Action Alert!

Quick Hits: What works—in attracting priestly vocations, in reviving Catholic liturgy

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Aug 26, 2016

  • Last week we reported on the collapse of vocations to the Catholic priesthood in Germany, where only 58 men were ordained last year. There were just 96 new seminarians in 2015—in a country where the Catholic population is officially listed at about 50 million. By contrast there are about 2 million people in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which has seen a surge in vocations, with 160 young men scheduled to be studying at the seminary this year. The figures are even more dramatic in the little diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. With a Catholic population of around 100,000 Lincoln has 43 seminarians, including the 10 who enter this year. (To match that performance on a per-capita basis, the German Church would need to enlist 5,000 new seminarians, rather than their paltry 96!) In an interview for Catholic World Report, Bishop James Conley says that the key to success in attracting young men to the priesthood is prayer. “Also key to vocations is fidelity to Church teaching.”

  • David Clayton, a convert from Methodism, was surprised to learn that the “Method” endorsed by John Wesley included the regular recitation of the Divine Office. On his Way of Beauty blog, Clayton wonders whether “it is the lack of adherence to the true Method today, perhaps, that has contributed to the decline of the Methodists that is so marked in England.” He argues that on this point, Wesley was right: it is the Divine Office, “centered on a liturgical piety, that can drive such societal change today as well as transform the Church.” Clayton has a special fondness for the Divine Office of the Anglican Use. So this may be the time to mention that Damian Thompson, writing for the Catholic Herald in London, foresees a crisis for the Anglican Ordinariate in England (but not in the US, where it is more secure), brought about partly by the hostility of the Catholic hierarchy and partly by unrealistic expectations among the faithful. Thompson predicts that “the Ordinariate in its present form will wither away,” and insists that “the fantasy of group conversions needs to be ditched.” Still he is confident that with visionary leadership “the Ordinariate can reinvent itself” and thrive despite obstacles.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Aug. 26, 2016 6:27 PM ET USA

    "Bishop James Conley says that the key to success in attracting young men to the priesthood is prayer. 'Also key to vocations is fidelity to Church teaching.'" Note that the U.S. seminary for FSSP priests, Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, is located in Bishop Conley's diocese. The Diocese of Lincoln is among the few dioceses in the United States that were willing to host the FSSP seminary. Its bishops have always been supportive of the FSSP's fidelity to Church teaching.