Friday, August 31, 2012

HOW DO WE GET MORE VOCATIONS TO THE PRIESTHOOD?

This?


















or this?



Rorate Caeli is castigating the bishops of Ireland for their consumeristic advertising campaign that cost mega bucks and has produced no vocations. The heart of the problem in Ireland as elsewhere is the loss of Catholic identity, morality, spirituality and sacramentality not to mention liturgicality.

In 2003, our diocesan newspaper The Southern Cross published an article about my former parish, at which time I was still pastor, The Church of the Most Holy Trinity, founded in 1810, continuing the Catholic presence in Metro Augusta since the 1540's and Georgia's oldest Catholic Church, about the numerous vocations coming from this lowly downtown parish. The following is the article:

Vocation Focus—Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Augusta

Many are asking “what the heck is in the Holy Water at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Augusta?” The reason for the question concerns the numerous vocations that have come from this parish since the early 1980’s.

In the 80’s Father Daniel Munn who was a former Episcopal Priest and a registered member of Most Holy Trinity was one of the first married former Episcopal Priest to be ordained a Catholic Priest at Most Holy Trinity. The national press covered this historic event. A few years later, parishioner Father Steve Harrington was ordained for the Diocese of Dubuque. Later Father Mark Ross, a parishioner was ordained for the Savannah diocese at Most Holy Trinity. His family still attends. Unfortunately, Fr. Steve Harrington died in a tragic accident in 1991.

The 1990’s brought a flood of priestly ordinations and new candidates for the priesthood and religious life. Fr. Timothy McKeown a parishioner was ordained. In the ninety’s Fr. Richard Hart entered the seminary. He was ordained in 2001. As well, Daniel Firmin, Mark Van Alstine, and Aaron Killips all entered the seminary. God willing they will be ordained priests for our diocese within the next few years.

This past year, another Most Holy Trinity parishioner, Dr. John Markham was ordained a transitional deacon at Most Holy Trinity. God willing he will be ordained a priest next June.

Aaron Killips had worked with the Diocese of Savannah Vocation Director, Fr. Brett Brannen as his first Vocation Director Assistant. When Aaron decided to go into the Seminary for the Diocese, another Most Holy Trinity parishioner, Jonathan Bingham took his place as assistant Vocation Director. Jonathan just recently joined the Western Province of the Dominicans as a novice. Fr. Brannen chose yet another Most Holy Trinity parishioner Paul Sterrett to be the new assistant Vocation Director. He has been praying about his vocation for a number of years.

Apart from Jonathan Bingham who recently joined the Dominicans, another former Most Holy Trinity parishioner, Fr. Ronald Schmidt ordained a Jesuit Priest in June returned to celebrate a “first Mass” at Most Holy Trinity. He was also a former choir member. Another Most Holy Trinity parishioner, Aaron Pidell made his first solemn vows as a Jesuit on August 15th in Louisiana.

In addition to all the priestly vocations, Darlene Presley, an active parishioner is leaving in late August to discern her vocation with the Glenmary Sisters. Another young woman in the parish is seriously considering a vocation with the Sisters of Life in New York.

Father Allan J. McDonald, pastor of Most Holy Trinity since 1991 credits the strong faith life of parish families with the unheard of numbers of vocations coming from the parish. He states that a good number of the men who are studying for the priesthood also grew up in the Alleluia Community. However, not all come from Alleluia. Jonathan Bingham’s Dad is a former Episcopal priest and grew up in a strongly religious environment. Jesuit Father Ronald Schmidt is a widowed priest who has three sons. Medical doctor and new Deacon John Markham credits his conversion to Catholicism to his medical work at St. Joseph Hospital in Augusta and the mentoring of Fr. Daniel Munn. Deacon Markham is a widower also and has two children and several grandchildren. Fathers Steve Harrington and Mark Ross who knew each other were active members in the parish and attended the same public high school in Augusta, Westside High School.

Certainly the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and yes perhaps something that is in the Holy Water has inspired all these vocations. Father McDonald stated that if every parish in the Diocese and throughout the world pro-actively encouraged vocations through prayer and invitation, the vocations' shortage would become a vocations' glut. He also believes that a strong parish faith life combined with solemn Liturgies done by the book and with flare contributes to the awareness of the importance of vocations and the need for serious minded and mature candidates. Many of Most Holy Trinity’s vocations were also long time altar servers, serving well after high school.


My comments: (Keep in mind that Most Holy Trinity has also had altar girls since the early 1980's. So the meme that this contributes to the loss of priestly vocations and a decline in the number of boys wanting to serve as altar boys is a myth. What causes a decline is poor liturgies, poor spirituality, poor training and the embarrassment that both boys and girls have when they have no clue as to what they should do when they serve the altar and how they should appear to others in their awesome task.)

Most Holy Trinity is still producing vocations today. The following who have a connection with or are members of Most Holy Trinity are currently in the seminary:

Tim Eyrich, Tony Visintainer and Patrick May! There could be others that I am not aware of!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"He also believes that a strong parish faith life combined with solemn Liturgies done by the book and with flare contributes to the awareness of the importance of vocations and the need for serious minded and mature candidates. "

It also contributes to those faith filled homes that are needed. Parents can't do it alone, neither can the clergy. Each influences the other.

~SL

Henry Edwards said...

I believe it's not just "prayer and invitation" in the usual general sense, but the direct effect of its pastors and the parish liturgy over a period of time, that a parish like Most Holy Trinity illustrates. When the priest at the altar inspires emulation, and the "business" at the altar is serious, boys will want to be priests. No exceptions, it always happens. Look at the vocations from a parish, and you know what kind of pastors it's had.

The altar girl discussion is a red herring. Certainly, when the liturgy is not serious, altar boys will not be attracted, and altar service will be seen as "girly stuff" that repels boys. What's true historically is that priestly vocations come from altar service. So I think it's posturing (or self-delusion) to say that altar girls are no impediment at a;; to priestly vocations, whereas Most Holy Trinity shows their presence is not a deal breaker, but is readily over come by a positive priestly role model and inspiring liturgy. Provided in this case by Fr. McDonald.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Henry, as a former vocation director for our diocese, 1986 to 1998, I think that it is very important for altar servers to be well trained and to take seriously their role and to execute their role in the most prayerful and solemn way. At Most Holy Trinity, I had and they still have Mr. Bill Harper who has trained the servers since the 1980's. He trains them regularly, has high expectations of them and a class system of promotion based upon numerous factors and they are recognized regularly when they are promoted. Although they wear cassock and surplice (the girls were red cassock, the boys black) they also wear a cincture. The color of the cincture designates their status and rewards. The Gold cincture was the highest and meant they had to master much and then were allowed to act as MC to other servers.
The girl issue is important for would-be priests. They must respect girls and their role in the Church and facilitate it, honor them and work closely with them and not see them as a threat sexually or otherwise. I think given the fact the Most Holy Trinity has a very successful track record of vocations that the girls have actually helped and are supportive of the "boys" who have gone on to be ordained priests. I pray that the girls, if given good solid role models by religious women would join various religious orders. What is lacking in Augusta is a visible, traditional religious order that wears a habit and lives in community. If that where there, I assure you there would be many young women from Most Holy Trinity entering religious life. They don't want the LCWR brand of religious life which is moribound.

Henry Edwards said...

Basically, Fr. McDonald, I agree with you. Where you have a serious priest, serious liturgy, and a serious server program that actively inspires the participation of altar boys, the negative effect of altar girls on priestly vocations may be negligible.

Unfortunately, the more typical parish situation at present is an uninspiring priest with uninspiring liturgy. In this situation it is common to observe boys to be repelled and the server corps become mostly female, and in consequence very few priestly vocations result.

Surely it all starts with the priest, and the poor formation of priests in recent decades is undoubtedly a greater impediment than altar girls.

Pater Ignotus said...

Our seminary rector, Msgr. Richard McGuinness (RIP), always asked two questions at his first rector's conference each year. "How many of you (seminarians) have lived in or around the same city or town all your life?" and "How many of you have had a priest (pastor or associate) assigned to your pariush for ten years or more?"

About 92% lived in the same place and about 95% had the long-term presence of a priest in his parish. In this day and age, these were pretty astounding numbers.

McGuinness' contention was that STABILITY - geographic and clergy -contributed mightily to fostering/encouraging vocations. Interesting...