We begin this New Year with news of great joy: we have three new seminarians starting school this January.
Two of these men are college sophomores and one is going into pre-theology. With the addition of these three men we now have a total of 35 men in our seminary program. This is truly a cause for great rejoicing and thanksgiving to God for his continued favors to us.
Pendulum is swinging back
We are thankful to God that many young men are beginning to discern early and are no longer afraid to embrace their calling. This is a trend that is going all over the country, as the pendulum is slowly but steadily swinging back from the days of imminent vocations crisis in our country.
Part of the reason could be attributed to the frequency with which bishops, pastors, and parishioners are now talking and praying about religious vocations. Parents also are beginning to engage their children about the prospects of religious vocations.
Rediscovery of the faith
Also, there is an ongoing rediscovery of the values of our faith among young people today. This re-evangelization of faith is happening all over the country in many college campuses and parishes.
As young people delve deeper into their faith in a way that their parents may not have at their age, the beauty of the faith draws them to a deeper reverence for their faith and in some cases a desire for service in the religious or priestly life.
This trend is prevalent in all dioceses as I talk to my fellow vocation directors from all over the country. Young people are no longer satisfied with the status quo when it comes to their faith formation.
They are searching for truth and the beauty of our Catholic faith through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, spiritual direction, small group faith sharing, frequenting the Mass, availing themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and faithful study of the teachings of the Magisterium.
Supporting St. Joseph Fund
We are thankful people are gradually responding to our call to support the St. Joseph Fund for seminarian training. It was not that too long ago that we had a total of six seminarians. With that number, the St. Joseph Fund was sitting at a good lush position. It was growing more than the need.
That is no longer the case with 35 seminarians: 22 theologians and 13 college men. This is really the right problem to have. What good is the fund if we do not have seminarians to use it for their training?
This new challenge calls for a new approach of funding. The diocesan Office of Stewardship is helping us in this regard to bring awareness to people about the St. Joseph Fund and the many ways that you can help with the training of future priests.
We have been having small group meetings in people’s homes to talk and answer questions on how we recruit, support, and train our future priests. I am thankful to all the people that have hosted or attended these events. We hope to continue this dialogue with as many people as possible.
The mission ahead is to continue on this current path that has seen our numbers on the upward trajectory. We are not resting our laurels, we are not slowing down with recruiting, and we are not going to turn away a good candidate for fear of lack of funds.
We are not going to ask our good and gracious God to stop blessing us with increase in numbers. Just as God has continued to answer our prayers for vocations, we now have to show appreciation by doing our part to see that these future priests are properly trained.
I have every confidence that we will rise to the occasion and I am truly honored and blessed with many who have already embraced this cause.
Mary Mother of priests, pray for us.
Fr. Paul U. Arinze is director of the Office of Vocations of the Diocese of Madison.