Dioceses such as Boston, Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia and St. Paul/Minneapolis continue to have the largest ordination classes, in part because of their larger Catholic populations. When the number of seminarians is compared with the total number of Catholics in the diocese, however, a very different list emerges — one that shows that the largest number of priests per capita are coming from the Midwest and the southern United States.Among the things that "work" is a personal invitation from priests ...
“The south is very religious,” said Father Tim McKeown, vocation director for the Diocese of Savannah, Ga. “We’re about 3% to 4% Catholic, but there is a strong Christian ethos. I think that certainly helps.”
The Diocese of Memphis has quadrupled its number of seminarians in the past five years. Father Keith Stewart, vocation director, cited personal contact as the key.And while we foreign-born continue to dominate the stories, the picture presented by the American-born candidates is a little different
“I’ve really worked with our priests to get them to extend a personal invitation to men,” said Father Stewart, who has been at his post for five years. “It’s been one of my biggest priorities because I’ve seen it borne out in experience that the personal invitation is what gets the ball rolling.”
According to Father Stewart, those interested in pursuing a priestly vocation come to him only after having initial contact with a priest.
“The priests are the real recruiters,” said Father Stewart. “Ninety percent of them come to me only after someone else got the ball rolling. I’ve only had one or two who have come to me on their own.”
A U.S. bishops’ conference survey bears that out. According to the study done by the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, 78% of the men being ordained said they were initially invited by a priest to consider the priesthood. That same survey showed that very few men are inspired to consider the priesthood by a website or advertisement.
While studies conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate have tended to show that priests are trending toward being older, more educated and foreign-born, that’s not quite the case among American-born ordinands.So, if you know a young man who is serious about his faith, ask him if he has considered being a priest! I suspect that every Catholic guy growing up thinks about it. No harm in inviting guys to consider a challenging and exciting calling!
“Our seminarians are getting younger, especially when you look at the American-born seminarians,” said Father Stewart. The Diocese of Memphis currently has 18 men studying for the priesthood. “We have only two second-career vocations. Most are right out of high school or college.”