Dear friends in Christ:
In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, we have 1.7 million Catholics who are served by 446 priests. Of these, 196 are diocesan priests. 147 are active and 49 are retired. So far this year, three diocesan priests have died, five others retired and one man has withdrawn from the active priesthood. We also have two priests currently serving past the retirement age of 75. If we had the priests, we could easily open 15 new parishes today and not adversely affect any of our existing parishes. That does not include all the large parishes that are understaffed. The archdiocese has 146 parishes. St. John Vianney is the 14th largest parish in the archdiocese with 5084 registered families and we have two assigned priests, Fr. Richard and myself. Fr. Chuck, Fr. Curto and Msgr. Anderson all have other full time assignments but generously assist us. In June, Cardinal DiNardo ordained two men to the priesthood. Fr. Mark Hebert is assigned to Sacred Heart Church in Conroe and Fr. Thuc Nguyen is assigned to St. Thomas More Church with Fr. Clark. We will begin the school year with twelve new men entering the seminary for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. These numbers are not good. At best, one out of four men who enter the seminary eventually make it to ordination.
On a positive note, our parish has six men studying for the priesthood, three for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (David Ramirez, An Vo and Josh Svajda), one for the Diocese of Austin (Michael Noriega) and two for religious orders (Phuc Vo and Paolo Puccini). We have one young woman in formation for religious life (Sr. Alex Zaldivar) and one young woman becoming a lay missionary to serve on college campuses (Mollie Murphy). On an even more positive note, Deacon Paolo is being ordained to the priesthood this month for the Paulist Fathers. Please keep soon-to-be Fr. Paolo and all of these young men and women in your daily prayers. Pray that they may have the courage and the zeal to live for Jesus every day and be happy and joyful in their vocations. Pray as well that many more young men and women from St. John Vianney will seek to give their lives to God through a priestly or religious vocation. While our numbers in the seminary are small and insufficient for our current and future needs, we have some very good men studying in the seminary. Quality beats quantity every time. One good priest on fire for the Lord can do far more than ten mediocre, lukewarm priests. That said, it would be nice to have both quality and quantity.
How do we get more vocations? Well, vocations are everybody’s business! We all have to pray, encourage and invite young people to consider a religious vocation. Priestly and religious vocations do not drop from the sky. Vocations come from families. We have to encourage and support families to be strong in their Catholic Faith. Of course, strong Catholic families come from strong Catholic marriages, where couples live their faith together. We can help vocations by encouraging and supporting couples in their marriages. We can help vocations by encouraging families to live their Catholic Faith boldly and joyfully. We do that by our words, our actions and our attitudes. Yes, the shrinking number of priests and religious is a challenge that we have to face. But so is the challenge to support and strengthen good Catholic marriages and families. With God’s grace, we, His Church, can do this. During this time when marriages and families are under attack and great pressure from so many directions, we must respond with determination, generosity and zeal.
Speaking of inviting and asking, I am asking our young men to consider the priesthood and I am asking our young women to consider following Jesus as a consecrated religious sister. Think about it. Pray about it. Parents, ask your children to pray about a vocation and encourage them. What are the qualities for a religious vocation? Well, you have to love God, first and foremost. A generous heart and a moral life are also necessary.
A desire to serve is also essential. The human qualities include a healthy and balanced personality, intelligence and a good work ethic. No one ever enters the seminary or convent ready for ordination or final vows. That is why there are years of formation and preparation to develop the spiritual, human, intellectual and pastoral qualities. Often times, young people do not consider a religious vocation because they think they are not worthy. They are absolutely right, they are not worthy. That, however, is not the issue. The truth of the matter is that none of us are worthy, but God still calls us and uses us. If he only called the worthy, there would be no vocations at all, ever! Entering the seminary does not mean immediate ordination, it means discerning a call. Few people get married on their first date! When God calls, He gives all that we need. What God calls us to is a life of sacrifice and service and a life of happiness and fulfillment. What we have to do is say “Yes!” If you think you may have vocation or just have questions, please call me, Fr. Richard or Fr. Chuck. We will be happy to speak with you.
In pace Christi,