January 24, 2012 by Leave a Comment
On a recent episode of Perspectives Weekly, I participated in our year-in-review panel with my colleagues Alicia Ambrosio and Cheridan Eygelaar. One of the trends mentioned was the upturn in seminary enrollment. The news that some seminaries are full contradicts the conventional narrative: that vocations to the priesthood are on the decline and will keep decreasing until the Church allows married priests. On the contrary, Catholic News Service reports that some American seminaries are operating at capacity, while others have experienced remarkable growth. Last year, the number of post-baccalaureate seminarians in the U.S. increased by 4% to a total of 3,608. Positive signs can be found north of the border, as well. This past spring, I had the privilege of visiting the newly-rebuilt St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta. S+L filmed the blessing of the campus for our documentary Put Out Into the Deep. The B.C. Catholic reports that registrations at St. Joseph’s are at an all-time high. In 2010, 28 in-house seminarians were enrolled there from dioceses in Western Canada. A year later, those numbers jumped by 50% to 42 in-house seminarians (plus five more on internships). When I spoke with Archbishop Richard Smith last year about the increase, he didn’t seem as satisfied as I expected. The head of the Edmonton Archdiocese reminded me that there’s still room for more! The seminary can house 60, and the city has a sizable Catholic community to draw from. Evidently, he's confident that this trend will continue. The rector of the seminary, Fr. Shayne Craig, attributes the rise to efforts in faith formation and vocations promotion. Deacon Miguel Irizar, one of the seminarians profiled in Put Out Into the Deep, adds a spiritual explanation. "I know that many parishes and many people in many dioceses have been praying a lot for vocations," he told the B.C. Catholic. "The Lord said, ‘Pray, and I will give you people to work in the harvest.’ Prayer is the first reason why we have more vocations recently, in this diocese particularly."
January 2, 2012 by 1 Comment
The neighbourhood diner was packed after Mass on January 1st. Some patrons came to celebrate the New Year, while others were seeking a greasy antidote to their rough morning. As my friends and I waited for our brunch, I asked them whether they were looking forward to 2012. They all shrugged. One dismissed January 1st as just another day — forgetting, it seems, his revelry as the clock struck midnight. For many others, though, welcoming a new year feels hugely significant. A poll on CNN.com asked readers how they felt about 2011. Only 15% said they will miss it, while 85% voted “good riddance”. It would be interesting to know why the results were so negative. Are we simply eager to live in the present and embrace the “new”? Or do most of us feel 2011 was truly a dreadful year? Indeed, Time magazine’s list of top 10 world news stories is dominated by death: famine in the horn of Africa, disaster in Japan, unrest in the Middle East, and the list goes on. For these reasons, and our own personal ones, we’ve been anxious to turn the page. 2012 couldn't come soon enough for a friend of mine whose year ended with a painful break-up. New Year's Eve was such an important turning point that, instead of attending a party, she went to a midnight Mass to be with Jesus. For her, Christmas and New Year's were parallel events. Just as we anticipated Jesus' coming in Advent, so too we have been in "labour pains" (Romans 8:22) awaiting the birth of a new creation -- the coming of Christ in the world, and in our lives. For those who counted themselves among the 85%, time will tell whether their optimism will be fulfilled with a better 2012. The expectations of my friend, though, are grounded in a Christian hope that cannot disappoint. - Credit: CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters