Consider Your Calling
Consider Your Calling
Posted on 02/04/2005
'Consider Your Calling'
By Cardinal Roger M. Mahony  
To the People of God of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles:

What would your reaction be if on some Sunday you arrived at your Parish Church for Mass, and found a sign on the door that read: "There will not be a 9:30 a.m. Mass today in our parish since we have no Priest to offer the Mass"? That day has arrived for many Arch/Dioceses across the country, and it appears to be rapidly approaching for us as well.

This coming July, 22 parishes will need new pastors (11 pastors are retiring, four are not taking another pastorate: net loss of 15 pastors). But we are only ordaining five new Priests this year. Where will we find 22 new pastors? Where will we find new associate pastors to take the places of those associates being appointed administrators or pastors in July? I use the expression "we" since this is our collective challenge, not just mine as your Archbishop.

The accompanying chart demonstrates most vividly the very serious shortage of Priests that we are facing. Assuming that all of our Priests will be able to serve until age 75 (a most generous assumption that does not take into account health problems or other disabilities), and knowing that we have 289 active parishes, between the years 2011 and 2015 we will actually have fewer Priests than we have parishes. It is also likely that we will ordain only four new Priests a year. It would be so helpful if we could exceed this number, but we cannot count on that.

We are blessed to have Religious Community Priests staffing 69 parishes, but the Religious themselves are facing the same shortages as we are, and many will simply be unable to continue their commitments in the Archdiocese in future years.

Unlike Arch/Dioceses in the mid-West and East, we do not have "surplus parishes" without parishioners. We actually have the opposite challenge: a great many of our Churches are already too small to accommodate the numbers of Catholics participating in Sunday Eucharist.

The fact is that the Catholic population of our Archdiocese continues to grow year after year, and we will need to open new parishes in the coming years in the Santa Clarita Valley, the Antelope Valley, and very likely in the northern part of the Archdiocese.

Our recent Archdiocesan Synod called all of us to be open to the Holy Spirit and to move where the Spirit is leading us. We have begun to respond by supporting the development of Pastoral Associates and Parish Life Directors. We will surely need to collaborate more fully among parish communities, to share all our resources in creative ways, and to make certain that our Eucharistic Church continues forward with vigor and confidence. To do so, we need more priests to make certain that the Eucharist is celebrated on Sundays with the full, active, and conscious participation of the People of God.

Consequently, every Catholic in our Archdiocese must realize that he or she is, in a genuine sense, a "vocation promoter." There are several things that all of us can readily do to promote vocations to the Priesthood, the Diaconate and Religious Life, and I invite you to become engaged in helping to meet our challenge. Some suggestions:

-Parishioners need to talk among themselves - both informally and at various parish gatherings - about this looming shortage, and take responsibility for making certain that the Eucharist and the Sacraments can be celebrated in the future to sustain our Catholic spiritual life. Communion Services are an inadequate substitute for the full celebration of the Eucharist in our parishes.

-All of us can pray for an increase in vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life: "Jesus said to them, 'The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest'" (Luke 10:2). Special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament would be a most appropriate means to pray for more vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life.

-All of us can be alert to young men and women in our parishes whom we believe have those qualities and gifts to serve the Church as Priests and Religious. We need to speak to them, to ask them if they think God might be calling them to give their lives in service as Priest or Religious. I have found that many young people are thinking about this possibility, but no one ever suggests it or invites them.

-We need to pray for, support and encourage the Priests and Religious who serve us in our parishes with such evident dedication and energy, especially since they are fewer in number and individually carry so many more pastoral responsibilities than ever before. The best affirmation of our Priests and Religious is through generous collaboration in the ministry and responsibility of the Church and of the parish.

-Parents need to be generous in encouraging their own sons and daughters to consider whether God is calling them to serve Christ and His Church in this way. The affirmation of parents to the early seeds of a vocation to the Priesthood or Religious Life is so crucial.

You and I bear a mutual responsibility for the Local Church of Los Angeles, this portion of the Lord's Vineyard. As the Synod process taught us all, we move forward as members of the Body of Christ together, not alone or in isolation. Let us keep alive the hope engendered by the Synod as we pray together for an increase in vocations:

Good and gracious God,

you have called us through Baptism

to discipleship with your Son, Jesus Christ,

and have sent us to bring the Good News of

Salvation to all peoples.

We pray you to grant us more Priests and Religious

to build up your Church here within the

Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Inspire our young men and women by the example of

Blessed Junípero Serra to give themselves totally

to the work of Christ and His Church.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.
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