Renewed parishes: parish and vocations

The author reflects on the concern of parishes for priestly vocations.

March 31, 2022-Reading time: 2 minutes

On Sunday, March 20, we celebrated Seminary Day. Today, there are about 1,200 major seminarians in Spain. The number of new priests per year is around 120, which is not enough to replace the priests who die. We can speak of a vocation crisis in Spain. Is it that God is no longer calling? Is it that priestly life no longer makes sense? Is it that we are not able to transmit the beauty of vocation?

Maybe we need to think about all that, and examine ourselves. Maybe a Church that seems to be more dedicated to social activism than to a true supernatural mission is not so appealing. But we can go deeper. Vocations are not diminishing, the Church is diminishing. What does this mean?

Without making an exhaustive study, it is evident, in the first place, that the population is aging; we can even speak of demographic suicide. A first conclusion we can draw is that the number of "candidates" for the priestly vocation has decreased. There are fewer to choose from. If in 1950 there were about 8,000 major seminarians in Spain, it is also true that in that year approximately 20 % of the (male) population was between 0 and 19 years of age; today it is less than 10 %. But there are other factors that add to this shortage of young people: How many religious marriages were there in 1950, and how many are there now? How many baptisms? How many divorces? How many unmarried couples? The decline is not only demographic, it is also a decline in faith and a decline in the Church, and therefore a decline in vocations. 

Now I dare to introduce a different perspective. Although we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of seminarians in absolute terms, perhaps the decrease is not so great in relative terms. That is to say, the percentage of seminarians in relation to the number of Christian families and vibrant communities of faith has not only not decreased, but perhaps even increased. What has decreased, in addition to the "candidate" population, are Christian families and vibrant communities. Since the structure of the Church - dioceses, parishes - has not slimmed down, then the collapse occurs: there are not enough vocations to maintain the structure we have. But what if we stop worrying about maintaining the structure and worry about evangelizing? We have and will have enough vocations.

One hears it said: "We have to look for vocations! Okay, but first we must evangelize.

The authorJuan Luis Rascón Ors

Pastor in San Antonio de la Florida and San Pío X. Madrid.

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