It is very encouraging to hear the new bishop-elect of the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin (the home diocese of this blogger) Fr Denis Nulty speak about prioritising vocations as he takes up his appointment in the near future. Fr Nulty is one of a number of new bishops appointed in Ireland in the past twelve months - he is, to my knowledge, the first one to mention vocations in this way.
At a time when the numbers of men and women entering religious life and seminary in Ireland are at a record low, it has been interesting to note that there has been little by way of urgent response from those charged with the promotion of vocations. At face value it would seem that the church in Ireland is content to continue along the path of doing very little to arrest the current downward trends.
While the statistics tell a sorry story, it is even more depressing that there is little by way of leadership on the matter. In any other form of life, there would be a comprehensive review of the situation and an attempt to put right what is wrong. Within the context of the Irish church, there is a tendency to point the finger of blame at all sorts of external difficulties ranging from the unfriendliness of the media to the lack of interest of the young in the Church. It is more striking that there has been very little by way of reflection within the Church itself in order to deal with the situation.
There are several ways in which this could and should be done and I list some suggestions below:
- There is a need for a sustained and nationwide prayer campaign for religious and priestly vocations.
- Religious orders and dioceses need to be brave in putting human, spiritual and material resources at the service of vocation promotion.
- Church leaders need to make vocations a priority.
- The various vocation promotion associations need to work together more closely to maintain a coordinated and sustained effort in the work of presenting religious and priestly vocations.
- The Irish church generally needs to become far more professional in its approach to the work of vocations ministry.