World Notes & Quotes

Ireland's ‘Men in Black’

Time magazine reported on Ireland's shortage of priests—and an innovative ad campaign the Archdiocese of Dublin is hoping will help reverse recent trends.

“Recruitment of men into the priesthood in Ireland has dropped dramatically in recent years,” according to the Dec. 15 edition of the magazine.

“At Dublin's Clonliffe College, enrollment fell from 68 young men between 1973 and '76 to only 18 in a similar three-year period ending in '96. And for those entering the class of '97, the registration book remained blank; not one person answered the call.

“In response to this dearth of new priests, the Archdiocese of Dublin, overseer of 1 million Catholic souls, has turned, appropriately, to cinematic images. A new Church-sponsored advertising campaign uses posters to ask simply: Who are the Men in Black? The question refers not to the action heroes of Men in Black, the recent celluloid flick staring Tommy Lee Jones, but to the men in the celluloid collars in pulpits on Sundays.

“The advertising campaign was followed up with an information day at Clonliffe College last month. About 100 people turned up for tea, biscuits, and a talk from director of vocations, Father Derek Smyth. He told the 60 young men among the crowd: ‘Trust what's going on inside yourselves. It's real, it's important. Take it seriously. It may be the most important decision for others in this diocese.’”

Ironically, while much of the Time's article repeats old, demonstrably false charges that celibacy is the cause of a lack of vocations, the only young Irishman considering the priesthood who is quoted in the article seems to accept celibacy matter-of-factly.

“I don't think I'd enter with the hope that the celibacy rule will be changed five or ten years down the road. This is for life. I have a girlfriend, and that's something I'll have to talk through. I think and hope I can resolve that matter.”

Christmas Conquers All

As Christmas day congregations were listening to St. John's proclamation that Christ's “light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it,” a BBC report was showing that in many places around the world, the truth of those words was clearer this Christmas than it has been in a long while.

Quietly, Christmas has been conquering communist and non-Christian countries. In China: “Christmas … seems to be taking root, where the government has been running a campaign to promote the country's own traditions,” as a counter-measure.

Under its communist government, “Christianity is only legal under the auspices of state-approved organizations in China.

“Nonetheless, at Sunday markets, thousands of shoppers—mostly teenagers or children with their parents—browse at stalls selling hundreds of Christmas cards.”

In Beijing, “Last year, an estimated 30,000 people attended one Catholic church—100 times the normal worshippers.”

One Chinese priest attributed Christmas's popularity to merchandise marketing that emphasizes the non-religious trappings of the season. He is quoted saying, “But, from the commercial dimension, they are getting more interested in Christmas. Maybe this is an approach to the truth. Who knows?”

In Japan: This country with “a knack for copying and improving other countries' good ideas is also adopting Christmas. Not much religion is involved, but there is lots of music and eating. Jingle Bells is now an important part of December and children learn the song in Japanese at school with other Christmas tunes.”

In Cuba: “Christmas celebrations were abolished by the communist government in the 1960s to avoid disrupting the sugar harvest.

“The public holiday, which has only been reinstated by President Castro for this year, is young Cubans' first experience of Christmas and many adults remain ignorant of its meaning.”