November 5, 2017
This week—November 5-11—is National Vocations Awareness Week, a time set aside to help all of us focus on the reality that God calls each and every one of us to a specific way of life within the Church. For some that is the marriage vocation, for others the single vocation, and still others for a vocation to the religious life and/or priesthood. All too often we might think that it is our own position alone to know ourselves—our talents, our inclinations, our personalities, etc.—and then to decide what our career will be and how we will live out our time on this earth. Obviously, all of these considerations are important, but it can leave out God’s doing in the mix. Vocations, no matter the specific kind, are truly a combination of God’s call and grace along with each individual’s response.
Most of us are quite aware that seemingly now in the United States there is a shortage of both vowed religious and ordained priests and deacons. We look around and find that fewer religious Sisters are teaching in our Catholic schools, although some are serving in other ministries that earlier they were not involved. Religious Brothers, many of whom previously were noted for teaching in Catholic high schools, now are far less prevalent. Right here in the Archdiocese of Chicago we note that parishes which formerly were served by two or three diocesan priests now have only one priest, and the norm seems to be in many dioceses that one pastor often is in charge of at least two and sometimes three churches.
This can all lead to the perception that almost no one these days is pursuing a calling to religious life and/or priesthood. However, that is not the case. Over the past five years, perpetual professions and ordinations have increased year-by-year. In 2016, 216 women and men professed final vows from 82 religious institutes. There were also 548 ordinands from 32 religious institutes and 140 from arch/dioceses. While we all are pleased with this increase, these newly professed men and women and these newly ordained do not nearly offset those who retire each year.
Who are these individuals who are currently pursuing a religious vocation? The average age a person first considers a vocation to religious life is 19, fluctuating between 17-20 years of age. Half are 18 or younger when they first considered a vocation. The average age of entrance to religious life is 30. Additionally, almost half are 25 years old or younger. The average age of women and men professing final vows is 39, with the majority under that age. The average age of those beginning their priesthood studies is 24, with the majority actually being ordained just under the age of 35.
Among those professing final vows in 2016, 66 percent are Caucasian/European American/White, 16 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, 11 percent Hispanic/Latino(a), 4 percent African/American/Black, and 3 percent self-identify as other. More than six in ten institutes report having at least one entrant in the past ten years born outside the U.S. The most frequent countries of birth are Vietnam and Mexico. Institutes of men are particularly likely to have had someone from outside the U.S. enter in the last ten years. Among the challenges for integrating new members into institutes are isolation, age gaps, language and communication skills, difficulties with the regulations of Immigration and Naturalization Services, and a lack of understanding of each other’s culture.
Only 27 percent of mothers and 18 percent of fathers encouraged their son or daughter to consider a vocation to religious life prior to entering. Ordinands received slightly more encouragement with 42 percent of mothers and 38 percent of fathers were encouraging before individuals entered the seminary. Families have misconceptions and worries about vocations, such as concerns that their child/sibling may be lonely, overworked, or unable to be with family.
While spirituality, community life, prayer life, and the mission of the religious institute are factors that attract newer members to their respective institute, the example of professed members has been most likely to attract newer members. For members of the entrance class of 2016, the decision to enter their religious institute was very much influenced by the community life of the institute (66 percent), the prayer life/styles (65 percent), the lifestyle of members (54 percent), types of ministries (54 percent), and its practice regarding a religious habit (55 percent).
Although Catholics do not typically see it as their role to encourage vocations, women and men are nearly twice as likely to consider a religious vocation when encouraged by another person. The effect is additive. People who are encouraged by three persons are five times more likely to consider a vocation than someone who was not encouraged by anyone. Therefore, please be willing to invite a young adult to consider religious life and/or priesthood if you consider them to be a good candidate.
I am happy to report that right now our Vocation Directors for Sacred Heart Province are working with twenty-four men about their possible call to the Franciscan life. They come from a variety of geographical regions: 9 from Illinois, 5 from Texas, 3 from Missouri, 2 each from Wisconsin and Iowa, and 1 each from Alaska, Georgia and Oklahoma. We have two postulants in the interprovincial program in Silver Spring, Maryland, one new priest (Fr. Robert Barko ordained on October 14, 2017) and three friar students living at St. Peter’s and doing their theological studies at Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park. By all means, pray for religious vocations daily.
If you want to get in touch with our Vocation Office, you may go to the website at www.befranciscan.com or you can call the office at 312-853-2384 and speak to either Br. Thom Smith or Fr. Paul Gallagher. You may contact Fr. Tim Monaghan, Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, at 312-534-8298, and if you have questions about a religious vocation as a Sister or Brother, you may call 312-534-5240
THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Today’s readings are difficult to hear because they push us to examine our failures and wrongdoings. They also offer us models of humility.
In the section of Malachi that precedes the First Reading, the prophet rails against the priests of the Jerusalem Temple who cheat God by deliberately offering inferior sacrifices and thereby dishonoring his name. The priests think God won’t notice, and God is completely exasperated. This is the context for the prophet’s harsh call to conversion and announcement of punishment on the priests who refuse to change their ways.
By contrast, the Responsorial Psalm expresses the humility that those who minister to God’s people should have before the Holy One of God. Likewise, in the Second Reading, Paul expresses genuine care and concern for the Christian community at Thessalonica, serving them without concern for his own needs and instead praising God for the good things that have happened among them.
Today’s Gospel follows the same theme as the first reading. Jesus, addressing both the crowds and his disciples, is depicted as denouncing the scribes and Pharisees because they want people to follow what they teach, but they do not do it themselves. They like to think of themselves as important, but they fail to recognize that true greatness depends on one’s willingness to serve. After his critique of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus issues some very direct instruction, presumably to the disciples—those who will be teachers and leaders.
The reading from the First Letter to the Thessalonians tells us of the nature of St. Paul’s teaching. He and his fellow teachers were gentle, they had affection for these followers, and they gave thanks unceasingly that the Word of God was received. It is apparent that they acted as imitators of Christ because, as the Catechism notes, the Church teaches in the name of Christ (#94).
Just as St. Paul spread the Gospel evangelizing peoples, so have the priests, bishops, and popes’ as well as religious, parents, teachers, etc. throughout the ages. As the Catechism states, Christ continues to teach us through the apostolic tradition in its various forms (##74-83).
St. Paul tells of the gentle teaching in Thessalonica. In the Gospel, Jesus warns his followers to heed the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees but not their actions. Both St. Paul and Jesus make it obvious that the teachings are not an intellectual exercise but are to be lived out. As the teachings become part of the followers’ lives, they too become teachers. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that Christians are both always learners and teachers (## 900, 905).
For Your Reflection: Do you find your peace in Christ? Does your life reflect the gentleness that St. Paul describes? Do you examine regularly whether the good deeds you perform are done partially for others’ notice?
END OF DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
This Sunday, November 5, Daylight Saving Time ends in the United States. Therefore before you go to bed on Saturday, you want to set your clocks back one hour so that you will not arrive for Mass on Sunday at an incorrect time. My experience is that most people remember to do so, although we usually do have a few individuals coming to church wondering why the Mass schedule has been changed.
BRAZILIAN FRIARS COMING TO ST. PETER’S
The Custody of Saint Benedict of the Amazon has an inheritance of missionary presence of Franciscan Friars who came from Germany, Northeastern Brazil, and the United States to the Amazon Region of Brazil more than 100 years ago. In 1943, the first American friars from the Sacred Heart Province came to Brazil in order to continue the work of evangelization in this very vast region. It was not until March 10, 1990, that the Custody became an independent entity of the Franciscan Order. Since this time, the Custody has seen an increase in local vocations as more and more of the friars are Brazilian.
The Franciscans in the Amazon seek to follow Jesus Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit and, as bearers of the Good News of the Kingdom of God, want to bring the Gospel message to the people of the Brazilian Amazon in the immensity of the rivers, forests and cities. They serve through prayer and contemplation, in pastoral and social services, in the ministry of reconciliation and religious assistance, and in missionary activity with indigenous peoples.
On Tuesday, November 7, three Franciscans from the Custody of Saint Benedict of the Amazon will be at St. Peter’s to share with you their experiences and ask for your support of their missionary activity. They will speak at all the Masses on Tuesday and in the lobby all day to answer questions and to receive your donations. After the 5:00 Mass there will be a small reception in the auditorium on the lower level for all those interested in learning more about the friars’ lives and work in the Amazon Region. We hope you will be able to join them.
ADORATION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
One of the marvelous gifts we have in the Catholic Church is the fact that we always have the presence of the Lord in our churches due to the reservation of the Body of Christ reserved in the tabernacle. But that presence is even more manifest when the Consecrated Host is placed in the monstrance and then publicly displayed for the veneration of the faithful in what we call the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Here at St. Peter’s we have the opportunity to visit Our Lord in this special way every Monday-Friday for the three hours between 1:45 and 4:45 in the afternoon. I hope you try to take advantage of this devotion at least once or twice a week. You need not stay for a longer period of time; even a short visit allows you to focus, to thank the Lord for blessings received, to acknowledge that you owe everything to His goodness and love, and to praise Him for all he has done and continues to do for you. It also gives you a bit of quiet time to just be in His presence and to give Him a chance to speak with you as He sees fit.
Some of our bulletin readers may not be familiar with Chicago Shares, a way that you can help the homeless but not actually give them cash. You can purchase Chicago Shares in our Front Office anytime the office is open. They come in packets of five (each slip worth $1.00) and they can be used to purchase food, toiletries, and other basic items at a number of stores in the Loop and in the South and North areas beyond the Loop. These shares cannot be used to purchase liquor and tobacco, nor can they be redeemed for cash. If you would like more information about Chicago Shares, you may go to www.chicagoshares.org, or you may stop at the front office to pick up a list of the stores that honor these shares.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE FALL
I put a roast in the oven one noon hour and set the timer, a feature I hadn’t used yet. Before leaving work that afternoon, I phoned my 14-year-old son to ask him to check the roast and peel some potatoes. Minutes later he called back. “Mom, the roast isn’t cooked. The oven didn’t even come on.”
The roast was on the menu again the following day, but this time, since I stopped by the house after a business lunch, I decided to turn the oven on myself. Again, before leaving work, I called my son to check the roast and get the potatoes started. Again he called me back. “The roast still isn’t cooked.”
“Listen,” I said, “I know the oven’s on. I turned it on before I left. I didn’t use the timer.”
“Oh, the stove’s working fine,” he told me. “It’s just that the roast is still in the refrigerator.”