Monday, February 8, 2010

Modern Crisis: Chasing Big Numbers At Quality's Expense

Friends of the Youngstown Cursillo and apostolates everywhere who suffer from what seems like declining interest and dwindling numbers, read the following excerpts from an article by John Thavis titled "Vatican official says religious orders are in modern 'crisis'".  (emphasis in article mine). What is reported here applies to our apostolates as well.  I will offer a commentary on it in my next post.  Read the article in its entirety here

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A top Vatican official said religious orders today are in a "crisis" caused in part by the adoption of a secularist mentality and the abandonment of traditional practices.
Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said the problems go deeper than the drastic drop in the numbers of religious men and women.

"The crisis experienced by certain religious communities, especially in Western Europe and North America, reflects the more profound crisis of European and American society.

"The secularized culture has penetrated into the minds and hearts of some consecrated persons and some communities, where it is seen as an opening to modernity and a way of approaching the contemporary world," he said.

Cardinal Rode said the decline in the numbers of men and women religious became precipitous after the Second Vatican Council, which he described as a period "rich in experimentation but poor in robust and convincing mission."

He said the orders need to remember that quality of vocations is more important than quantity.

"It is easy, in situations of crisis, to turn to deceptive and damaging shortcuts, or attempt to lower the criteria and parameters for admission to consecrated life and the course of initial and permanent formation," he said.

It's more important today, he said, that religious orders "overcome the egocentrism in which institutes are often closed, and open themselves to joint projects with other institutes, local churches and lay faithful."

Cardinal Rode said it was undoubtedly more difficult today for all religious orders to find young people who are willing to break away from the superficial contemporary culture and show a capacity for commitment and sacrifice. Unless this is dealt with in formation programs, he said, religious orders will produce members who lack dedication and are likely to drift away.

Think about this as we all press forward in our missions.


Anonymous said...

I don't feel I can comment on religious orders, but as a diocesan priest, I see something parallel in the small number of vocations to the priesthood. I think there is a mentality among a large number of Catholics that does not encourage vocations to the priesthood. Here is an example: It was only a few weeks ago that a woman whose son showed some interest in the priesthood expressed the mild objection that she wanted grandchildren. It was a comment that I've heard from many parents. The comment was innocent enough, but the mentality is telling. For many parents, their hopes for their sons' future include grandchildren, not the celibate priesthood. Now, in the case of the woman I was talking to, if her son really expressed interest in entering the seminary, I have no doubt that she would be very proud of his choice. But is she praying for his vocation and encouraging him to do so now? I have my doubts. Okay, that's no more than a single example. It's anecdotal evidence. But do you know of any parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, or anybody who is really encouraging vocations to the priesthood? Our diocese is in the process of restructuring, a major reason for which is the declining number of priests. Many dioceses are doing the same. Perhaps this will be a wake up call. We currently have 96 active priests. In five years we may have 70 active priests under 70. In ten years we may have around 40 active priests under 70, and that won't include me. If I'm still alive and still healthy, I will not be under 70.

Gina said...

Father, thank you for the insightful comment. The priesthood requires putting aside worldly hopes; religious vocations require this as well, as do on some level lay apostolates and organizations.
Sacrifice is at the heart of our faith, and American culture doesn't exactly celebrate the concept of sacrifice.

I would be willing to bet that your anecdote is a very common story; I can't imagine many American Catholics praying that one of their 2.5 children sacrifices his or her life for anything but material reward. It makes me wonder: is contemporary American culture steadily choking out Catholicism?

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