Tuesday, May 13, 2008

'Tis the Season

Of course, May and June see the bulk of priestly ordinations 'round these parts, and this year is no exception.

Among others, Toronto added seven, Detroit five and, as previously noted, New York and Miami six to their respective long black lines on Saturday; Chicago'll have eleven new priests come this weekend, and over the next month Rockford, Boston and DC will each commission seven ordinandi; Cincinatti, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Knoxville, Santa Fe and Paterson, three; four for Saginaw, nine in Rockville Centre, and on and on it goes....

In sum, the annual CARA report found that nearly a third of the US class of 400-plus new priests are foreign-born, only a third are in their twenties, and 9% are adult converts (including three from Judaism); the oldest of the class is 76 (one of five candidates 65 or older), the group's average age is 37, median 32.

Reflecting the status of the Filipino and Vietnamese communities as the "new Irish" in priestly recruitment, Asian/Pacific ordinands comprise 12% of the Stateside group, four times the community's size in the 70 million-member American Catholic fold. Conversely, though Hispanic Catholics comprise over a third of the national church's membership, less than half that strength is reflected among this year's ordination candidates. Even so, Mexico still tops Vietnam as the most-cited native country of the new crop's foreign-born contingent.

For yet another year, "people, not paper" won the day -- CARA reports that "relatively few ordinands say that TV, radio, billboards, or other vocational advertising were instrumental in their discernment." (Most influential media, however: websites... but only for 14%.) Yet again proving the adage that "the best advertisement for priestly vocations is... a happy priest," four out of five responded that it was a priest's invite to consider entering formation that got 'em thinking, with "personal witness of priests, brothers, and other seminarians" ranked first among the group's most-cited factors toward discernment. In addition, forty-four percent of the group had participated in parish youth ministry prior to the seminary, and one in five had attended a World Youth Day pre-sem.

On a related note, the USCCB's longtime lead hand on vocations work Msgr Ed Burns is returning home to Pittsburgh... where, seven months in, Bishop David Zubik's energized outreach is already reaping a spike of interest:
More than 80 men and boys from the Diocese of Pittsburgh attended an inquiry meeting Thursday for those who think they might be interested in priesthood. It was followed by a standing-room-only hour of prayer for vocations.

"The spirit is moving," Bishop Zubik said.

The inquirers, who attended a cookout at St. Paul Seminary in East Carnegie, got a tour and a talk from the bishop on what priesthood is about. They ranged in age from older grade school students to professionals, the oldest of whom was 51. Then they joined nearly 600 other people from across the diocese to pray for more priests, with people standing five rows deep in the back and spilling out of the auditorium door to fill the lobby.

"I have never seen the seminary auditorium so packed," said Bishop Zubik, who gave up the traditional bishop's mansion in Squirrel Hill when he became bishop of Pittsburgh last year to live at St. Paul with the seminarians.
...and finally, as -- like everything else -- the vocational map's demographic center tilts increasingly toward the South, Dallas' Holy Trinity Seminary has named its new rector in succession to Bishop-elect Mike Duca, who was named to the diocese of Shreveport on 31 March.

Until now a pastor and vicar-general in his home diocese of Fort Worth, Fr Michael Olson is an alum of the Catholic University of America's prestigious Basselin Scholarship in philosophy. Long a specialist in bioethics, Olson -- ordained in 1994 -- is up for his STD in moral theology from the Alfonsiana in Rome.

As Duca wraps up his packing in advance of his Monday ordination in Louisiana, his successor-in-waiting made his first visit the seminary's Irving campus earlier today. Home to 28 students in formation for dioceses across Texas, Olson formally assumes Holy Trinity's rectorship on July 1st.

PHOTO: Anna Weaver/Hawaii Catholic Herald