We’ll say it out loud right here.
Cardinal Dolan’s new regional approach to promoting vocations to the priesthood is a terrific idea and we’ll be cheering it on moving forward.
The plan, announced Oct. 28, centers on the appointment of 15 priests currently assigned to parishes in all counties of the archdiocese who are “happy, confident and joyful in their vocation,” and who will seek to nurture vocations in young men in their area whom they know to have an interest in the priesthood.
It’s a one-to-one personal approach, but it’s not exactly new.
That pastoral strategy “goes back to the shores of the Sea of Galilee,” said Cardinal Dolan.
It’s what Jesus did, he said: “Even though Jesus spoke to thousands, he called one by one.”
Priestly vocations have been declining for years, and this new effort may just be the one to turn that around.
And we say that, knowing that reversing any longtime trend is akin to turning a ship around. It’s a long and arduous process. But ultimately, even the biggest, heaviest ship can be steered in a new direction.
In choosing Father George Sears, administrator of Holy Name of Jesus-St. Gregory the Great parish in Manhattan, the cardinal tapped a committed and experienced hand in the formation process, with five years under his belt as rector of the Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, Queens.
Father Sears, who was also appointed archdiocesan vocations director, will build on a month-old pilot program already under way at St. Raymond’s parish in the Bronx, where a group of half-a-dozen or so interested men have been gathering for a weekly Holy Hour and dinner.
The rest of us can keep this group in our prayers, along with the new groups we expect will form as the full program gets going.
Meanwhile, we want to encourage all Catholics to also keep in their prayers the dedicated priests serving in their parishes now. They’re fewer in number and, like all of us, growing older. More than anyone, we’re sure they’re banking on the success of this new program and others to help men hear a calling to the priesthood.
Certainly laymen and laywomen have long been doing much work of the Church, either as staff members or volunteers, that once was carried out by clergy and religious. This is a positive development, and is likely to continue and to grow.
But the Church needs its priests. Without them, there can be no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist the Church as we know and understand it cannot endure.
We’re not pessimists, though. We have no doubt the Church will survive and thrive and are excited for the new team of vocation promoters as they take on their new roles.
Father Sears recognizes the importance of walking with young men on their journey of discernment and says it can help him relive the best parts of his own journey.
“That’s something beautiful,” he said. Indeed it is.