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May 26, 2005 Edition

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We must all pray and work for more vocations

This week on Friday, May 27, people of the Diocese of Madison rejoice in the ordination of two new priests: Michael Radowicz and Eric Sternberg. Congratulations to both of them!

They will be ordained by Bishop Robert C. Morlino during a Mass at St. Aloysius Church in Sauk City. This site was chosen because of the fire at St. Raphael Cathedral in March.

Importance of the Eucharist. In this Year of the Eucharist, we are especially aware of the importance of the Eucharist in the lives of all Catholics. At each Mass, it is the priest who consecrates the bread and wine, which become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Without the priesthood, we would not have the Eucharist. It is as simple as that. We need priests to bring us the "bread of life." And, of course, priests do so much more for us in administering the sacraments, leading our parishes, counseling, providing spiritual direction, visiting the sick . . . the list goes on and on.

Yet, we have fewer priests to serve the Catholic Church in our diocese. The number of ordinations is not keeping pace with the number of priests who are retiring and dying.

Yet the work remains the same and perhaps there is more work for priests than ever before. We have 135 parishes and 47 Catholic schools in our diocese. There are also Catholic hospitals, nursing homes, social service agencies, outreach to the Spanish-speaking, and many other ministries.

Vocations a priority. It is obvious that we need more priests. Bishop Morlino knows that. In fact, he has made vocations a top priority since becoming Bishop of Madison in 2003. He appointed a full-time vocation director, Fr. Jim Bartylla, who has been working tirelessly to promote and encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Last summer, several diocesan seminarians - with the support of Father Bartylla - started Eucharistic Adoration for Vocations in the chapel of the Bishop O'Connor Center in Madison. In the fall, the Adoration continued from 9 to 11:45 a.m. each weekend with the help of the Madison Serra Club and other volunteers.

Prayer for vocations is something all of us can do. And it has proven to work in many dioceses that have started Eucharistic Adoration for Vocations. Some parishes in our diocese have also begun special prayers for vocations, too.

Father Bartylla believes it has already helped. One young man, Christopher Reitz, entered the seminary in January of this year. Many more have applied for the fall and others are in the discernment process.

Ways to encourage vocations. Besides prayer, a survey of the ordination class of 2005 by sociologist Dean Hoge of the Catholic University of American reveals other ways to encourage vocations:

• Most of those being ordained this year took part in diocesan and parish vocation programs. Thirty-nine percent attended "Come and See" diocesan programs and 20 percent attended parish vocation programs.

• A solid number were involved in their parishes, with 59 percent serving as Eucharistic ministers, 76 percent as altar servers, and 68 percent as lectors. Fifty-three percent attended retreats.

• Those being ordained mentioned being encouraged by a priest, friend, or their mother. They also read vocation pamphlets and magazines.

If we Catholics want priests to serve us in the future, we should ALL make a commitment to do something. We can all pray. We can also establish vocation committees in our parishes, join the local Serra Club, and help encourage vocations among our family members and friends.

Let's help make sure we never lose the privilege of receiving the Eucharist in the years ahead. Pray and work for more vocations for our church.

Mary C. Uhler, editor

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Remember 'principle of charity'

To the editor:

In her letter to the editor in the May 19 Catholic Herald, Joan Prendergast takes George Weigel to task for being "mean-spirited and polarizing" in a recent column. I find it hard to believe that she read the same column I did, since she so unfairly characterizes his attitude and his argument.

She says that Weigel "categorically labels anyone who questions certain church practices" as being "'minimalist,'" thereby "negat[ing] their legitimacy as Catholics." In fact, Weigel's column attributes the question, "'How little can I believe . . . and still remain Catholic?'" to "the 'progressive' project."

I cannot understand how Ms. Prendergast interprets these three words, which denote not people but a certain intellectual movement, to mean everyone who questions church practices. How she can further claim he denies people's legitimacy as Catholics, when he specifically says this "'progressive' project" did not have malign intentions, is equally mysterious.

Most ironically, Ms. Prendergast asks "Why is [Weigel] so afraid?" No sentence in Weigel's column betrayed the slightest fear of "the 'progressive' project"; in fact, he claims that it has already "crashed and burned," not because it was frightening, but because it was "boring."

Ms. Prendergast of course may disagree with that conclusion, but she should do Weigel the courtesy of reading the words he actually wrote. It would be tempting to guess that only someone who already thinks in polarized terms could misread him so, except that Ms. Prendergast herself rightly avoids unhelpful labels.

Civil discourse in our newspapers, even this paper, often fails because we fail to listen. Instead of presuming one another's good will and engaging one another's arguments, we too readily accuse those who disagree with us of denying our legitimacy, or of saying things they never said, or even (in some cases) of hatred.

If someone's article or letter makes us mad, let us first re-read it several times, trying to put the person's words into the best possible light; someone once called this the "principle of charity." If we still disagree and wish to respond, let it be in a spirit of charity and courtesy, and let us respond to what was actually written.

Anders Hendrickson, Madison

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