Dear Fr. McNally,
You asked Joseph Wemhoff what he meant when he claimed the Catholic Church had "a contrived, artificial priest shortage" [How is priest shortage 'contrived'? Viewpoints, July 27]. Perhaps Mr. Wemhoff [Seeking fewer dissident Catholics, Viewpoints, July 6] was recalling Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtis who used those very words 15 years ago to describe the dwindling number of priests.
The archbishop added that there is "a determined effort" to stifle vocations, perpetrated by the same people who, "call for the ordination of married men and women to replace the vocations they have discouraged."
In contrast, several U.S. dioceses are rich with vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, and are happy to share the reasons for their success with us. Perhaps, Father, you can implement them in your own parish.
First, areas where vocations abound are characterized by their unwavering allegiance to the Pope and the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. In addition to circulating petitions asking for female priests, your parish shows disrespect for the magisterium when it allows children to receive First Holy Communion two years before they receive the Sacrament of Penance. The prohibition against this was confirmed way back in 1973, but the practice persists at Ascension, thus instilling disobedience to Church authority in the very youngest of children. Stop this practice now.
Bishop Alvaro Corrada del Rio, S.J., helped make the Diocese of Tyler, Texas a vocation powerhouse. He attributes this to, "awareness and love for the truths and beauty of our Catholic faith." Students and graduates of Ascension religion programs often lack an understanding of even the most basic Church teachings like the 10 Commandments and the seven sacraments. Strong doctrine leads to increased vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Institute solid religious formation at Ascension.
Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford has noted the extraordinary number of priestly vocations that come from families who pass on the Catholic faith in their homes. Of 30 Rockford boys who graduated from home schooling families between 2000 and 2005, 23 percent entered the seminary. Do you encourage parents to home school their children as a mean of increasing vocations? The Archdiocese of Chicago has some of the most restrictive guidelines regarding home education in the United States. Next time you chat with the Cardinal, you might ask him to ease up on home-schoolers.
Dioceses that enjoy an abundance of vocations cite strong devotional practices, most especially Eucharistic Adoration, as fundamental. Each day hundreds of commuters get off the Blue Line just a short walk from your church. (Much the same can be said for St. Edmund and the Green Line.) May I respectfully suggest that you open the church every day between 5 and 6 p.m.? Offer a daily opportunity for both adoration and confession, and experience tells us vocations will follow.
Fidelity to Church authority, solid religious formation, parents passing on the faith in their homes, as well as frequent prayer and reception of the sacraments are the proven paths to increased vocations. Until they are encouraged in our parishes, our priest shortage may indeed be described as both artificial and contrived.
Answer Book 2017
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