Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Statistics and all that.........

I like opinion polls. I find them fascinating. In the political sphere, they are generally accurate (in Ireland) - particularly at election time. I complained for years that I had never been approached by any of these research companies - but I was recently. I'll be watching the new opinion polls avidly!!

Recently, I found myself reading some more statistics - this time in The Catholic World Report on priestly vocations in America, and the recent trends in same. Some interesting facts emerge. When the late Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978 there were 63,882 major seminarians worldwide - when he died in 2005, that number had increased to 114,439 seminarians - an increase of 79.1%. Impressive, isn't it? Several American dioceses have been part of that surge in numbers. So, the magazine publishes a 'league table' of sorts of those dioceses doing well, and those doing not so well - and try to analyse these trends.

I was interested in those doing well ,obviously! What is interesting is the reasons for those who do well in attracting vocations. They are (in no particular order): prayer; 'the culture of vocations'; prayer before the Blessed Sacrament; good priests; the avid interest of a local bishop (superior); prayer groups; sound formation; direct contact with young people; the culture of praying for vocations in a parish or diocese. Do you notice a trend there? Yes, prayer! We need to pray - we need to ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers! All the other reasons are important, but surely, prayer! (Statistics don't lie, do they?)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Approval for Year of Prayer for Vocations

I am very happy to hear that the Irish Episcopal Conference have given the go-ahead for the proposed Year of Vocation - as outlined elsewhere in this blog (entry for October 31st). It will be an opportune time for religious orders and congregations and the dioceses of Ireland to highlight vocation for a full year. Great credit is due to all those who have worked on getting the project accepted - and well done to the bishops for the wisdom in approving. I am looking forward to the year! The year of vocation has a logo (above) that you will no doubt become familiar with!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

New Attitude to Vocations Promotion in Ireland?

It is very heartening to read this week's new look Irish Catholic newspaper. The newly ordained Bishop of Ossory, Seamus Freeman - a member of the Pallotine Order, gives an interview and speaks about the 'vocation crisis' in this way: 'There is a lack of awareness of how grave this situation is. People know there are no vocations, but no one is inclined to promote vocations, it's not seen as a priority. People look for other solutions, the only solution to the crisis of vocations is to promote vocations and recruit more young men to join the priesthood. We have to make people in the parishes aware of the real urgency of no vocations. If it's not said people will not know it's an urgency, it has to be very well known that this is the number one problem.' Bishop Freeman is making vocations promotion a priority. In my forty odd years, I have not heard any other bishop or religious superior say in a public way that the promotion of vocations was a priority. Hopefully now, through the courage and enthusiasm of the new bishop, others will follow.

Commenting on Bishop Freeman's interview in the same paper, correspondent Andrew O' Connell, who is the communications officer for the Presentation Brothers in Ireland welcomes this news and adds, quite rightly, that '.........the kind of leadership we now need is one which will take issues by the scruff of the neck.' Andrew points to the fact that this is back breaking work but that it is work that must simply be done lest we ignore the words of the late Pope John Paul II: 'Let no one, on account of our negligence, lose the beautiful gift of their vocation.'

And a final piece in this week's paper is a letter from a writer extolling the virtues of Saint Joseph's Young Priest Society - an organisation founded in 1895. It is an organisation of lay people devoted to the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life as well as the promotion of the laity. I know from experience the wonderful work they do. It would be great to see this organisation have a presence on the internet and spread their message more widely.

All in all, it was great to see these articles and letter about vocations. A lot of common sense. I would like to think it marks a new trend in our thinking about vocations promotion.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


What attracts people to religious life? Why do so many express interest? What is the profile of enquirers? There is a notion abroad that these people are 'conservative'! Not true, in my experience.

On average, I meet around thirty (30) people who express an interest in the Irish Dominican friars each year. They all fit into the ready made groupings suggested by those with little else to be the profile includes 'social justice Catholics', 'charismatic Catholics', 'neoconservative Catholics', 'Vatican II Catholics', 'traditional Catholics' - oh, and Catholics too!! Despite the labelling, two important trends emerge: a desire to know, love and serve Jesus Christ and secondly, to experience authentic community. And overarching all that is the deep desire to be associated with a group of people who have a strong identity.

The identity of any group, religious or otherwise is dependent on the goodwill and authentic lives of its members. I am often amazed when people suggest the holiness of a particular friar as a reason for wanting to join the Order. But I shouldn't be amazed though. We are blessed with many brethren who embody the identity of the Dominican Order by their living authentic lives. And these brothers aren't too interested in labelling others - they are more interested in bringing people closer to the Lord. And thats the purpose of our Order - preaching and the salvation of souls.