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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinMay 16, 2008 Issue 

Lay ministries: Trump card in vocations crisis

By Sam Lucero
News and Information Manager

A few years ago, I received a newspaper article that was faxed to me anonymously. The article was titled "Seminary numbers up in orthodox U.S. dioceses" and listed a handful of dioceses that have had success in attracting seminarians.

The tone of the article, however, took a negative turn. While praising the work of bishops heading these particular dioceses, it questioned the leadership of bishops in dioceses experiencing a shortage of priests.

"Those U.S. dioceses which have consistently promoted orthodoxy both in their parishes and in their seminaries have been affected little, if at all, by any 'vocations crisis,'" the article stated.

The message that is given is that dioceses - particularly bishops heading those dioceses - experiencing a shortage of priests are somehow less loyal to the pope and to church teachings.

In this one article, a complex problem that has perplexed many dioceses around the world for centuries is simplistically reduced to a battle between two factions: orthodox conservatives and everyone else.

On this topic of vocations, there is one fact that all Catholics can agree upon: priestly ordinations are critical to the future of church life. Without priests, the Eucharist cannot be consecrated and sins cannot be absolved.

But is there always just one solution to a problem? Can't other directions be taken which lead to the same objective?

Here in Green Bay, the laity are being called to serve in posts once reserved for priests. The level of activity among our laity is probably higher than in any point in our history.

If we look at the program offerings to train lay men and women in church ministry, we see an abundance of classes and workshops. (Just look at the list of graduates from the diocese's Commissioned Ministry Leadership Formation Program that appeared in last week's Compass.) Lay people are assuming their rightful roles, indeed their baptismal roles, in service to the church.

But it does not end here.

We also are acutely aware of the need for priests. With this awareness, today's laity must take on the responsibility of calling forth more priests - just as they have so willingly taken on other roles in the church.

With the continuing promotion and prayer for new priests, the tide may soon turn for us - but with an added benefit: Those dioceses that depended on their laity to pull them through difficult times will have an educated and active support staff to complement their ordained ministers.

In the end, we may show the world that empowering the laity is a vital part of vocations awareness.

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