by Joe Bollig
I haven’t taken a poll, but I’d bet you a box of doughnuts (which I shouldn’t eat anymore) that most Catholics have never attended an ordination — and probably never will.
There are practical reasons for this.
Our people are scattered across 21 counties in northeast Kansas, and the ordinations of priests and deacons usually happen at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas.
Just getting there and back, and attending the entire liturgy and following reception, can take up most of a day.
I have been fortunate in attending many ordinations since I became a Leaven reporter in 1993. I haven’t been at every ordination since then, but it’s safe to say I’ve been to most.
This year, I’ve been to three ordination Masses in a row — those of:
- two seminarians as transitional deacons on May 20.
- two transitional deacons as priests on May 27.
- seventeen men to the permanent diaconate on June 3.
That makes for a whopping 21 men ordained clerics this year for the archdiocese, a real bumper crop.
It wasn’t that way when I first arrived at the chancery.
The 1990s were a tough decade for ordinations. According to Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher, the archdiocese had only two or three men in seminary formation when he arrived in 1993.
Archbishop Keleher was rightly alarmed, and encouraging vocations became one of his highest priorities. He appointed our first full-time vocations director almost immediately and became personally involved.
The seminarian poster for 1994-1995 featured eight men.
It’s also important to note that Archbishop Keleher launched the archdiocese’s permanent diaconate program. Our first cohort was ordained in 2011, comprised of 17 permanent deacons.
A strong vocations program is one of Archbishop Keleher’s legacies.
I checked the vocations office, and there were 16 men ordained to the priesthood during the 1990s. That’s an average of 1.5 a year. There were a couple of years when there were more, and a couple of years when there were none.
The most current vocations poster (2016-2017) shows 32 men. Some were ordained this spring, some have withdrawn, and some have been added.
Do we need more vocations? We certainly do — especially to the priesthood.
According to Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, the archdiocese needs three men to be ordained priests each year just to maintain our current level of coverage for our parishes.
It would be great if we could ordain more and more men each year to the priesthood. Ditto for vocations to the permanent diaconate, and ditto for the male and female religious orders.
So how do we increase vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life?
There are all kinds of things that can be done, and our hard-working archdiocesan vocations director Father Scott Wallisch is doing them. But a key factor can be summarized in a single word: family.
Vocations usually come from or begin in the heart of the faithful family. If parents encourage their children to consider vocations, have respect for clerics and religious, make them part of their families, and live an active life of faith, God will bless us with vocations.
And I’ll be writing a lot more ordination stories for The Leaven.