Catholic World Report on the best and worst dioceses in recruiting seminarians. Galveston-Houston remains near the bottom despite having had two bishops in a row (ten years in my personal memory) who insisted this was a major priority. It would be even worse off if not for foreign seminarians. So what’s the reason? Is it just the culture? Is it celibacy? Is it because of a screening and formation process that weeds out good people (Goodbye, Good Men)? Is it because parents discourage their sons? Is it because some chancery staff and many priests don’t share the bishop’s priorities? Or a combination of the above? Is it just another symptom of the difficulty of holding on to youth and young adults?
The article says Lubbock tried to recruit from Mexico, but found that those seminarians had a difficulty adjusting to the culture and completing the studies. Another person in Lubbock suggests the sexual abuse crisis discourages many, but also that vocations aren’t promoted by either religious educators or priests themselves.
The article says vocations have dropped in Laredo. But that may be an unfair comparison; it’s a relatively new diocese of only 32 parishes and 25 priests–there are 222,000 Catholics in a population of 300,000 (that’s more Catholics than in Maine, Vermont, and most Southern states) in an area of 11,000 square miles (Connecticut is 14,000 sq. miles).
In many cases, an increase in vocations came with a new bishop–often a conservative bishop who followed a liberal one. But I think that only makes a difference if the bishop makes major changes in his chancery staff. I worked in a place where lots of leaders did not share the bishop’s vision–when the bishop wanted to use the video “Fishers of Men” to promote vocations, I heard it said, “That’s awful! There’s no way I’ll use that in any of my programs.” And priests should be asked how often they invite people to consider the priesthood. Many don’t, because they’re not happy themselves either with the church or in their own ministry.