As Vocations Sunday approaches, the chair of the council for vocations of the Irish Episcopal Confernce, Donal McKeown answers some questions on the state of vocations in Ireland in a YouTube video on CatholicBishops.ie. Bishop McKeown is one of the auxiliary bishops of the Catholic diocese of Down and Connor.
This video is welcome as part of the contribution of the Irish bishops to Vocations Sunday. How much more welcome would be a commitment from the Episcopal conference in Ireland to highlight the vocation of priesthood and religious life on a far more regular basis. It is a rarity to hear any bishop in Ireland speak about vocations outside of this weekend - and indeed any comments that are made tend to create a negative attitude toward priesthood and religious life. It seems that in Ireland there is an inability to promote the priestly or religious vocation without making reference to clustering of parishes, permanent diaconate, pastoral workers and other issues - important and all as they may be.
It is no surprise then that people, and especially young people who may have an interest in priesthood or religious life are confused. For many of them, the message they receive is that other forms of vocation are as important or indeed more important than the call to serve the Lord as a religious or priest. Why are we afraid to promote this calling? If there continues to be a dilution of the sacred call of the Lord to men and women to follow him in a vowed life or as service as a priest, then we can expect fewer and fewer vocations.
Experience, anecdotally and otherwise, from various parts of the world shows that those bishops and religious superiors who go out of their way to actively promote the vocation to priesthood and religious life are far more successful in encouraging and receiving such vocations than those who do not. We are doing a great disservice to the Church by not being proactive in our promotional efforts.