5/31/12 | 647 views
Everyone’s Stake in Priestly Vocations
Cardinal Dolan ordained two men for the priesthood—one for service as a priest of the archdiocese and one for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal—in St. Patrick’s Cathedral May 19, a fact we have covered extensively in stories in the last issue and in this one.
The low number of ordinations has also drawn some attention, critical and otherwise, in the blogosphere and in the parishes of the archdiocese. Even a cursory look at the 50- and 25-year jubilarian priests of the archdiocese highlighted in this issue shows the much higher number of priests ordained in those years.
Numbers, without any explanation, can be misleading, however. A story in Catholic New York’s January 12 issue provided needed perspective and is worth reviewing. In it, Father Luke Sweeney, director of vocations to the priesthood in the archdiocese, noted the seminary system formerly had a five-year program: one year of philosophy and four years of theology. In 2006, the U.S. bishops asked for two years of philosophy; inserting the extra year caused a “gap year” in which there were no candidates.
That goes a long way toward explaining what happened with respect to this year’s ordination figure. In the article, Father Sweeney went on to explain that the numbers are more promising in the years to come, with eight men preparing for ordination next year, five in 2014 and perhaps 10 or more three years from now.
He stressed that the archdiocese had a goal of bringing forth 40 candidates for the priesthood annually, with the hope that half that number would eventually be ordained each year.
The new interdiocesan approach to seminary education, wherein those pursuing the priesthood from the Archdiocese will come together with others from the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre—first at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Queens and, beginning this fall, at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie—is a step in the right direction.
Father Sweeney, in the January article, offered a four-point plan to increase the number of priestly vocations in the archdiocese. The key elements are prayer, vocations promotion, the family and the example of current priests.
Prayer is paramount on the parish level and in the daily intentions of priests, Father Sweeney suggested. The importance of prayer in the family, the place where vocations to the priesthood and religious life get their start, should also be emphasized. Families have to provide an atmosphere where their children’s prayer life can be developed and they are exposed to the sacraments regularly because “God’s voice can heard much more clearly” when that is the case, Father Sweeney said.
He also stressed the example of vibrant priestly ministry being witnessed in the parishes and schools of the archdiocese, noting that today’s priests are on the frontlines as role models and in encouraging young men to follow in their footsteps.
Of course, young people looking for a role model of a vibrant priestly ministry don’t have to search further than Cardinal Dolan, whose life and ministry among us exude the attributes of a happy and holy priesthood.
The ordination of only one new priest for the archdiocese this year should be a sobering wake-up call for all Catholics to work together to promote vocations to the priesthood. A healthy priesthood is important to the sacramental life of our parishes and to the future of the Church in New York.
It is not only the work of the Office of Vocations, which under Father Sweeney and Father Luis Saldaña, director of Hispanic vocations to the priesthood, is going the extra mile in reaching out to promote the priesthood and recruit potential candidates. It is also the responsibility of every committed Catholic in the archdiocese. We all have a stake in this endeavor.
Browse our archive of photos