him in his apostolate in one way or another; but he reserves the title "God's fellow workers" (1 Cor 3:9; cf. 1 Thes 3:2) to Apollos, Timothy and himself, thus designated because they are directly set apart for the apostolic ministry and the preaching of the Word of God. In spite of the so important role played by women on the day of the Resurrection, their collaboration was not extended by Saint Paul to the official and public proclamation of the message, since this proclamation belongs exclusively to the apostolic mission. (Inter Insigniores, 3)

Even in St. Paul's writings, there is a distinction between what we now call the priesthood of the faithful versus that of the Ministerial or Ordained Priesthood, for everyone is called to share the Word of God with the world, but certain men were set apart for the specific Apostolic mission of Preaching.

Fr. Kyle Schnippel is the vocations director for the diocese of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Biretta tip: Catholic Exchange

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The modern US nun is an ex-soldier, lawyer and has a blog

by Jocelyne Zablit

NEW YORK (AFP) - One was a successful corporate lawyer, another a Mercedes-driving businesswoman and a third a navy officer who steered battleships and hunted down cocaine smugglers in South America.
They are among a growing number of women in their 20s and 30s across the United States who have shed high-powered jobs, career ambitions and boyfriends for a nun's veil and a life devoted to the church.
Though the trend is by no means spreading like wildfire, several Roman Catholic communities throughout the country say they have noticed a surprising and welcome phenomenon in the last decade as younger women join their ranks.
"The inquiries in recent years have been coming from younger and younger women, most of them in their early to mid-20s," Sister Agnes Mary, mother superior at the Sisters of Life community in New York, told AFP.
The Catholic community, which counted seven members when it was founded in 1991, has grown to 52 women who live in six convents scattered throughout the New York area. A seventh convent is planned within the next two years.
"I think young women are searching for something and culture is not giving it to them so they are turning to God," said Sister Mary Karen, 33, the superior at the Sisters of Life Formation House in the Bronx, where 18 women are being groomed for a life of obedience, poverty and chastity.
They include a Yale graduate, a former navy officer, a former medical student, an opera singer and a Web designer.
All have college degrees, are well-travelled and were more cosmopolitan than cloistered growing up.
They have abandoned cell phones, I-Pods, daily Starbucks runs and, in some cases, fiances for dorm-like rooms, or "cells" as they call them, and a wardrobe that consists of a veil and habit.
"I was in the navy for a total of 10 years because I wanted to do something great with my life but I realized I could never be passionate about it," said Angela Karalekas, 28, who entered the convent in September and will receive her habit and new religious name in June. "I was raised Catholic but my decision has been hard on my father and three brothers."
Once the women take their final vows, a process that takes about eight years from the time they enter the convent, they are required to give up all their worldly possessions and rely on donations for their needs.
They rise at 5:00 am -- 5:30 or 6:00 on weekends -- and spend the major part of the morning praying or in contemplative silence. Those who have taken their final vows work within the community, helping the homeless, pregnant women or anyone in need.
"It was basically apply to medical school or apply to a convent and the convent won out," said Bridget Heisler, 24. "I knew there was a love in my life and it was the Lord."
The nuns relax every afternoon by going -- veil and all -- on bike rides, playing basketball or rollerblade hockey, a sight that has some passersby frantically whipping out their cell phones to take pictures or shouting "Go Sister".
According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), there are currently 66,608 Catholic nuns in the United States compared to nearly 180,000 in 1965. Worldwide, there are an estimated 776,260 nuns as opposed to some one million in 1970.
But despite the dwindling overall number, several new orders and communities, especially those founded during the 1978-2005 pontificate of John Paul II, say they have seen a surge of new blood in the last decade, a welcome turnabout for the church .
"These women are looking for something deeper," said Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference. "They are looking to develop their Catholic identity and given our secular values in the United States where we promote sex, money and power, it is a very counter cultural thing to profess celibacy, poverty and obedience."
Bednarczyk and others also credit the late John Paul II's charisma and his effort to reach out to younger Catholics for the mounting popularity of some communities.
"The John Paul II generation is a generation of young people, a generation of authenticity," said Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, vocation director at the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, located in the midwestern state of Michigan.
"They have seen the emptiness of many worldly values and many want something more," added Bogdanowicz, 54, who founded her community in 1997 along with three other women.
The convent today counts 71 women whose average age is 24. Next summer 20 more postulants are set to join the order which is rushing to raise funds for a new building to house the inflow.
"God in his goodness is sending us so many young vocations that we can't build fast enough to keep up with the number of young women entering our community," Bogdanowicz said.
But apart from divine intervention, those interviewed also credit the Internet with breathing new life into the nunnery. Most orders today have Web sites and about 20 nuns run their own blogs.
"The (Church) today needs to be on the Internet because that's where young people are going to go," Bednarczyk said.
He said women interested in religious life can even turn to a "match-making" Web site for guidance on which community is best suited for them.
"We took the concept of finding your love match, like when you're looking for a husband (...), and applied it to religious life," Bednarzcyk said. "We've gotten over 2,000 hits in two months."
Julie Vieira, 35, who began a blog entitled "A Nun's Life" last July to chronicle her experience as a sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, said she gets about 600 hits a day and at least a half dozen e-mails from people inquiring about religious life.
"One of the reasons I started the blog was to explain what it's like to be a nun and to address the stereotypes out there," Vieira, who works at Loyola Press, a Catholic publisher in Chicago, told AFP. "I just wanted to tell people 'Hey I'm an ordinary person'."

Six Habits of Highly Effective Dioceses

Why are some dioceses better at attracting vocations than others? In Tim Drake’s recent story “Vocations Surge,” the National Catholic Register provided some answers to that question.

BY The Editors
January 28- February 3, 2007 Issue

Based on what we learned, here are six questions successful dioceses all answer “Yes.”

1. Is the Eucharist the center of vocation efforts?
We found that the promotion of Eucharistic adoration for vocations is a decisive factor in attracting candidates. The reason is simple: It’s a vocations strategy that came from Christ himself, when he told the apostles to “ask the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers.”
Eucharistic adoration is especially effective because it draws sharp attention to the great gift that makes the priesthood so extraordinary and so needed — we have the priesthood to thank for God’s real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. And the dynamic of silent Eucharistic adoration inevitably leads to the question, “What do you want me to do, Lord?”
Anecdotal evidence bears this out. In conjunction with the U.S. bishops, Vocation.com kicked off an effort in 2005 that delivered Vatican monstrances to dioceses in order to encourage regular adoration in parishes. Program leaders like David Craig have been astounded to see parishes produce their first vocations ever after Eucharistic adoration was introduced.

2. Is the diocese unabashed about personally inviting men to be priests?
Father Keith Stewart in the Diocese of Memphis, Tenn., counted this as the key to his vocations strategy. A U.S. bishops survey found that 78% of those being ordained said they were initially invited by a priest to consider the priesthood. Very few men were drawn to the priesthood by ads alone. One of our sources said that the seminarians he talks to say they only began to consider the priesthood the third or fourth time they were asked!

3. Is the seminary faithful to the magisterium of the Church?
We’ve all heard horror stories about seminaries using theologians who try to “de-mythologize” religion, and end up denying basic truths of the faith. The Register has reported on situations where seminary instructors downplayed celibacy, offering only a sneer regarding the very sacrifices they are asking young men to make.
The seminaries that are booming, like Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md., St. Vincent in Latrobe, Pa., and St. Gregory the Great in Seward, Neb., are ones with a reputation for being faithful to the magisterium.

4. Are there many strong and faithful families to draw from?
There are beautiful exceptions, but the rule is that priests come from committed Catholic families in which the father is an active player in the family’s faith.
These families are most common, we found, in places like the South and the Midwest, where the faith is relatively new and isn’t taken for granted, or is actually under attack.
In the Northeast, there are lots of Catholics — so many that the faith seems to have become part of the scenery. But wholesome families are more common in the Bible Belt, and Catholics are in a minority. They have had to endure the strange looks and the vigorous — or even vicious — arguments of those who think there’s something strange about being Catholic.

5. Do young men know and interact with priests?
“What do priests do, pray all day?” The priest’s life is largely a mystery to young men. Unless they meet and interact with priests — at parish functions, but also at dinner with their families — it may never occur to many young men that the priesthood is a life that would appeal to them.
The Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, is one of many dioceses involved in Project Andrew, hosting dinners with priests and young men so that they can meet — and so that the all-important invitation can take place.
For many priests, serving at the altar was the first place they first came to know men who had been called and understood what the call entailed. Parishes should make sure that boys feel welcome at the altar, and that altar serving isn’t, in effect, girls-only.

6. Did young people in the area go to World Youth Day?
The World Youth Day factor is very real. Many men in seminary trace their enthusiasm back to a World Youth Day. These events give young people with high ideals a chance to see that the Church will allow them to have a big, positive impact on the world — one that lasts for eternity.
God has never stopped calling young men to commit their lives to him. But we have sometimes stopped listening as well as we could. As more dioceses adopt these highly effective habits, the vocations surge will only get stronger.

Next Generation of Religious Sisters...

Time magizine has a decent article on today's religious sisters. It is worth the read, particularly if you are a young woman discerning a vocation to religious life.

Men in Black Vocations Basketball Game

His Excellency Bishop Burbidge and Fr. Shlesinger the new Vocations Director for the Diocese of Raleigh!

What an incredible start to a great vocations evening that ended in prayer at the Cathedral before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Thanks to Deacon DeCandia and George Lally for the work in making this happen - it was a lot of fun. And a very important thanks to His Excellency Bishop Burbidge for being such an integral part of the game - as a referee! The turn out for the game was fantastic, matched only by the enthusiasm and energy of the crowd. For a full write up, plus video footage go to this link. As to my thoughts about the game. Well, it wasn't pretty in the first half, but the second half was pretty exciting. I do regret that the seminarians and priests lost - but then again we all need a good dose of humility from time to time - nothing like being beaten by high schoolers. Oh yeah, Bishop Burbidge made perfect calls every time.

About the Priesthood...

The following (unedited) essay is by Father James Farfaglia, pastor of St. Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.A young priest makes national news because he is leaving the priesthood. But what about the thousands of Catholic priests, young and old, who today and every day, are faithfully fulfilling their duties as Catholic priests? Why haven't they made national Internet news? What about all of us that are out there, doing their job, most of the time under very difficult circumstances?We are persecuted by homosexual militant priests. We are vilified by traditionalists because we celebrate the Novus Ordo Mass. We are criticized and abandoned by parishioners because we stand up for the Church's teaching on birth control, abortion, and pre-marital sex. We push confession only to sit in the confessional for hours alone. And yet, here we are, doing our job faithfully every day — and we are not featured on the Internet.Every day we drag our tired bodies through the battles of modern America. We deal with our own sinfulness and weaknesses. Sometimes we fall, but we get back up again through the sacrament of confession. We find consolation and the strength through the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary.On the Titanic, a group of three musicians decided to remain on the ship playing their beautiful music as the ship went down. They could have jumped ship with many of those who were able to get into the life boats, but they decided to remain and keep playing their music. They remained and played "Nearer to God to Thee".We know from Sacred Scripture that "the gates of hell shall not prevail," but in the meantime, the Catholic Church in this country is in a terrible mess. Catholic priests need to remain at their posts. Parishes are closing, entire dioceses may disappear, but the Church will still go on. I for one, with the grace of God, will remain at my post until I die of natural causes or someone puts a bullet in my head.Isaac Jogues had some of his fingers bit off by wild Indians (sorry, I am not p.c.), and he returned to America only to face martyrdom. Edmond Campion continued to serve his people knowing that a horrible death would eventually take place. Miguel Pro courageously continued to defend the Catholic Faith in Mexico and then died also a martyr as he cried out "Viva Cristo Rey."Where are the Isaacs? Where are the Edmonds? Where are the priests like Miguel? They are there. They are the thousands of Catholic priests in their parishes, in the seminaries, in the hospitals, in the mission lands, in the universities and schools faithfully carrying out their priestly duties each day with a smile on their face even though they are crucified every day with the Lord that called them to serve Him and his people.Catholic priests of God: do not be afraid; do not be discouraged; be faithful; be a hero. Remember to always pray: Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.

Come Die for Christ - A Seminarian's Letter

7/21/06By: AnonymousWe buried a giant last Easter. John Paul the Great’s death, more than any in recent memory, reminds young Catholics that we stand on the shoulders of spiritual giants, pedestals from which we can view the glory of lives well-lived and imagine the trials and triumphs that await us if we follow their example. They not only remind us of our history, but they point the way forward and give us a glimpse of that eternal Vision in which every tear will be dried and every eye fixed in peace. They have shown us the way home. The great preachers of our day beckon us to take up our cross, to strive for nothing less than spiritual and moral excellence, to stride boldly into the high adventure of orthodoxy. They prod us into battle, arming and comforting us with the sword of the Word.Let us answer their call. Let us take up the arms of faith, hope and love. Let us put on a breastplate of humility and gird our loins for battle. What man worth his salt desires to take the well-trod path, to duck and run? Let us join the ranks, a long line of martyrs, saints recognized and unrecognized, who urge us on, pleading with us to keep alive their memory by the gift of ourselves. The prosperity of the United States will not last forever, but sainthood is eternal. Like most corpses, the flesh of Trump, Gates, Spears, and Hilton will rot when it is buried, but did you know that the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal recently exhumed the incorrupt bodies of long-forgotten religious sisters in the basement of a former convent, now the Franciscan’s Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark, New Jersey? Sanctity has no competitor on earth. No high, no sensual gratification, no act of self-aggrandizement can compare. The way to sanctity will be a tough slog at times. Run the race! Professional athletes train until they vomit and become incontinent. Is the cloak of eternal life not greater than the glory of the “one shining moment”? What will you do for it? Have we settled for cheap grace, knowing that the debt has been paid once and for all? Have we forgotten the cost of discipleship? Have we nursed too long at breasts of prosperity and taken shelter under the paternalistic state? Have we taken the Church for granted? Do we too conveniently console ourselves with the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail? Have we forgotten that our local parish exists now because humble workers in the vineyard came before us and plowed and planted? It’s high time that we put our hands to the plow. Martyrdom may not be our crown, and yet in some parts of the world it awaits those would-be missionaries among us who would give their lives. We have been sheltered in the United States, privileged beyond our understanding. For this we thank God, but now we stand accountable for the gift of this long run of relative peace and abundance we have known. Let us not grow soft and plump on the candy of wealth and leisure. The Beatitudes and the Rich Young Man should haunt us. Let us, like so many before us, cast off our excesses, give our savings to the needy and live radically and unreservedly for Christ. The Spirit is groaning again, brothers and sisters, and it cannot be contained. Let Him in, open your heart, and let the Spirit carry you out of your old self to be made anew. He makes all things new. Submit to its stirrings, and the Holy Spirit will propel you through your days on earth until you return to the Source, return home. Do not grow weary, and do not be afraid. Tears and grief will come your way. Stay the course! The Lord of history will not abandon you, though you may walk in the valley of death. He says, “Run, I will carry you, and I will see you through to the end, and there I will carry you” (Isaiah 46: 4). Your shepherd leads you through misery and ecstasy and has known both. Take comfort and rest in Him. Then, when your spirit renews, go and tell the others the good things the Lord has done for you: that you were lost and are now found, you were a prodigal son and have returned to the embrace of the Father, you went to the well to slake your thirst and came home with living water, you bled and His touch stopped the bleeding, you cheated others and He came calling for you, your demons possessed you and now you weep at His feet, you were knocked from the horse of righteousness and blinded by your own pride and now you see, you denied Him three times and still He asks for your love. Go tell the others of your joy, and then sell what you have and follow Him wherever he leads you. Perhaps you have read the story of the nobility of the martyrdom of Perpetua, Felicity, and their companions:The day of the martyrs' victory dawned. They marched from their cells into the amphitheater, as if into heaven, with cheerful looks and graceful bearing. If they trembled it was for joy and not for fear. Perpetua was the first to be thrown down…she beckoned to her brother and the catechumen, and addressed them in these words: "Stand firm in faith, love one another and do not be tempted to do anything wrong because of our sufferings." …Without being asked they went where the people wanted them to go; but first they kissed one another, to complete their witness with the customary kiss of peace. The others stood motionless and received the deathblow in silence, especially Saturus, who had gone up first and was first to die; he was helping Perpetua. But Perpetua, that she might experience the pain more deeply, rejoiced over her broken body and guided the shaking hand of the inexperienced gladiator to her throat. Such a woman—one before whom the unclean spirit trembled—could not perhaps have been killed, had she herself not willed it. Bravest and happiest martyrs! You were called and chosen for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (Office of Readings, March 7).That is our history. These are the people who have paved the glorious way of sacrifice for us. In gratitude, let us offer our own necks and guide the trembling hand of our persecutors. Let us go with joy to our deaths. We are to be children of light. A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. The gates of hell will not prevail, but can we be counted on to stand firm and repel them? If the promise of eternal union with He who is Being, with Love itself, is too great for our limited minds to understand, remember the promise of one-hundred-fold. You will receive in the measure that you give, and then much, much more. Whatever it is that you do, do it for the Lord. And if you are able, come die for Christ. Anonymous is a seminarian.

Creating a Hunger for Priests

My Conversation with Cincinnati’s Vocations Director

Rich Leonardi

February 23, 2007
Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, spoke at a 26 October 2006 colloquium to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Institut Supérieur de Liturgie of the Institut Catholique de Paris. He addressed a range of topics that impact the liturgy, and his comments about vocations and the priesthood are especially worth highlighting:
If a diocese does not have enough priests, initiatives should be taken to seek them from elsewhere now, to encourage local vocations and to keep fresh in the people a genuine "hunger" for a priest (cf. John Paul II, "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," No. 32). Non-ordained members of the faithful who are assigned some roles in the absence of a priest have to make a special effort to keep up this "hunger." And they should resist the temptation of trying to get the people accustomed to them as substitutes for priests (cf. op. cit., No. 33). There is no place in the Catholic Church for the creation of a sort of parallel "lay clergy" (cf. "Redemptionis Sacramentum," Nos. 149-153,165).
Priests on their part should show themselves transparently happy in their vocation with a clear identity of their liturgical role. If they celebrate the sacred mysteries with faith and devotion and according to the approved books, they will unconsciously be preaching priestly vocations. On the other hand, young people will not desire to join a band of clerics who seem uncertain of their mission, who criticize and disobey their Church and who celebrate their own "liturgies" according to their personal choices and theories.
One of the best kept secrets in the story of American vocations is the turnaround that has taken place in Cincinnati. From barely a trickle of priestly ordinations in the early nineties, Cincinnati now boasts 4-8 new priests per year. Much of the credit goes to former vocations director Fr. Mark Watkins, an orthodox priest who took to heart the idea that "a man will give his life for a mystery, but not a question mark."
Cincinnati's vocations program is now in the able hands of his successor, Fr. Kyle Schnippel, an energetic young priest with ambitious goals. Fr. Schnippel entered seminary at the age of 19 for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He first attended the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, before completing his theological training at Cincinnati's Mt. St. Mary's Seminary of the West. After his ordination in May 2004, he taught full time for two years at Elder High School before becoming vocations director in July 2006.
I recently interviewed Fr. Schnippel about the state of vocations in Cincinnati and across the U.S. and sought his reaction to Cardinal Arinze's address. [Editor's note: Look for a four-part series "Why Does the Catholic Church Ordain Only Men to the Priesthood?" by Fr. Kyle Schnippel, to run on Monday and Thursday for two weeks in this space, beginning on February 26th.]

Rich Leonardi: How many men are studying for the priesthood in Cincinnati's seminary, Mount St. Mary's of the West?

Fr. Schnippel: There are currently 37 men studying for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary's. Of these, 28 are for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, with the other nine from Toledo, Youngstown, Kalamazoo, and Covington, KY. The Archdiocese also has five men studying at the College of Liberal Arts at the Josephinum and one candidate at the North American College in Rome.

Rich Leonardi: What are your goals for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati?

Fr. Schnippel: A goal outlined three years ago was to work towards 10-15 ordinations per year, up from our current average of 5. To put that in terms of numbers of seminarians, that would be 70 plus, which would include 20-30 new seminarians each year. This number would help us to turn around the current decline in the number of priests for the Archdiocese.

Rich Leonardi: Do young men sometimes have mistaken notions about the "sound" of the call to the priesthood? How did you discern your call?

Fr. Schnippel: Most often when a young person is hearing the call to priesthood or religious life, they want an absolutely clear sign that this is what they are supposed to do. Unfortunately, God normally does not work in such a way, hence our poster campaign and slogan is: "There are rarely trumpets or midnight visions." When I am working with a young man who wants this clarity, I start to ask about movements in the heart, what gives him joy and contentment, and start to use this avenue as a way of showing him that this is where God's call starts to be heard, in the ear of the heart. I also try to meet with a prospective candidate for the first time at the seminary, because if he feels comfortable in the building, he is much more likely to respond to the call that God is giving. For me, I was a freshman at Ohio State University when I unmistakably heard the call. I was Pre-Medicine at the time, but heard a talk on vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I could not get the idea out of my mind, so I arranged a visit to the Josephinum, which is in Columbus as well. When I walked on campus, I felt right at home and made up my mind to enter the next fall, which is what happened.

Rich Leonardi: Is there an observable connection between large families and priestly vocations?

Fr. Schnippel: As one of six children, I think it certainly helps because you learn to share and to have a concern for one another from a very early age. For me, it helps to also live life as a celibate man because I have a close relationship with my nieces and nephews (soon to be 15!) Large families also help with the parents supporting their children to the priesthood or religious life, as they see ample opportunity for grandchildren. I should say, however, that one of my closest friends in the priesthood is an only child, so God works how He will.

Rich Leonardi: Do you sense that the vocations "boomlet" experienced by Cincinnati and other dioceses will continue?

Fr. Schnippel: I certainly hope so! I get the sense, and this is also from teaching in a high school, that young people want to live for something more. They are starting to realize the superficiality of the world, and want their lives to have meaning. They see relatives that have lots of money, but are not happy, and they do not want to be in that situation. Also, teenagers are oriented to the Truth. When they hear the Truth proclaimed in all of its beauty, they are attracted by that. I think as catechesis continues to improve, this ‘boomlet' will continue to grow.

Rich Leonardi: What are you doing to help create what Cardinal Arinze calls a "hunger" for priests and what can the laity do to help?

Fr. Schnippel: I am trying to do a couple of things. By my preaching on Sundays in different parishes, I am trying to get the word out there is a need for priests, and that the life can be fulfilling. By starting a blog (Called by Name), I am trying to answer questions about what does it take to be a good priest (prayer and faithfulness). I want young people to realize that by giving their life for something more, something deeper, they actually gain much more than they could in any other way.
The laity can help this in many different ways, first and foremost by their prayers. This is one of the few things that Jesus specifically tells us to pray for. Also, your priests need support. It is tough to be in a parish where there are so many demands on a pastor, and he often feels pulled in so many different directions. When you hear criticisms of the priest, do you challenge or correct false interpretations? Is your pastor a friend? Would you feel comfortable asking him to dinner? So, what can the laity do? Pray for vocations, and support and encourage their priests.

Rich Leonardi: Cardinal Arinze warns against creating a "parallel lay clergy." Do you worry that the rise of pastoral administration programs in dioceses across the country are moving us in that direction?

Fr. Schnippel: Absolutely! Do not get me wrong, I am in support of parishioners taking ownership of their parish and their faith, and in being involved in the running and guiding of a parish, but there were many in the early days of lay ministry who saw it as a first step towards the ordination of women and/or married men. When a lay ecclesial minister starts to take over some of the important functions of the parish, without giving due respect to the priest and his role of pasturing, it sends a message to young people: "Why should I give up a wife and family, if I can do just about everything that Father does as a lay minister?" I think it can send confusion over who is in charge, the priest or the lay administrator. It also confuses the role of the priest to be a mere functionary: he provides the Sacraments, we do everything else. The priest is more than a functionary.

Rich Leonardi: Cardinal Arinze suggests that priests can "unconsciously" preach on behalf of vocations by conducting themselves with liturgical fidelity. How does this square with your experience?

Fr. Schnippel: It is pretty simple, actually: happy priests attract other priests. A priest who is content and fulfilled in his ministry, who loves his people and his parish (even with the warts) will have that joy come across in what he does and how he interacts with his parishioners. Then, when a young man thinks about the priesthood, the image of a happy man who is making a difference in other people's lives will come up. Faithfulness attracts others, because people recognize that it is not about him, it is about him leading others to Christ, whom he knows and loves. It very much squares with my experience. Parishes with good, strong pastors, who have a clear identity of who they are, attract more vocations than a parish that is run by a team without strong leadership from the priest.

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