I’ve written many times about the situation of vocations to the priesthood. We all know that there are certain parishes in dioceses which produce more priests. We all know that there are certain dioceses which produce more priests. We all know that there are certain religious groups which produce more priests. They have factors in common.
And yet, do other parishes and dioceses and religious groups change what they are doing?
Not much. It is [as] if they really aren’t committed.
In life I have found that when I am going in the wrong direction, I have to, first, stop going in the wrong direction, turn around, go back, and then go in the right direction.
Right? Does that make sense? Is that your experience too? It’s not hard, right?
At California Catholic I read…
Why aren’t other dioceses looking to Lincoln?
According to the Official Catholic Directory and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Lincoln, NE is the only diocese in the United States to place in the Top 20 for the ratio of ordinands to population in every survey conducted from 1993-2012.
Despite having a Catholic population of only 97,000, the Lincoln diocese ordained 22 men from 2010-2012. Only seven dioceses in the entire country ordained more. One of those, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (with a Catholic population over 4.2 million) ordained 34 men during those same three years. In other words, L.A. only ordained four more men per year on average despite having a population 44X greater than Lincoln.
The Lincoln blueprint can be narrowed down to a few foundational elements:
Orthodox Bishops[Yep. This is a big one.]
Against all odds and the prevailing winds of the post-conciliar Church, Lincoln has avoided the craziness and irreverence that has afflicted so many other dioceses. This has largely been achieved through the stability and orthodoxy provided over the last fifty years by three men: Bishop Glennon Flavin (1967-1992), Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (1992-2012), and Bishop James Conley (2012-present). They succeeded despite the occasional scorn of their brother bishops, and by making the Church’s perennial priorities their own.
The National Catholic Reporter (known as the Fish wrap to Fr. Z readers) [And not only to Fr Z readers…. pretty much everyone now calls it that.] once bemoaned that it was as if the “reforms” so prevalent in the aftermath of Vatican II had missed Lincoln altogether. Exactly.
The Male Only Sanctuary
To a large extent, Lincoln has preserved a male only sanctuary. In this area the diocese has simply given more weight to tradition and common sense instead of “modern sensibilities” that are more secular minded.
The diocese remains the only one in the country to maintain an altar serving policy of boys only.
Lincoln also utilizes installed acolytes and lectors for the Holy Mass. Since it is an instituted ministry, the role of an acolyte is only open to men. Both of these instituted ministries commenced during Bishop Flavin’s time during the 1970’s.
Those in Lincoln will speak of the lack of Catholic tribalism and the absence of the liturgical wars so prevalent in other dioceses. In large part this is due to the environment established by Lincoln’s bishops. Reverent Novus Ordo liturgies have served the faithful well, preventing the frustration that so many encounter in other dioceses.
[… good stuff… but I want to keep this short… Suffice to say that during my last visit to NYC, I had a church full of young people from a High School in Lincoln. They were reverent, received Communion on the tongue, kneeling, without batting an eye… impressive…]
As stated previously, the Lincoln diocese has intentionally avoided the modern tendency to clericalize the laity by delegating liturgical roles to the faithful. Thanks to its use of acolytes and lectors, instead of the more common excessive use of readers and extraordinary ministers, the diocese has not blurred the lines between ministers and laity, or between sanctuary and nave. It’s obvious to see how this would reinforce the ministerial priesthood in Lincoln, as well as the continuity between both forms of the Roman Rite.Read the whole thing there. It’s pretty interesting.
Proper liturgical orientation has been further reinforced through the manner in which many masses are offered in Lincoln: with the priest facing toward the liturgical east, or Ad Orientem.
A Catholic Education
While I have saved this for last, in many ways education is the primary ingredient to Lincoln’s recipe for success. Bishop Glennon Flavin’s vision for a diocese that allowed its children to go to Catholic school at an affordable cost and to be taught authentic Catholicism by religious sisters and priests is integral to the diocesan mission. [One of the parent/chaperons of the aforementioned group from Lincoln told me that tuition was in the neighborhood of $1200 per year. ]
Here is the bottom line.
The percentages of men to be ordained, and who are now active, against those who are retiring or dying are getting grim. I was recently in a diocese in Louisiana where some half of the priests are set to retire in the next five years. Disaster, right?
That percentage didn’t just happen.
It was engineered.
And the numbers in Lincoln, and in certain parishes, dioceses and religious groups known for good numbers of vocations didn’t just happen either!
It has been entirely engineered. The Diocese of Worcester has some sort of animus against men who feel called to the priesthood but who accept, promote and defend the Church's Magisterial teaching. There really is no denying this. As a cradle Catholic who lives a sacramental life, and who promotes and defends the Church's authentic teaching, especially in the area of sexual morality, I am not permitted to even apply for the priesthood and begin a discernment process.
This is most unfortunate. Dr. Germain Grisez explains that, "Since the ordained priesthood and diaconate provide the necessary ministries of the word and sacraments to the whole Church, every member shares a common duty to foster vocations to this service."
This duty, which pertains to all Christians, is codified in Canon Law:
"A duty rests upon the entire Christian community to foster vocations so that sufficient provision is made for the needs of the sacred ministry throughout the entire Church; Christian families, educators and in a special way priests, especially pastors, are particularly bound by this duty. Since it is principally the concern of diocesan bishops to promote vocations, they should instruct the people entrusted to them concerning the importance of the sacred ministry and the necessity of ministers in the Church; therefore they are to encourage and support endeavors to foster vocations by means of projects especially established for that purpose." (Canon 233).
Paragraph 2 of the same Canon also states, "Moreover priests, and especially diocesan bishops, are also to be solicitous that men of a more mature age who consider themselves called to the sacred ministries are prudently assisted IN WORD AND DEED and duly prepared."
When I contacted the Worcester Diocese to express my interest in DISCERNING a priestly vocation, I received no response whatsoever. When I wrote Bishop Robert McManus expressing my interest, again, no response. This is promoting vocations? This is being "solicitous" for mature vocations while assisting such in "word and deed"?
Of course not.
Every so often local parishes will offer a prayer intention for vocations. But without any real effort to promote and foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life, such prayer intentions amount to little more than a dog and pony show. Bishop McManus apparently has such disdain for me (pesky magisterial Catholic that I am) that when I phoned him to inform him that my "pastor" at the time (Fr. Joseph Jurgelonis) and his "pastoral staff" wouldn't schedule a Mass for my departed father, he actually laughed.
Feel the love of Christ Jesus.
Folks, if we really want to turn the tide within and outside of the Church, we will need to be more accepting of men who are orthodox in their faith and who feel called to the priesthood. The laborers are few. Can we afford to prohibit men faithful to the Magisterium from having a place at the table?
Diocese of Worcester: Healthy men need not apply? See here.