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Serra International held its convention in the United States in this Year for Priests, and America’s bishops gave a positive outlook on vocations.
BY Tim DrakeRegister Senior Writer
OMAHA, Neb. — Serra International is
using the Year for Priests to tackle the laity’s role in promoting vocations to
religious life. More than 530 Serrans, several bishops and many priests
gathered in Omaha for the group’s 67th International Convention Aug. 27-30,
which focused on the theme “The Role of Christ’s Lay Faithful.”
“No one offers more support and
encouragement for vocations than Serra,” said the host, Archbishop George Lucas
of Omaha, about the organization, which was founded 75 years ago. “The genius
of Serra is that it’s founded in prayer.”
Serra has as its mission to foster and
promote vocations to the ministerial priesthood, to support priests in their
ministry, to encourage and affirm vocations to consecrated life, and to assist
its members in growing in holiness.
Des Moines, Iowa, Bishop Robert Pates presented the landscape from which
vocations are currently coming. Amid that landscape, he cited Catholic
charismatic communities such as those in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Wichita, Kan.,
home-schooling families, lay associations such as Focolare, Communion and
Liberation, and the Neocatechumenal Way, universities such as Texas A & M,
Franciscan University of Steubenville and Benedictine College, ministries such
as the Fellowship of Catholic University Students and National Evangelization
Teams, and the influence of World Youth Day.
“In their families, churches and
schools, they have been evangelized,” said Bishop Pates. “Authentic vocations
emerge from discipleship with Jesus.”
Bishop Pates’ comments were backed
up by the recent “Study of Recent Vocations to Religious Life” conducted by
Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate on behalf
of the Chicago-based National Religious Vocation Conference.
Whereas 91% of finally professed
women are age 60 and over, 43% of those currently in training are under 30; 71%
of those in initial formation are under 40.
“We’ve heard anecdotally that the
youngest people coming to religious life are distinctive, and they really are,”
said Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Center for Applied Research
in the Apostolate. “They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious
life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together,
praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say
fidelity to the Church is important to them. And they really are looking for
communities where members wear habits.”
That data also found that just 1% of
religious orders associated with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
have more than 10 women in the process of joining, whereas among the smaller
Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, 28% reported having 10 or more
Many at the conference spoke of the
importance of the family in the role of vocations and the negative impact of
the disintegration of the family.
“The domestic church be--comes the
first seminary,” said Archbishop Emilio Carlos Berlie of Yucatan, Mexico.
Families Foster Vocations
what Pope Benedict XVI said recently, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan
emphasized the vocation of marriage and family.
data from a recent Pew Research Center study, Archbishop Dolan stated that only
about 50% of Catholic young people are approaching the sacrament of marriage.
care of the first crisis will take care of the second,” said Archbishop Dolan. “Vocations
to the priesthood and religious life come from lifelong, life-giving, faithful
James Keating stressed the invaluable role of the father in leading his family
into the mystery of Christ.
father gazes upon the mother as Christ gazes upon Mary,” said Deacon Keating,
director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation at
Creighton University. “The father needs to live in that mystery so that the
family will not be resistant to the idea of a religious vocation.”
many speakers noted, the family has become a place of great resistance to
religious vocations. Archbishop Dolan spoke of the importance of recreating a
“culture of vocations.”
need to recapture the climate, tenor, tone, ambiance in the Church where a boy
or man isn’t afraid to publicly say, ‘I want to be a priest,’ and where his
family, relatives, neighbors, parish, priest, sisters, teachers and even
non-Catholics are robustly supportive,” said Archbishop Dolan.
a panel discussion with four former seminary rectors, the now-bishops commented
positively on the quality of men they’ve observed in seminaries.
have a dazzling, noble, boyish love of the priesthood, even in the face of the
fact that the life of the priesthood has been so greatly tarnished in our
culture and society,” said Archbishop Dolan.
Dolan also noted the change that has taken place over the past 10 to 15 years.
has been an intense recovery of the arsenal of piety and devotion that’s such a
rich part of Catholic spirituality that perhaps our generation let go of
somewhat,” said Archbishop Dolan.
cited two times that seminarians at the North American College in Rome demanded
something of him as a rector.
they asked for a daily Holy Hour with the Blessed Sacrament exposed,” said
Archbishop Dolan. “Second, they asked that priests be available for the
sacrament of reconciliation every morning. They led us in a recovery of that.”
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