Surveying the vocations landscape

| Father David Blume | November 6, 2018 | 0 Comments
Jesus, Crucifix

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In this National Vocation Awareness Week, we take time to lift up the vocations of priesthood, consecrated life and the diaconate. There is plenty of good news to share!

The Office of Vocations has been busy working with both men and women discerning their vocations. The result is that this fall we had seven local men enter St. John Vianney College Seminary’s freshman class. We also had seven men enter the St. Paul Seminary Pre-Theology I class, for a total of 14 new seminarians. In addition, we have six men who were already in the seminary who have moved into SPS’ Theology I class. For this school year, there are a total of 61 seminarians, and we anticipate there will be four ordinations to the priesthood next May.

Bethany House is our discernment house in Minneapolis for women considering consecrated life. This is our second year of sponsoring this house of discernment, and it is going very well. Last year there were five women who lived at Bethany House from September through the end of May. This year we have a household of six women.

The Institute for Diaconate Formation is experiencing increased interest in its Deacon Discernment Days for the aspirant class that will start in the fall of 2019. The events have drawn 85 men and some wives, who attend these events alongside their husbands. The new candidates will join the 18 candidates already in formation. The next permanent deacon ordination will be Dec. 7, 2019.

In September, I attended the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors meeting. It was an excellent meeting with more 300 people present, including 200 diocesan vocation directors. As you might expect, the most frequent topic of conversation had to do with the deeply troubling news from within the Church.

Such news is always a reminder of the care that must be taken in accepting men for the seminary. Today, the application process is very thorough, taking about three or more months to complete, but that was not always the case. I recall visiting with a priest who was in his 80s and asking him what the application process was like when he entered the seminary. He smiled and said that back then, he just talked to his pastor, who wrote a letter to the seminary recommending that he be accepted.

Like many others who entered the seminary at that time, he went on to serve well and he became a very holy priest. However, I have wondered what present-day sorrows might have been avoided if years ago the Church had the resources we have today to conduct a more thorough acceptance process.

I do believe our present climate affects men considering priesthood: sometimes directly, but also through parents and others who have an influence on their vocation. Very likely, there are some who have been dissuaded and have chosen another path or have delayed a decision to enter the seminary. We will never know. On the flip side, there are men whose response to this present darkness has been to turn toward Christ. Knowing that the Church needs holy and healthy priests, they are prayerfully discerning whether they are called to the priesthood. Let’s support them with our prayers.

The work of calling forth vocations is a work of the Holy Spirit moving through the Church. It doesn’t stop in times of turmoil. May our response be to lean into Christ and to build up the Church by praying for all those whom the Lord is calling.

Father Blume is director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: The Local Church