As was announced last week in The Compass article written by Fr. Thomas Long, our diocesan Vocation Director, there is a new initiative which will begin May 1 in the Diocese of Green Bay. We are adding one priest to our vocation outreach efforts by assigning Fr. Quinn Mann to serve as assistant vocation director for the diocese in addition to his duties as chaplain to Catholic Youth Expeditions. This gift, this “tithe” of another priest for the sake of assisting all of us to help our young people to answer the call of our Lord, will be richly and abundantly blessed. I have no doubt.
As you are well aware, so many parishes have had to link, merge and sometimes even close for several reasons, the most critical being the shortage of priests. This new initiative is meant to be a step toward other solutions by putting greater efforts, focus and resources behind the greatest need facing the diocese right now and for the proximate future – the shortage of priests.
In my observation of the condition of the diocese thus far, I notice that where the linkages, mergers and closures have been carried out there have been great strides made in collaboration and sharing of resources. This collaboration has been a positive gift.
However, many priests, diocesan leaders and people agree that this approach to the problem has had benefits and losses and that now is the time to alter our pastoral approach to this situation by working aggressively for an increase of awareness in our youth of the need for priests and religious vocations from the diocese to serve the needs of the diocese.
Jesus said, “The harvest is rich but the laborers are few. Pray the harvest master to send laborers into the harvest.” I ask all of you to pray intensely for a turn around in the vocation reality in the diocese. We need at least 40 seminarians in the seminary at any given time to begin to compensate for the retirements of our clergy. Most of our priests never fully retire since most of them celebrate Masses and other sacraments in parishes, often driving many miles in order to provide this service.
We owe a great deal to these senior priests who keep on giving. It is time now for this generation of young people to stand up and to answer the call to priesthood and religious life. God never cheats the church. He is issuing the call to young men in the diocese to the priesthood. He is issuing the call to the vowed and consecrated life to young women and men in this diocese.
This diocese ought to be easily capable of taking care of her own needs vocationally and perhaps in a few years even sending vocations to other dioceses that may be in greater need than we are. We have 61 Catholic grade schools, five Catholic high schools, two Catholic colleges and countless numbers of religious education and youth and young adult ministry programs. I urge all of you who minister and work with our youth to include vocation awareness programming into your curricula and ministry and retreat experiences.
I ask every parent to talk about vocations to the priesthood and religious life to your children and to pray at home for an increase of vocations. I ask all of our pious and charitable organizations to begin prayers for vocations and all Eucharistic adoration chapels to provide vocation prayer resources in the chapels as well as reminders to pray for vocations.
I ask our priests, deacons and parish leaders to include an intercession for vocations in their weekly prayer intentions at Mass. I ask the priests and religious women to share your joy in the priesthood and religious life with young men and women. Do not hide the light of the Gospel under a bushel basket. This generation of youth is different and they are eager to see the light and to see these vocations lived with authenticity and commitment.
As I wrote some time ago, the two professions that have the highest job satisfaction, according to national research, are fire fighters and clergy, priests in particular. This good news story rarely finds its way to the evening news or to the Internet but that is our task – to pass on this good information to all those who work with young people.
The blessing we have received in the gift of the use of St. Joseph Retreat House in Bailey’s Harbor, thanks to the generosity of the Sacred Heart Fathers, will assist us and our vocation team and Catholic Youth Expeditions to journey with our young people as they discern whether or not God may be calling them by name to serve in the church. It is our mission at Bailey’s Harbor, through these ministerial means, to help our young people find out where God wants them to spend their lives and their Christian vocation. This is where they will be most fulfilled and of the greatest service to the church and to society.
“May God who has begun this good work in us bring it to completion.”