The new endangered species; why are our seminaries empty?
The seminary of the Archdiocese of Bombay situated in Goregaon East once boasted of a full house. There were years when rooms ran out and even the students of the integrated years, who usually got a small cubicle, were obliged to share their rooms with others. Ironically today, there is much room in the inn but few seem to be knocking.
Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are certainly down while the expectations of what a priest should be doing in ministry has certainly increased. Between 2012 and 2016, the number worldwide, of men in seminary training for the priesthood fell by nearly 4,000, to 116,160 prompting the Vatican to call it a “crisis of vocations”. So what is the problem?
We need priests, but let it not be my child!
For many, the crisis of vocations is best solved by encouraging someone else son or daughter to answer the call; it’s never our own. This evening we buried Fr Ryan Fernandes whose dear mother encouraged two sons to become priests, two daughters to join the convent and still another son who though married, to embrace the call to the permanent diaconate.
Why does it please us to hear that someone else’s son fell on the sword of sacrifice while we then settle down to analyse his call to the priesthood or his ministry under a microscope? And then there are those who revel in running down someone else’s child who has said yes to the priesthood (with all his human failings) while they themselves would be most forgiving should their own child faltered or fell short of others expectations. And do not forget the army of catholic whatsappers who forward every apparent piece of Church gossip without verifying the facts.
It is my hunch that economics also plays a great role in the decision of Catholic parents who do not even place on the table, the vocation to the priesthood while actively promoting every secular profession. The worry, especially for parents who have one child seems valid on the face of things; who will care and provide for us in our old age? Strangely the answer mostly is, the child who accepted the call to say yes to the Lord. But even more, such fears betray our faltering trust in a provident God who always meets our needs. Is there a guarantee that your married son will take care of you in your old age?