Evangelize Or Fossilize
A mere coincidence? When they phoned to tell
me the news that Pali Juan Camacho (a priest
in Guam) just passed away, I was reading
the Statistic Yearbook for 1997 which the
Holy See has just published.
This yearbook provides facts and figures
on the Church throughout the world,
may seem dry and cold. But on closer
these numbers give us a good insight
the health of the Church as an institution
in the world.
Unprecedented "Boom" Of Seminarians
We knew it. Priests are decreasing...
420,000 in 1978 to 404,000 in 1997
- a decrease
of 4%. Men religious (excluding priests)
have decreased from 76,000 to 58,000.
number of priest religious, which twenty
years ago was 158,000, has decreased
Women religious have decreased even
- by 17%. The crisis is most acute
and Europe. Asia and Africa represent
hope of the future, as these have experienced
constant growth in consecrations to
The good news is that the future is
Vocations to the priesthood are increasing
at a very exciting pace. In 1978 there
63,882 seminarians; at present there
108,517, an increase of nearly 70%.
in Africa and Asia is remarkable. In
the continents, in fact, there has
decisive increase in vocations, with
exception of Oceania, where the figures
went up marginally from 784 to 797
An Enriching Experience
I have just returned to Guam from Newark,
New Jersey, where I took part in the
to the priesthood of sixteen young
Newark Archdiocese has again laid claim
the largest priestly ordination class
the United States.
Six of these seminarians came from
missionary seminary Redemptoris Mater
Kearny, which provides formation to
coming from the Neocatechumenal Way.
six came from the Philippines, Wales,
Malta, Illinois and California.
All of them brought a wide variety
and background to their priesthood.
them was a aerospace engineer before
the seminary. A recent national survey
that 22% of those preparing to become
this year in the United States were
in other countries.
It was a very beautiful experience
the long journey. The Cathedral was
with people coming from all over the
The music, especially the brass instruments,
were very effective in creating the
It was exciting to see a Church alive,
of hope for the future. More than 300
were present for the occasion.
Priests For The New Millenium
Cardinal Godfried Daniells is from
Seeing the crisis in priesthood around
he once made this interesting comment,
is always another phenomenon behind
in vocations - the diminishing of faith.
I am not saying that the charism is
lost. But vocations are an indication
the faith is being lived intensely.
why I say we will never overcome the
by intensifying our planning. No one
be attracted by mediocrity and mediocrity
is all around us. What does attract
fascination of a life intensely devoted
following Jesus Christ."
In search of a new pastor, this non-denominational
congregation advertised for someone
to walk on water and move mountains."
They knew they had the right person
a candidate arrived for the job interview
sporting a life jacket and carrying
A good sense of humor and the readiness
do the dirty work are essential for
today. The priest cannot be a mere
or executive manager. He is a shepherd,
in Latin, ready to go in search of
This is possible if he lives an intense
of prayer, because as Saint Therese
prayer is "something important
makes the soul grow and unites it to
A friend of mine told me this story
She was wrapping a birthday present
when her spunky little daughter came
the room. "What are you wrapping,
"A present for Father Pius".
are we giving him a present for?"
tomorrow is his birthday." "How
come his birthday is tomorrow? I thought
all priests had to be born on Christmas
Christ is overburdened with apostles
talk. He hungers and thirsts for apostles
who live His life.
The Priest Is Never Right
Priests live with people. Many times,
mistrust and empty criticism diminishes
ardor and zeal of priests. They feel
I do not know who wrote this but it
makes sense. "If a priest preaches
ten minutes, he's long winded. If his
is short, he didn't prepare it. If
funds are high, he's a businessman.
mentions money, he's money-mad. If
his parishioners, he's nosy. If he
he is snobbish. If he has fairs and
he's bleeding the people. If he doesn't,
there isn't any life in the parish.
"If he takes time in confession
and advise sinners, he takes too long.
he doesn't, he doesn't care. If he
liturgy in a quiet voice, he's boring.
he puts feelings in it, he is an actor.
he starts mass on time, his watch is
If he starts late, he's holding up
If he tries to lead the people in music,
he's showing off. If he doesn't, he
care what the mass is like. If he decorates
the Church, he's wasting money. If
he's letting it down. If he's young,
not experienced. If he's old, he ought
"But if he dies ... there may
one to replace him!"
This is a fact! Each time we lose a
we have no one to replace him with.
up with makeshift solutions but these
many times spartan surrogates.
Evangelization is not on the agenda
church; it is the agenda of the church.
if we evangelize seriously, can priests
lay people "work in the deep harmony
which the God-given nature of the Church
presumes. Priestly vocations flourish
situations where priests and lay people
together in mutually enriching ways."
This is what Pope John Paul II said
Bishops of the Pacific region just
ago when he received them at the end
ad limina visit.
It makes sense.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright