Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SHORTAGE OF THOSE WILLING TO TAKE HOLY ORDERS CREATES CHALLANGES

The Catholic Church is struggling in many regions of the Western World. Church attendance is down, financial support is down and the number of men seeking to become priests is so low as to be judged a crisis. It used to be the our priests acted as missionaries to the third world. Now the church recruits priests from the third world for parishes in our province.

The shortage of those willing to take holy orders is not limited to the priesthood. Many old Catholic orders are facing an unsustainable sharp decrease in new recruits and the median age of those remaining are in the mid-to-late 70's. 

I was reminded of that last Friday while volunteering at the Arch-Diocesan museum. A number of "older" ladies came in to view the Nativities from around the world exhibit. While providing the tour and discussing the nativities I learned they were all retired nuns. All of them had taught for 40 and 50 years. They indicated to me that they were the last of their orders, very few people are coming forward to replace them.

Way back in 2009, I blooged about The Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, hiring  Terry O'Reilly, the host of Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio's The Age of Persuasion, for its ad campaign calling young women who might feel inclined toward its religious life.  

The New York Times is reporting that the US now has about 50,000 Catholic nuns, down from the peak of 125,000 in the 1960s.  the shrinking numbers of apostolic orders, where nuns and monks undertake a charity or service, mirror a similar trend in the Catholic population of Europe, Canada and the United States.

I have not been able to find anyrecent  statistics for Canadian orders but my observations from my continued involvement in the church mirrors the realities of the American studies. There were 24,000 nuns in Canada in 1988, but by 2004, there were only approximately 18,000. I have no idea what the current numbers are.

 I have no idea if Pope Benedicts most welcome reform minded agenda tilting the church towards social justice issues and away from deeply entrenched Conservative Catholic dogma that will help reignite passions to selflessly serve the church and Christianity.

The church needs to cultivate and sustain lay ministries and meet the opportunities provided by the Second Vatican Council and rooted in the call of Baptism. There has to be we need a deeper understanding of collaboration between the ministries of the ordained and of the nonordained. I would suggest that the seminaries-church need to evolve to provide training so that one and all can exercise their ministry in a collaborative fashion.

That is in the hands of god but  changes show how the Catholic church is evolving, rather than fading away



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