Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Vocations and the Economic Crisis

The question came to our office from a reporter this month: has the economic crisis affected the number of vocations in the Church? We ran the question by the USCCB's Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, and Father David L. Toups, assistant director, provided the following response:

It is certainly too early to tell since the economic downturn happened within the current academic year. In general, our overall trend over the last few years has been a slight increase in vocations to the priesthood. We anticipate this trend will continue.

Historically, times of challenge or crisis usually bring out the best in people. We saw a huge boon in candidates to the priesthood after the Great Depression and World War II. These times brought out the best in people as they saw raw reality: death, sorrow, poverty, and needs of every kind around them.

In the course of the past few years, 13 percent of our newly ordained priests have previously served in the military. The ongoing war and the numbers of people serving in the armed forces, in my opinion, will mean that more young men and women will be coming home with a very sobering view of reality. It makes a young person take pause at an earlier age and ask "what is life all about?" and "what can I do to make a difference in this crazy world of ours?"

Since the numbers of young men responding to the call of Christ to enter the seminary has been on the rise recently, I can only imagine that the downturn in the economy will, in some strange way, continue to help the numbers. However, this is not a form of escapism. These candidates are not trying to escape the hardships of life, but rather desire to help others as the needs of the world increase. They have realized that their salvation is not in money or in the financial markets. More young people are asking themselves "what is the meaning of life?" and "how can I help others?" The answer that many are coming up with is: helping people get to heaven is the true bottom line at the end of the day.

The economic downturn will most likely result in a generous response. Seeing hardship moves one's heart to love, as Jesus said, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."

Father Toups is a priest of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla. He's served as a parish priest, theology professor and seminary dean of students. In 2008, he published the book Reclaiming Our Priestly Character.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dioceses Readying for Child Abuse Awareness Month (Starts April 1)

Dioceses are gearing up for Child Abuse Awareness Month. It’s in April and the Office for Child and Youth Protection urges dioceses and parishes to utilize this annual effort to get more people involved.

The Catholic Church is the leading organization in dealing with child abuse in its worst form, Child Sexual Abuse. From 2002 onwards, virtually all of the 195 dioceses and almost 19,000 parishes have been involved in child safety programs. Other churches and organizations are looking to the Catholic Church for its leadership in this area.

There’s a new alertness to behavior around kids. Youngsters are taught to speak out when something makes them uncomfortable and adults know to look out for activity which can become problematic, anything from a cleric’s tickling and wrestling with a kid to a youth minister’s going on an overnight camping trip with youngsters without other adults being present.

The U.S. bishops’ Office for Child and Youth Protection Website has a series of articles on Child Protection that are worth sharing. They include everything from the history of child abuse, which wasn’t considered abuse back when children were viewed as property, to warnings about the Internet and text messaging http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/april_cap_month_2009.shtml
Would that we didn’t have to deal with this. But since we do, Catholics ought to be the best in facing a social scourge that goes way beyond the church.

So Begins USCCB Media Blog

What the world really needs is another blog.

Fully aware of the countless blogs on innumerable topics -- including the Catholic Church, Christianity and religion in general -- the Office of Media Relations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a new voice in the online discussion.

From our perspective as media liaisons for the U.S. bishops, we will report and reflect on matters concerning the U.S. Catholic bishops, especially as they play out in the blogosphere and the media as a whole.

Stay tuned.