St. John Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars

Dearest Friends in Christ:


This Friday, August 4, we celebrate the feast day of our patron saint, St. John Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars. As in the past, we will have a special Mass followed by a parish dinner for everyone. This year, we will be doing something a little different. To prepare for the feast day, we will have three evenings of confessions. Beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, priests will be available to hear confessions and celebrate the Sacrament of Penance. St. John Vianney was famous for his many hours in the confessional reconciling sinners, offering sacramental absolution, and bringing God’s mercy to those in need of healing and forgiveness. What better way can we prepare to celebrate the feast day of this wonderful parish priest than to follow his example? We will have additional priests helping us each night, so all are welcome to come to experience the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness in this wonderful sacrament. If the lines are long, please be patient and use the time to pray for our parish, especially for more vocations to the priesthood.


To the surprise of no one, I imagine, the shortage of priests in our country, and especially in our archdiocese, is critical. I place my trust and hope in the Lord that He has a plan and that things will work according to that plan, but I must say I am concerned. My concern is not that God isn’t calling, but that so few are answering. The picture around the world is uneven. In some places, even in the U.S., vocations are increasing and flourishing. While in other areas, like Houston, the situation is tough. I entered the seminary in 1976 when the diocese had 376,000 Catholics served by 378 priests in 128 parishes. By the time I was ordained in 1989, the diocese grew to 646,000 Catholics and the number of priests had risen to 455 in 160 parishes. Today, the archdiocese has more than 1.8 million Catholics served by only 435 priests in 146 parishes. Put another way, in 1976 the priest-to-Catholic ratio was 1/959. In 1989, the ratio was 1/1,419. Today, the priest-to-Catholic ratio is 1/4,189.   


The shortage of priests is also impacting the size of parishes. In 1989, we were the largest parish in the archdiocese and the second largest in Texas at 3000 families. We had three full-time priests assigned and two additional priests assisting us on weekends. Today, our parish has 5000 registered households and two full-time priests and we are the 14th largest parish in the archdiocese!   Happily, our parish is blessed with vocations! We have five men in the seminary, two women in the convent, and two men preparing for the diaconate. While a great blessing, that is not enough. We need more. We need more men in the seminary to become priests. We need more consecrated religious, and we need more parishioners involved in ministry.


Study after study shows that vocations come from engaged, active, and faithful families. Vocations also come from parishes where there is a culture of vocations. I know in my own life how important my parish and my parish priests were in my vocational discernment. They inspired me, encouraged and prayed for me. Vocations are everybody’s business! We need to support and pray for young people every day so that they may hear and faithfully answer God’s call. We must encourage young men to consider the wonderful life of the priesthood and young women the beautiful life of religious consecration. Likewise, we must also encourage our children to seek sacramental marriage and to have families. Vocations do not drop from the sky, they come from good, faithful Catholic families that are open to God’s gift of children.     


This week, as we celebrate the holy parish priest of Ars, St. John Vianney, we ask his heavenly intercession and that he joins his prayers with ours, that we may be blessed with many more priestly vocations from our parish, and that our parish may always seek to be close to Our Lord.           

In Pace Christi,

Fr. Troy