July 1, 2016

Editorial

A time to rejoice, and pray for more vocations

The numbers were impressive in several respects.

Nearly 1,000 people in attendance at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis for a special June 25 Mass.

More than 100 priests concelebrating at the liturgy.

And six men—Fathers James Brockmeier, Anthony Hollowell, Douglas Hunter, Kyle Rodden, Matthew Tucci and Nicolás Ajpacajá Tzoc—ordained to the priesthood on that day by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin during the Church’s Holy Year of Mercy.

As noted in our page 1 story, it was the largest number of men who were ordained priests for the Church in central and southern Indiana since 2002 when eight men were ordained.

As people of faith, we understand the ministry of our new priests—and our call to support them and our Church in its call to evangelize—is part of an ongoing mission to continue to form disciples.

Archbishop Tobin cited both St. Peter and Pope Francis in his homily to the ordinands, including Pope Francis’ message delivered during the closing Mass of the Jubilee for Priests on June 3 at St. Peter’s Square offerering guidance for all shepherds—both newly ordained and veteran priests—serving the Church.

Like the Good Shepherd, good priests do not privatize their time and demand to be left alone, but rather are always willing to risk everything in search of the lost sheep, Pope Francis told the priests.

“He stands apart from no one, but is always ready to dirty his hands. A good shepherd doesn’t know what gloves are,” the pope said.

The Holy Father’s words remind us how insistent he has been as a universal shepherd in encouraging priests, and all the faithful, to get outside our comfort zones to assist our brothers and sisters in need wherever they are in life.

It means that making ourselves uncomfortable while living the Gospel message in unchartered territory can be part of God’s plan for each of us—clergy, religious and laity alike.

As we rejoice with the news of six new priests eager to serve the Church in central and southern Indiana, we must also realize that our prayers for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are still needed.

“The Church now has about the same number of priests that it had in 1970,” said Father Paul Sullins, associate professor of sociology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, in a recent Catholic News Service story. “The bad news, though it is not really bad news, is that the global population of Catholics has grown dramatically since then, so today we have far fewer priests per Catholic.”

Like the parents and families of our newly ordained men, we must not be afraid to encourage religious vocations.

In its report “The Class of 2016: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that 51 percent of the respondents indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood.

The laity can be an invaluable resource in increasing vocations simply by encouraging their sons to consider the priesthood, Father Sullins said.

“Many priests, including Pope Francis, relate that they first felt a call to priesthood from the example, devotion and encouragement of their mother and father,” he said. “A mother can consecrate her son to God’s service, which doesn’t necessarily compel him, but has a powerful influence on his choice of vocation and state of life.”

Regardless of the numbers, it’s still important to increase vocations, Father Sullins said.

“We need more priests, not because we are in some numeric crisis, but because God is always renewing his Church through calling faithful young men to serve as priests,” he said. “To pray and work to [strengthen] new priestly vocations is the work of evangelization, in which all of us can contribute to the renewal and proclamation of the faith.”

As we offer our daily petitions for more vocations, may we reflect on the words of St. Vincent Ferrer: “Whatever you do, think not of yourself, but of God.”

—Mike Krokos

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