The seed corn of the Diocese
If a diocese is experiencing a shortage of vocations because prospective candidates are not being identified and nurtured adequately, it is imperative that the bishop “launch out into the deep” and release a qualified priest for full-time vocations ministry because history has demonstrated that there is no shortage of vocations – only a shortage of full time Directors of Vocations.
It is regrettable that any overburdened bishop should feel compelled by circumstances to identify and appoint a full time Director of Vocations out of his already dwindling band of active priests; nonetheless he should act decisively in the certain knowledge that future generations will thank him. It is smarter to immediately identify and appoint a full time Director of Vocations, (particularly if there are over 100,000 Catholics in his diocese), than to do nothing. Failure to act will simply permit the diocese to quietly fade away. The unwelcome short term pain will generate long term gain.
Some parishioners may feel that it is very unfair of their bishop to extract such a wonderful and holy priest as Fr Joe from active service in his parish when even a blind man can see that their diocese is already critically short of priests. On the surface their complaints may appear to be reasonable but when one considers the long term interest of all parishes in the diocese their observations will prove to be groundless. Every good shepherd must take all necessary steps to make adequate provision for the future of his flock. Let us look at a different but relevant scenario.
Bill had made his fortune on the stock exchange and felt that the time was ripe to share some of his wealth with his hungry neighbours. Without losing much time he set off for a far distant land. On arrival he could see starvation all round. He identified the problem as an acute shortage of food. He reasoned that the solution would be to purchase a tractor, sufficient fuel and seed corn. This he did and then departed for pastures new. On returning the following year, Bill was dismayed to learn that the recipients of his gift had stripped down the tractor and sold the various components, wasted the fuel and had eaten the seed corn. In short nothing had changed.
Bill had failed to identify the real source of the problem. The people had become dependent on others to supply their needs, they lacked vision and the resolution to become self sufficient. By eating the seed corn they obtained immediate relief. They took the easy option and consequently deprived themselves of the ability to grow and blossom. These starving folk failed to recognise that if they were prepared to suffer hardship for a few short years their efforts would prove fruitful. They did not realise that right in their midst they already possessed the answer to their prayers. They failed to make adequate provision for their future because no one was qualified or prepared to make the unpopular decisions.
What are the necessary qualities that the bishop will be looking for in such a man? The Director of Vocations is Almighty God’s special gift to the diocese and the commitment this chosen priest brings to his vocation will be his own special gift to Almighty God consequently such men “Must be men of God, His close friends. You must develop daily patterns of prayer; and penance must be a regular part of your life. Prayer and penance will help you to appreciate more deeply that the strength of your ministry is found in the Lord and not in human resources”. (Pope John Paul the Great at Manchester. 31st May 1982).
Such a man should be identified as one who is happy in his priesthood and enthusiastic to increase the number of workers in the Lord’s vineyard. It is much more profitable for a prospective candidate to SEE a sermon rather than to hear one. This chosen priest will need considerable time both to visit and to build up a network of co-workers in parishes, schools and universities in addition to the vital role of identifying, meeting and nurturing prospective candidates.
Vocations Guide to Priesthood