Pray, Pray! On World Vocations Day
We've been facing a chronic shortage of priests in the past couple of decades in the United States and throughout the world. In different parts of the world, there've been different reasons for this. In the West, there was a crisis of culture and of faith, leading to a flood of priests and nuns leaving their lives in consecrated service to the Church. At the same time, there was a steep drop in the number of Catholics entering religious orders or pursuing a vocation as a priest or consecrated religious.
The priest shortage in the rest of the world, however, comes because so many people are entering the Church. In Africa and Asia, due to the influx of new Christians, many parishes have become enormous, and many dioceses geographically immense. In his The Future of Christianity trilogy of books, sociologist Philip Jenkins wrote about the rising tide of Catholicism, as well as the full array of Christian churches, denominations, and sects, across the globe.
"The growth in Africa has been relentless," writes Jenkins in The Atlantic in 2002, in an article entitled "The Next Christianity."
"In 1900 Africa had just 10 million Christians out of a continental population of 107 million — about nine percent," he said. "Today the Christian total stands at 360 million out of 784 million, or 46 percent. And that percentage is likely to continue rising, because Christian African countries have some of the world's most dramatic rates of population growth. ... Within the next twenty-five years the population of the world's Christians is expected to grow to 2.6 billion (making Christianity by far the world's largest faith). By 2025, 50 percent of the Christian population will be in Africa and Latin America, and another 17 percent will be in Asia. Those proportions will grow steadily. By about 2050 the United States will still have the largest single contingent of Christians, but all the other leading nations will be Southern: Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. By then the proportion of non-Latino whites among the world's Christians will have fallen to perhaps one in five."
But this news of decline and growth, of a shortage for want of interest in some places and a shortage due to too great an interest in others, is not without signs of hope.
As several news outlets have reported, this year the Church in the U.S will ordain 25 percent more men than she did last year. A number of religious orders characterized by fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church, such as the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, are having great influxes of aspirants seeking to enter their orders. This year alone, the Marian Fathers in the U.S. plan to ordain three men to the priesthood.
Like I said, there's hope! But these encouraging signs need to remind us of the importance of praying for and supporting our priests and religious. Let's not slip into complacency.
The Church marks the World Day of Prayer for Vocations on April 26. In this Year of Consecrated Life, console the Heart of Jesus by performing the great work of mercy of interceding for vocations. Remember to pray for perseverance in all vocations. The evil one seeds disappointment, discouragement, and just simple lukewarmness in all vocations — thus leading many to think only of their own comfort zones. We all need to be faithful to the call of God in accord with the divine will. Let us make sure that we pray for new vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as well as for all those called to marriage or the single life. Let us also keep our current priests and religious in prayer, for the devil does not like them at all. And let us send our support for the formation of new vocations and help for all those brothers and sisters in Christ who are living out their vocations now.
If you or someone you know is considering a vocation to the Marian Fathers, visit us online or call toll free (877) 261-8806. To help support the men in formation, visit our vocation support page or call 1-800-462-7426.