Pastor's Corner 111013

posted Nov 6, 2013, 6:45 AM by Music Director   [ updated Nov 27, 2013, 8:29 AM ]

              Last week Bishop Sullivan directed all the parishes of the Diocese to dedicate the weekend Masses to prayer for vocations to the priesthood, specifically to serve here in South Jersey.  Despite the consolidation of parishes under Bishop Galante, there is still a critical need for more young (and perhaps not-so-young) men to answer the Lord’s call for workers to tend His great harvest.  (See Luke 10: 1-2)

               And the harvest IS great.  With the particular influx of Latinos in our area, the Catholic population of our 6-county diocese (Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic and Cape May) has grown significantly over the past several years.  Yet the number of clergy has seriously declined.  When I was ordained in 1982, there were approximately 350 priests serving the people of the Camden diocese.  Today there are about175.  Last year, only 1 person was ordained a priest for our diocese.  This year, and next, there will be none.   Yet since that time nearly 20 priests died.  Do the math, and you can see that the need for priests is as critical as I said. 

               The problem, of course, is that the culture we live in does not support a calling to a celibate lifestyle.  We are bombarded daily with sexuality.  Even when I try to listen to a sports talk program on the radio, there are commercials for “exotic” dance clubs and supplements to enhance sexual performance! 

Anyone who eschews the sexually-permissive lifestyle of today’s culture is perceived to be weird, or worse:  a budding pedophile.  Whereas at one time families were larger and therefore there was a bigger pool from which to draw religious vocations, the norm today is for couples to have just 1 or 2 children.  This not only means a smaller group from which to draw vocations, but increasing hostility of parents towards the idea of their only son becoming a priest rather than providing them with grandchildren.  One seminarian told me his mother actually told him she’d rather he kill himself than become a priest!  Unbelievable!  Yet that same mother would be beside herself if some member of her family was dying and wanted a priest, but none was available! 

We can’t let such attitudes deter us from growing vocations right here at St. Charles.  Christians have always swam against the tide of public opinion, of cultural dictates.  Why should today be any different?  But it takes more than just signing a child up to become an altar server.  This can lead to a vocation, but not necessarily.  There have been many altar boys serving our parish over the nearly 50 years since its foundation.  How many of them went on to become priests?  I am not aware of any!!

It begins with prayer, as all our efforts do.  And that’s why we had last weekend’s dedication to this topic.  But more is needed.  Vocations, like all things of our faith, begin at home.  Even if parents don’t directly encourage a child to consider a religious vocation, they can help by having the whole family pray for vocations once a week.  That alone could get a young man thinking.  But I also strongly encourage parents and especially grandparents to ask your sons/grandsons if they’ve ever thought about becoming a priest, and let the conversation go from there.  It’s certainly not helpful to harp on the topic; but it’s irresponsible to not at least mention it sometime.

All adults can help by not participating in gossip about the clergy, or making innuendos against us, or making or laughing at crude and hurtful jokes made about us.  Young people can do the same, and can also help by supporting a peer’s decision to pursue a religious vocation instead of treating him as if he’s lost his mind.  Yes, some of us have committed horrific and despicable crimes; but realistically they are very few.  About 2% of all priests ordained since 1950 (1950!!), for example, have been accused of crimes against the young.  What about the other 98?  And keep this in mind:  the overwhelming numbers of such crimes are committed by married men!  Yet one never hears anyone suggesting that marriage be eliminated! 

Perhaps in time married men will be admitted to the ranks of the priesthood, and celibacy will no longer be an issue.  But what about the meantime?    Something has to give.  Otherwise, if “your” Mass is eliminated; if your parish is merged with another or even closed; if your parent doesn’t get “last rites;” if your child’s class is never visited by a priest, please don’t blame us who answered the call!  Blame those who didn’tanswer.  Blame the friends who ridiculed the young man who said he was thinking about it.  Blame yourself for not encouraging, or even praying, for workers to tend the Lord’s great harvest!

 

In His Love,

Fr. Mike

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