The headline in this weekend's (issue of February 21, 2008) Irish Catholic - Ireland's primary Catholic paper has the above front page headline 'Vocation Crisis'. The lead article and editorial are based on the publication of data the new Irish Catholic Directory 2008 which paints a gloomy picture about the lack of vocations in Ireland. The new directory highlights the fact that in the past year 160 priests have died, while there were only 9 ordinations. More starkly, for female religious is the statistic that 228 religious sisters died in the past 12 month period while only 2 (two) made final vows or profession. Indeed any reading of the other data given is quite depressing - if one wants it to be.
In the editorial of the Irish Catholic, the editor suggests that a National Synod of bishops, priests and lay people be convened to discuss the crisis. He says the 'business as usual' approach just won't wash anymore. He calls for a mature debate in order to facilitate lay people having a voice in decision making.
The convoking of a Synod may be good in itself. Indeed, I would encourage it. However, I would boldly suggest that we need to look closer to home to deal with the so-called vocations crisis. Religious Orders (male and female) and the dioceses really need to look at how seriously they take vocation promotion or vocation direction. I have long been an advocate for orders and dioceses to appoint full-time personnel to this work. I realise that it is a painful decision for any order, society or diocese to release men and women for such work on a full time basis - but otherwise we will not be able to create any notion of a culture of vocation at all. In fact, I would go so far as to say that to not do so means we are failing in our own vocations to promote new membership to our church in Ireland. The time for talking is long since gone - this surely is the time for action, before it is too late!