Increasing Vocations isn’t Rocket Science


A recent column by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island highlighted the ongoing vocations crisis in his diocese.  Bishop Tobin noted:

Some clergy numbers in the Diocese of Providence to think about: Since the beginning of this decade we’ve lost 58 priests from active ministry in the Diocese, due mostly to retirement, and we’ve ordained just 18. That’s a net loss of 40 priests from active ministry in the Diocese. The median age of active priests is 59; the median age of all priests, including retirees is 67. There are just 21 priests under the age of 40.

Of course the dire conditions facing faithful Catholics in Providence isn’t unique to them alone. Priest shortages, anemic ordination classes, and underwhelming statistics for seminary enrollment do not bode well for the coming years. In response to these bleak conditions, much of the Church hierarchy looks for the latest program, initiative, or marketing scheme to solve their vocations crisis.

Increasing vocations isn’t rocket science. We already know the answer: wherever traditional Catholicism blooms, vocations boom.

In the past I have written of the blueprint provided by the Dioceses of Lincoln, Nebraska and Charlotte, North Carolina. Despite their modest size (less than 100,000 registered Catholics in Lincoln and 200,000 in Charlotte), both dioceses are experiencing vocational success stories:

  • In a recent 24 month span Lincoln ordained 17 men to the priesthood.
  • Lincoln is the only diocese in the United States to place in the Top 20 for the ratio of ordinands to population in every survey conducted from 1993-2012, often ranking #1.
  • Last year Charlotte opened St. Joseph’s College Seminary for those young men discerning a priestly vocation. They immediately filled up with 8 seminarians.
  • While the Charlotte diocese ordained 5 men to the priesthood this year, they have also had to expand St. Joseph’s in only its second year due to an additional 9 college seminarians enrolling.

Both dioceses are known for their orthodoxy and embracing of tradition. The Diocese of Lincoln has never permitted girls to serve at the altar, and an increasing number of parishes in Charlotte have done the same. This has helped to emphasize the male only sanctuary (with the possible exception of readers), increasing the liturgical participation of young men.

Both dioceses also embrace our liturgical tradition. The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) has their North American seminary in Denton, NE, having been invited into the Lincoln diocese by (then) Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz in the 1990’s. The Fraternity offers the Mass and other sacraments using the 1962 liturgical books.

The diocese also has many Masses offered ad orientem (facing the east), including those offered by Bishop James Conley at the cathedral each of the last two years during Advent.

The Diocese of Charlotte has seen a steady increase in Traditional Latin Masses offered over the past several years, including a Sunday High Mass offered weekly at St. Ann’s. It’s interesting to note that 48% of Charlotte’s seminarians in 2016-2017 were from parishes that are most closely viewed with the reform of the reform and tradition friendly pastors.

It’s also worth noting here the success of the previously mentioned Fraternity of Saint Peter. While dioceses like Providence bemoan their immediate future, the Fraternity is experiencing the opposite. 2017 has been a record year for the Fraternity, having just ordained 19 men to the priesthood. To provide some perspective for this success, the FSSP currently has a presence in only 45 North American diocese (35 in the United States and 7 in Canada).

An addition to the liturgy , however, there is also another traditional component present wherever vocations boom: an authentically Catholic education.

As I’ve written about before, Lincoln has spent decades making a Catholic education affordable and orthodox. With habited religious sisters teaching (many having fled other dioceses in the Seventies and Eighties) and priests often serving as theology teachers and principals, the students enrolled in Lincoln parish schools are 96% Catholic. This continues through high school and onto an orthodox and thriving Newman Center at the University of Nebraska.

Think about that. Young men are attending orthodox Catholic schools for K-12, all the while many continue altar serving in a male only sanctuary, then they head off to university, where they are met by a vibrant (and authentic) Newman Center. At the same time, the diocese is home to two solidly orthodox seminaries: St. Gregory the Great (diocesan) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (FSSP).

It’s important to also highlight the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas as well. Much like Lincoln, an affordable and authentic Catholic school system is helping to increase vocations.

In 2017 Wichita ordained 10 men to the priesthood, one of the top ordination classes in the entire country. Next year they are set to ordain another 10. This means that in just two years they will have increased their number of diocesan priests by 20%. The role of (authentic) Catholic schools in this boom can’t be overstated.

In their 2008 publication “Who Will Save America’s Urban Catholic Schools?”, the Fordham Foundation noted:

Wichita might be home to one of the strongest
Catholic school systems in the nation . . .

As explained at Wichita’s diocesan website:

…Catholic schools are parochial; they belong to the parish. They are not private schools that are owned and operated by those who use them. Therefore, every school family is encouraged to be an active parish steward.

Because the entire Diocese is committed to Stewardship, parishes make every effort to make a Catholic education, from kindergarten thru high school, available to active parish stewards without charging tuition. As far as we know, the Diocese of Wichita is the only diocese in the United States where every child of active parish stewards can attend Catholic grade and high school without paying tuition.

Wichita’s diocesan newspaper recently identified the prominent role Catholic schools have played in their vocations boom. Unlike the rest of the country, which has seen decline and closures, Wichita has seen enrollment increase since 1985, including at the kindergarten level where they also exceed the national average.

Prior to this year ordinations, the diocese had 58 seminarians, or one for every 1,845 registered Catholics, far exceeding the ratios of archdioceses like Los Angeles or New York.

And yet, too many dioceses still behave as if they are searching for a way out of their vocational desert, as if the path eludes them.

Simply put, tradition and orthodoxy are not optional. Reverent liturgies, incorporating traditional disciplines such as ad orientem Masses and altar boys serving, aren’t merely a preference. They are foundational.

Successful diocese also promote and encourage the Traditional Latin Mass instead of simply tolerating it, or worse, discouraging it. Traditional orders, as example, are booming while struggling dioceses are seeing retirements far outpace ordinations.

Further, we cannot afford to lose our Catholic children to the culture. As was always our belief, a Catholic child needs a Catholic education. Orthodox and affordable Catholic schools, such as we find in Lincoln and Wichita, as well as tradition friendly minor seminaries like St. Joseph’s in Charlotte, help to keep our Catholic kids Catholic.

Of course, there must always be prayer. Pray for vocations. Parishioners praying from the pews. Young men spending time before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer, listening and discerning. We must humbly ask God for priests.

But that prayer, and this is key, must be in conjunction with traditional liturgies and orthodox schools. To pray for priests while rejecting that which forms our young men and assists them to discern, is nothing less than tempting God. We are guilty of presumption.

Let us hope that more dioceses look to imitate Lincoln, Charlotte, and Wichita in the coming years so that all of the faithful might again witness an increase in priestly vocations.



Posted on July 14, 2017, in holiness, liturgy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 91 Comments.

  1. Yet Bishop Tobin prides himself on his orthodoxy and is a failure. It seems you are cherry picking numbers. The religious order in my parish is very pastoral and uses the current Mass, yet is doing well in vocations.

    • Kurt, I’ve provided specific dioceses, statistics and examples. Further, the vocations success stories which I have listed are undeniable and universally recognized. On the other hand, you have not provided any details validating your claim. Your final sentence is vague & completely subjective.

    • Murray Fullerton

      What is “the current” mass? There is only one mass. There are two rites.

      • John D. Horton

        Wrong. There are two “forms” or “usages” of the one Roman or Latin or Western Rite. See “Summorum Pontificum” where these terms are explained.

    • Matthew M. Robare

      Stop it. You’re being very uncharitable, as well as illogical. The presence of a few outliers doesn’t disprove any of Brian’s facts, or the existence of a trend.

      Moreover, New England and Nebraska arte quite different places. Bishop Conley in Lincoln inherited and has maintained a diocese with a strong committment to being Catholic. Bishop Bruskewitz and Bishop Flavin provided leadership and a committment to God’s holy Church. It’s probably fair to say they implemented what the Council actually mandated and not some farcical Modernist “Spirit of Vatican II”. Not only that, but Nebraska is a conservative state in a part of the country with high levels of religious belief and church-going.

      The dioceses of New England, on the other hand, have a history of diffident, if not indifferent bishops more concerned with maintaining their political influence instead of saving souls, they have a population with European-levels of irreligion and strong attachments to the Democratic Party and the things it represents. Quite frankly New England also suffered more than Nebraska from the abuse scandal. Our pastors are baby boomers, our EMHCs are older women in pantsuits who voted for Hilary Clinton.

      Even with a capable and committed staff and curia, I doubt that Bishop Bruskewitz could turn any New England diocese around in just 12 years. But you know what? Praise God, things are improving. The Archdiocese of Boston ordains 6-8 men a year now. St John’s Seminary has increased enrollment from 34 in 2005-06 to 139 this year.

      • Well, good for Cardinal Sean!

      • When listening to homilies (in many RI parishes) that regurgitate from the leftist-progressive bible as opposed to the Gospel, it’s no wonder why young men are not turning to priestly vocations. The Church is not offering any different than from what they are getting from society in general (here in the NorthEast). CCD itself seems to be somewhat more glossed over than I what I saw when I was a kid in the 70’s/80’s.

      • St John’s Seminary is for the 2nd vocation of men, usually older, maturer men. Also, this seminary accepts men from all over who may not be ordained in the Boston Archdiocese. As a result, the Boston ordination numbers may not be related to St John’s numbers.

      • Fr. Chip Hines

        Jeanine…Saint John’s Seminary, I am a graduate, is not a delayed vocation seminary. It is a very regional seminary but the Boston ordination numbers are a combination of several things…One, SJS is a good seminary, two, we do benefit from Pope Saint John the 23rd Seminary which IS for delayed vocations and three, we benefit from the Neocatechumenal Way which is providing the Archdiocese with vocations. There are many ways to promote vocations and I agree with the blog post in general but there is no one way in my opinion.

  2. “Male Only Sanctuary”. Please do your homework. Are you aware there are times when women are called to be in the sanctuary? For example, when a virgin is consecrated by the Bishop, the Rite specifically calls for her to “take her place in the sanctuary” after she is consecrated.

    • Lilly, do my homework? Really? An article which addresses diocesan Masses and the impact/influence of traditional liturgies upon the formation of young men serving, and you reference the occasion of when a bishop consecrates a virgin. Not what’s being addressed here, correct?

  3. Franklin P. Uroda

    I love the remarks about children in Catholic communities. In the article there is no mention of Jesus-The Priest-or His Name. C’mon we are in His Church. He founded it and Catholicism is all about Him. I’ve found that where there is scant mention of Him or His Holy Name, the religious trajectory is downward.

    • From start to finish this article is about Our Blessed Lord: the gift of Himself back to the Father at Calvary (the Mass), His holy ordained (the ministerial priesthood), and the catechesis of the next generation, so that they may know Him, love Him, and serve Him. If this article isn’t about Our Lord, then it’s about nothing.

  4. I guess a “white male only” sanctuary is what the real agenda is.

    • Why would the FFSP then ordain so many non-whites? The male only sanctuary, on the other hand, may as well be one. And it’s a worthy cause.

      • Mr. Horton suggests there is a longer term agenda

      • Long term agenda for the Church: the salvation of souls.

      • Brian – I commend you for deleting Mr, Horton’s remarks. They had no place on a Catholic site. In my own parish, where my pastor’s previous assignment was as vocations director for his religious order (where he was very successfully), we encourage young men who may have a priestly vocation to serve at the altar but do not exclude young ladies and boys with Downs Syndrome, who would not be priestly candidates. But our parish had the sad history of the practice Mr, Horton asks for and gratefully we have abandoned.

      • Kurt, I truly do not like deleting comments, and Mr. Horton often provides excellent commentary. On occasion, though, some comments have lacked charity or have named names without those individuals being able to respond to such claims. Those (imo) require deleting.

  5. While this is not the primary subject of this blog entry, priestly societies that exclusively form men the Traditional Latin Mass and preconciliar faith are exploding with vocations. This is without exception, even for those are supposedly “canonically irregular” (the SSPX has 600 priests and 200 seminarians currently).

  6. As a seminarian myself this topic hits very close to home and I completely agree with what your saying, Orthodoxy within the Mass (both Forms) is incredibly important and I know for a fact that parishes that only allow young men to serve have a substantially larger amount of serves and also more vocations coming from these parishes. And this question of how do we foster and nurture vocations is something that gnaws at me quite a bit. The reason for this being that the dioceses that you site seem to be of one mine and are in agreement on how to go about growing the faith as a whole but also their numbers of priests, but unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the norm. from my experience the norm for a diocese is that there are different conflicting views within the dioceses and her priests which leads to a lack of substantial action or a kind of ignorant blindness from one group of priests or another about how to successfully foster vocations. Because within the communities and circles of priests and seminarians its well known that Lincoln NE, and Charlotte SC have become powerhouses or kinds of models for getting more vocations. The problem though is the inaction and conflict between different generational and/or theological groups within the church that seem to resist to even acknowledge these dioceses success. So then the question becomes how do we, those of us in diocese of then Lincoln NE implement these types of changes that so clearly lead to a flourishing Church and an explosion of vocations?


  7. The Diocese of Charlotte (which includes everything in NC from Greensboro west to the Tennessee line) needs priests!

    Charlotte is one of the fastest growing dioceses in the country, primarily due to migration, that includes everything from suburban mega-parishes, to isolated mountain missions. They have had to pull in priests from other dioceses to staff all the parishes.

    Bishop Jugis is also from Charlotte and was a priest in the diocese before his appointment. He’s committed to the diocese and is not looking for his next promotion.

    Western NC is in the middle of the Bible Belt (home to Billy Graham), but historically there have been few Catholics. (About 2% of the population when the diocese was formed in the 1970s.) As a result, there is little existing infrastructure from which to create an school system, like in Lincoln or Wichita.

  8. I find it depressing that men, based on stats listed in this blog, must dominate the sanctuary in order for vocations to increase. In my own life I have found that men don’t share well in general; this blog sure confirms my experience! Even more discouraging is the idea that we must have the mass in Latin to be authentic, that only Latin can communicate the truth of the gospel—–PATHETIC!!! The English mass has always been a thing of beauty in worship for me. Moreover, I have never seen any liturgical abuse in it! It is so sad that people are still fighting Vatican II.

    • We have a beautiful image of the Blessed Mother in our sanctuary. I fear she is the next to go with the rule some promote. I’m also troubled by the “all-male sanctuary” which seems a move beyond the “altar servers are for vocations” theory.

      • Not to be rude, but both of these comments are so telling, and so nonsensical, as not to warrant a serious rebuttal.

      • People are still discussing Vat II because its only been about 50 years since the council, which in terms of the church and how fast it moves is like yesterday. If we look back through history we can see that theologians, etc would work through encyclicals for hundreds of years to see what the Chruch is fully saying. So that is the main reason for the conflict “Still” around Vat II. And just to be clear there have been plenty of abuses on the Novus Ordo, I can recall in my own diocese stories of where the priest would dress up like a clown to celebrate the mass, so the notion that there hasn’t or isn’t abuses in the new form of the mass is completely incorrect

  9. Shawn Marshall

    Such a great article – so much encouragement to be found there – I cite Lincoln and Wichita as exemplars all the time while praying that each parish should establish 501(c)3 endowments for the nearest Catholic school to pay teacher salaries only and at the proportion of Catholic students. If our bishops were not so (whatever) would this not be the second greatest mission in every parish?

  10. While I have no quarrel with anything you wrote, Brian, there may be one aspect of the vocations boom in conservative circles that you may be missing.

    When we first came out here to Oregon 2008 we discovered a Latin Mass parish here in Portland, St. Birgitta’s, from which came many vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Based on this discovery, I wrote a letter to the Catholic Sentinel here suggesting that the Latin Mass promoted vocations. They published it, and I triumphantly sent a copy to my Carmelite daughter. Very relevant is the fact that two of the young ladies from that parish were in the same convent with her, a convent that is overflowing with vocations, the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso Nebraska (Lincoln Diocese, of course). These young nuns discussed my letter at recreation, and they disagreed with me. Rather, their conclusion was ( attention bishops and directors of vocations!) that for the most part their vocations came from families where the parents read the children bible stories and lives of the saints from a very early age.

    As you very probably know, Brian, in response to the vocations crisis those in the vocation promotions biz have been pushing the “culture of vocation,” which has come to mean “the vocations cross” being handed off to a new family at Sunday Mass every week, “come and see” weekends and the like. Yet in Avvenire many years ago I saw in italian an article heading which illuminated our situation vis a vis vocations perfectly: “The Culture of Vocation vs. The Culture of Distraction.” The parents of the nuns in my daughter’s convent very effectively implemented a culture of vocation, probably without intending to do anything of the kind, primarily by replacing mass media with the lives of the saints etc.

  11. (my post continued)

    And one might presume that a similar culture in many Catholic homes of an earlier era gave many priests and nuns to the Church. Then came movies, radio, TV, the internet, Distraction on steroids. So, perhaps we have mistaken our crisis altogether and do not have a vocations crisis so much as a parenting crisis. One looks into the home of Louis and Zellie Martin and finds the same sort of thing in the evening,a family gathering around the parents, the lives of the saints being read . . .a culture of vocation that produced St. Therese.. The same was true of the home of Solanus Casey. From his biography, Thank God Ahead of Time by Michael Crosby:

    “At a time when television and movies were not even imagined…stories and songs provided the Casey family with sufficient entertainment. Especially when snows landlocked the family, this kind of entertainment kept spirits from becoming morose. Often the children played games. Other times Barney Sr. and Ellen gathered everyone around the dining room for an evening of literature. Barney Sr. would read the poems of Tom Moore besides those of Longfellow and Whittier. Stories like Cooper’s The Deerslayer held the children fascinated for long periods of time.
    “Bernard and Ellen Casey were creating a caring environment which enabled young Casey to become well-integrated and balanced. For their role in his spiritual formation, the future Solanus would be forever grateful… In many ways Solanus was able to be who he was precisely because of the way his parents nourished him in his youth.”

    THAT is the culture of vocation. It was surely the seedbed of Solanus Casey’s vocation, the sine qua non of his sanctity and of his being raised to the altars. Yet, this sort of program does not require a benevolent and wise bishop, nor a Catholic school system available to every child, nor even a conservative parish and traditional liturgy ( though all of this is very desirable), but simply parents intent on seeing their children given the formation, the culture and the baptism of the imagination that will carry them to heaven. It is within the reach and within the budget of virtually every parent in the Church, and both incredibly simple and delightful to implement. if even 1% of Catholic parents implemented anything of the kind, we would have a vocations crisis of another kind: seminaries, convents and rectories full to overflowing.

    • I agree with this whole heartedly! We belong to the same parish we always have, but when we began homeschooling our children (and yes we have a parish school- but that does not interest me at all- good as it may be) THAT is when we as parents grew in our faith, began sharing it more effectively and joyfully with our children- and then (and only then!) did my children begin seriously talking about vocations. My 5 year has expressed that she may want to be a nun! My oldest daughter now in college probably didn’t even know what a nun was at 5!! And why? Reading Saints stories and the Bible. Yes- their heroes are now people worthy of emulation instead of movie stars or the like. We did religious Ed. Made sure they had their sacraments, etc. – but shamefully we weren’t living it in the home the way we should. That’s where it’s at- you are right on point with this 🙂

      • Thanks very much . This is one of those things that is so perfectly obvious that one has to conclude after a time that there is some sort of enchantment on the Church, a cloud over our minds, or an entrenched vice that makes us completely unwilling to see the truth of our captivity to mass media and to utterly reform our lives-to get the bad stuff out and the good stuff in.

        I have gotten some pretty astonished responses over the years to the thesis that since fathers are the gatekeepers for their families and the ” culture” that enters their homes is their responsibility entirely, but they seem completely unwilling to assert their authority and to exercise that responsibility. And why? It sounds ridiculous, especially to this particular demographic, but I am convinced that the underlying problem is that Catholic fathers are by and large hooked on televised sports. Am I wrong? And why will no one challenge them from the pulpit on this? Could it be that our priests are similarly hooked, or are afraid of being drummed out of the corps of “real men”? I think perhaps THAT is the vocations crisis.

        In my cynical moments I think the key to success here is to monetize the crisis, to develop a program called, say, “Family Evenings Together” complete with speakers, materials for small groups and etc. and then to sell it to our bishops for $350,000 per diocese.

  12. I never said there have been no abuses of the English mass, just that I, fortunately, have never experienced these abuses; I am sorry for others who have not been so fortunate. I think most people have not seen liturgical abuses, depending on what one calls abuses. Also, fifty years is a long time to still be complaining about the English mass, in my considered opinion. To each his\her own on time perception. In any case, it would depress me, to see a widespread return of Latin; I so disliked it in my youth.

    • The “clown Mass” myth has been discredited. There is more evidence of Tridentine Masses that included Nazi salutes and other Fascist imagery than of a Catholic Clown Mass every taking place.

      • Well as a seminarian and when I talk with some of the older priests in my diocese and they say that these type of things took place I tend to believe them. My only point was that the broad notion of there being no abuse after Vat II is incorrect, but I will also agree that prior to the council there were most likely abuses taking place as well. Thats all I’m trying to say.

      • If you do a Google image search on Clown Mass, you won’t come up empty, believe me. I’d love to know where, “The “clown Mass” myth has been discredited. ” It is simply an absurd statement, Kurt. You can’t make statements like that without discrediting yourself.

    • Geoff Jablonski

      Linred, the problem is that the conversation over Vatican II isn’t just about the OF. There are discussions on ecumenism, religious liberty, collegiality, and a whole host of other issues where Vatican II GREATLY, if not wholeheartedly, changed how the Church approaches these topics. These are not just discussions being had between the Holy See and the SSPX, but ones that engross a lot of bishops, theologians, and members of the hierarchy.

      The Liturgy is being talked about because of how the OF came into existence. The abuses that became a mainstay (nonstop use of “Extraordinary” Eucharistic Ministers, female altar servers, and banal music to name a few) were never even so much as hinted at in the Documents of the Second Vatican Council. However, traditional things like Gregorian Chant and the Preservation of Latin most certainly were. Furthermore, the unjust (if not illicit) suppression of the Tridentine Mass as well as the continuous mention of the “reform of the reform” have led to a continuous conversation on the Liturgy itself, especially how it changed following the Council.

      Finally, as one poster already stated, 50 years is HARDLY a long time, especially when viewed in the life of the Church. The Arians were condemned at Nicaea in 325, yet bishops like St. Ambrose were pressured into giving Arians their own churches near the end of the 4th Century, almost 70-80 years later. No Council is implemented, understood, or figured out overnight; it takes time. While I am not saying this is an excuse for the doctrinal and liturgical chaos that has reigned since 1965, I am stating that your observations on the “long time” since the end of the Council do not stand up to scrutiny, whether it be from a historical or catechetical perspective.

  13. The type of guys who have a problem serving next to altar girls are not the type of guys I want entering the seminary. Quality over quantity.

  14. Because my grandchild lives there, I have visited Charlotte frequently. Her church is St. Anne’s. I have never experienced such a reverent Mass, whether NO or TLM. I’m not surprised they are enjoying a great many vocations. O

  15. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    May the Lord of the harvest send many more zealous laborers to his vineyard.

  16. The connection between more vocations and the traditional liturgy is a facile, and dangerous, one. 20 years ago when I began to take my faith more seriously, I was attracted to more vigorous and triumphant expression of Catholicism. I appreciated its stand against a corrupt culture, and its ability to provide a clearer and prouder Catholic identity. I saw the traditional liturgy as a beautiful expression of the Church’s ability to connect us with a transcendent reality, and something that was discredited by those advocating for a more Protestant church. However, as the years passed, I noticed a trend in those men in the seminary attracted to the traditional liturgy. They were uninterested in the messiness of pastoral ministry, and were obsessed by liturgical minutiae. They spent hours online looking for fiddlebacks, old missals, and birettas. To me it seemed that they turned liturgy into a fetish, exaggerated the idea of the priest as an “alter christus”, and made a the mass an opportunity for fancy dress up. Several of the young priests ordained (in an Eastern US diocese) who were of this type had severe difficulties once assigned to a parish. Some left the priesthood, a couple were sent for counseling due to emotional difficulties. They were unable to connect with their parishioners, and instead chided them for their lack of interest in the superiority of the Latin Mass. I think the Latin Mass has a place in our Church, and I think that those who celebrate the NO should strive to imbue their liturgies with the sense of reverence and awe that comes more readily in the Latin Mass. However, we should be wary of those who seek to create discord with the Latin Mass, who see it has the ONLY valid mass, and romanticize a past that is long gone, and is never coming back.

    • I think your observations are sound. I have noticed that sending a priest to an inner city minority parish for his first assignment often cures whatever rigidities he starts off with.

      But I also note that some of the dioceses sought out by such types lack such parishes.

    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      Your comment seems very emotional and subjective. I have been in charge of 2 different Latin Mass parishes. In three years, I had 6 men go to the seminary and three were ordained. I have been in charge of a Novus Ordo parish now for 6 years and have yet to send one young man to the seminary.

      You can’t change the facts no matter how much you dislike the Traditional Latin Mass. Remember that vocations were at their height in 1965 BEFORE the Novus Ordo was promulgated. We’ve been in a vocations dearth ever since.

      • Contrary to the false narrative that everything was static from Trent until 1965, I can tell you as a Pre-Vatican 2 Catholic, there was quite a bit going on in liturgical renewal prior to the Council. The height of priestly vocations was when change was in the air and in the minds, if not yet on the ground. I don’t know what this means but I don’t think it supports a theory that vocations would be fine with the former liturgy.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Kurt, you drew the conclusion. I merely stated the obvious. Many think that the change in society caused the dearth of vocations. I think it the other way around. The Church used to help form society; since the 1960’s, the Church has taken her cues from society. As Bishop Fulton Sheen said, the Church got into the world and the world got into the Church.

        There is no getting around from where the vocations are coming; and lots of them. It’s not my fault that the Latin Mass parishes produce far more vocations than their Novus Ordo counterparts. I attended my first Latin Mass at the age of 24 and was not impressed. As Cardinal Newman said, “you don’t change traditions long used without harmful spiritual effects to the faithful.”

        My question to you is, where is the fruit of the Novus Ordo? Where is the fresh air everyone talked about? In 1965, 80% of Catholics in the USA (and most every other country were there or north of that) went to Mass on Sundays. Now it is down around 10%. Marriages, down. Baptisms, down. First Communions, down. Confirmations, down.

        Why are the bishops so afraid of the Latin Mass? I’ve heard that many exorcists insist that the devil is afraid of Latin, in fact he hates Latin. Latin reverses the curse of the Tower of Babel. It is a Sacred Language that unites the faithful and the devil wants to see us divided.

      • My question to you is, where is the fruit of the Novus Ordo? Since the liturgical renewal, there has been the greatest number of people evangelized in any equivalent period of time in the history of Christianity. Now, while I know you understanding this, but because from past experience I know I have to explain this to some readers — I am counting both white and non-white people.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Kurt, once again I think you pull your own endorsed facts out of the air. I was referring to sacramental numbers. Even Lincoln, Nebraska which has 3 times the vocations of the next best tier of dioceses, only has about half of the priests to faithful ratio they had prior to 1966. All of the sacramental number worldwide are down when compared to the Catholic population of the given generation.

        Even if you want to go in another direction, you are wrong as well. In 1910, the world’s Catholics were 17% of the total worldwide population. In 2010, Catholics were 16% of the total population. It’s a fairly stable number, but no one can say its growing…only those trying to force their preferred outcome.

      • Fr. Kloster,

        There is one huge aspect of the facts you cite which I think you may be missing entirely.

        A. Is it not true that the families who attend the Latin Mass are also the very families that live a culture of vocation, who read Bible stories and the lives of the saints, keep their homes clear of mass media, etc?

        When we first came out here to Oregon 2008 we discovered a Latin Mass parish here in Portland, St. Birgitta’s, from which came many vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Based on this discovery, I wrote a letter to the Catholic Sentinel here suggesting that the Latin Mass promoted vocations. They published it, and I triumphantly sent a copy to my Carmelite daughter. Very relevant is the fact that two of the young ladies from that parish were in the same convent with her, a convent that is overflowing with vocations, the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso Nebraska (Lincoln Diocese, of course). These young nuns discussed my letter at recreation, and they disagreed with me. Rather, their conclusion was ( attention bishops and directors of vocations!) that for the most part their vocations came from families where the parents read the children bible stories and lives of the saints from a very early age.

        B. Is it not also true that the dramatic vocation fall-off is co-incident with the entry of television into the Catholic home? This happened in the mid-fifties, and by 1968 the first generation raised on TV were in full-on rebeliion. See “The Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers, and Family Life” by Marie Winn. That entire generation (mine) had been secularized in their own homes, and this expressed itself in the Church by the emptying of the seminaries.

        If this is correct, you, Fr Z and many others are attributing to the liturgy effects both negative and positive that have different causes altogether: the secularization or sanctification of the Catholic home life.

    • I agree Roberto . I love attending Mass and it is great when we have the sung parts in Latin . I don’t know if I would attend a Mass that was completely spoken in Latin though . I accept the figures for vocations in the dioceses of Lincoln , Wichita and Charlotte and that is great for those dioceses . If a more traditional approach and the Latin Mass increases vocations then that is to be celebrated , but as you say I also want priests who can talk to their parishioners and help them with the day to day struggles of modern life and not how they should wear their chasuable !. I also get upset when these debates turn party political . Sure , parties of the left have a terrible record regarding abortion , but parties of the right are often pro capital punishment and ignore the social teaching of the church . We cannot pick and choose .One commentator decried some of the women who are our fellow Catholics because they ‘ probably supported Hillary ‘ , whereas these same critics are quite happy with an incumbent in the White House who shall we say has not always shown true , Christian principles regarding his marriage or towards our fellow Catholic brethren from a country to the south of the USA !


    Please I wish to join the traditional roman Catholic to be a priest

  18. The Diocese of Wichita, Kansas just this past May ordained 10 new Priests and as well as -0 deacons who will be ordained next year. Answer: Perpetual Adoration Chapels in several of our parishes.

  19. Brian, I have completed extensive research on fifty dioceses on the vocation shortage and my data corroborates with what you are asserting about the importance of Catholic education. Lincoln and Wichita are indeed good examples of what each diocese needs. It is shocking that Lincoln has thirty times more seminarians per Catholic populace than San Diego. And it isn’t just these two dioceses. The correlation between ordinations and Catholic schools is incredible. The evidence is extremely strong. It is not just my opinion. My research has been shown to many different groups including priests and deacons. Not a single person has disagreed with the conclusion. I have sent my basic material to over thirty members of our hierarchy and have received six positive replies. My manuscript will be published later this year titled YES WE CAN, The Pathway to Vocations. It emphasizes the need to stay positive, trust in God, and utilizes research and analysis to arrive at solutions that will help us with our vocation shortage.

    • Walt, I look forward to reading your work when it comes out. In the meantime, I’d be interested in your reaction to my two posts above concerning how we might promote Catholic education in the home (semi-homeschooling), thus skipping the need to convince bishops, lower tuition rates, build infrastructure etc.

      • I would like to explore the issue of Catholics schools and homeschooling — particularly to see if it is Catholic education (which both might provide) or Catholic socialization (which schools provide). We expect priests to be parish community leaders. Do Catholic schools develop an interest in that community leadership in a way the more isolated homeschool does not?

    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      I would love to get in contact with you as it seems we are doing the same research.

      For instance, every girl that serves at the altar prohibits a boy from serving. Girls will never be ordained and 80% of our current priests were altar boys once. Why throw away that obvious pipeline? To me, the answer can only be ideological, because girls serving at the altar will never be a logical deduction. There is no tradition of girls serving and no vocation fruits to be realized.

      • Is there a set number of altar servers at a Mass? I have not noticed it. In both neo-traditionalists as well as pastorally oriented parishes I have seen far more altar servers than needed (people talk about excessive Extraordinary Communion ministers but never excessive altar servers). I don’t think a girl displaces a boy.

        The tradition of women as altar servers is actually older than boys as altar servers and I can tell you I know of women whose vocation as religious, mothers and married women was enhanced by their altar service.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Kurt, you need to cite a source.

        I’ve seen absolutely no evidence of women servers before this recent invention of the 20th century; much less before male servers. Even the 1994 allowance of feminine altar servers never cited an ancient or even a contemporary reference.

        The fact is that women under mosaic law were not even allowed near the holy of holies. Could we ever imagine the Virgin Mary as an altar server? Certainly not. There is a tradition that she entered the Temple Service at the age of 4, but never as an altar server!

        Your optic is a modern one and it is ideologically driven. The only place there was ever a feminine liturgical presence was in pagan temples. The Judeo Christian praxis was always male. This was not an arbitrary thing. God is the one who exclusively chose men Patriarchs, men Kings, and men priests (levites, deacons, etc.).

      • Father, are you a priest in full union with the Holy Father in Rome?

        Anyway, the first altar servers (i.e. extraordinary ministers of the altar substituting for actual acolytes) were women religious. Only after the Council of Trent when the seminary system took acolytes mostly out of parish churches were men used as a substitutes for blessed acolytes.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster


        What you say is absolutely wrong. There weren’t any nuns in the church until around the 5th century! Cite your source. Type you source. Inform me as to the whereabouts of your source. You are talking out of the air and your obvious bias. There were no female altar servers allowed until 1994. There still are no installed female acolytes allowed as per the liturgical documents of Vatican II.

        I am absolutely in full union with Rome and you’d be surprised by where I am and where I have served for almost 7 years now as a pastor. You have written about poor parishes, but most USA citizens have no idea what a truly poor parish looks like. I was in downtown Bridgeport, CT for one of my assignments and I heard gun shots almost every week. No, my parish is much more humble than even the drug infested Bridgeport of the 1990’s.

      • The 5th century is a long time before the Council of Trent. There were no male altar servers substituting for acolytes until after Trent. Therefore the earliest altar server were female, not male.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Kurt, the way you typed your last response, perhaps you are endorsing liturgical abuses.

        Let’s be clear, no liturgical document ever endorsed females servers until 1994. Priests have always abused liturgical norms, but that doesn’t thereby validate the practice. Every heresy was started by a bishop or priest.

        So let’s talk about actual cited documents. You have repeatedly failed to cite me anything. Pope Gelasius (492-496) condemned the practice of women serving at the altar in his 9th letter to the bishops of Lucania. Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254) wrote that women should bot dare serve at the altar in a letter to the bishop of Tusculum. Both of these were a long time before the Council of Trent.

        Perhaps my favorite comes from our 7th Pope. Pope Sixtus I (115-125) is quoted as writing, “It is prohibited for the faithful to even touch the sacred vessels.” (Liber Pontificalis) While not being a specific prohibition against women servers, it must be understood that popes only ever corrected abuses. The Pope does not address women servers because he reigned so close to St. Peter and thus the prohibition of women from the sanctuary was still fresh in everyone’s minds since they were so recently separated from the Jewish Temple norms.

        Overall Kurt, you need to stop repeating the drivel you are hearing. Many things you write are easily disprovable. Clown Masses, for example were very real. I am a witness in that I saw the Church decorated with balloons and clown banners and my classmate actually witnessed the pastor say the Mass in a clown suit on several occasions. Do some more research before you write things that will discredit your posts.

      • Dear Father, you are correct that Pope Gelasius objected to the practice of the Eastern Catholic Church of ordaining women as deacons. Nevertheless, in convents of women, there it first emerged the practice of altar servers. No convent has ever been directly disciplined for this widespread practice among convents.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Kurt, why do you refuse to cite your source(s)? You make claims that are largely contrived by those who favor girl altar boys.

        First of all, there were no nuns during the Pontificate of Pope Gelasius. He expressly condemns the practice of women serving at the altars.

        Secondly, the Eastern Catholic Church never ordained women deacons. They were only a service (diakonos) protecting purity. There were women (unordained) deaconesses, but these were strictly women who assisted at the baptismal font. In the ancient Church, the baptismal font was always near the doors and far away from the sanctuary. They had no liturgical function in the sanctuary. Predictably, they disappeared as fewer adult women were being baptized.

        Thirdly, you keep writing that women preceded men in serving at the altar. That is absolutely not true. Even if you thought you were correct (perhaps you are sincere in being way off base), what you are endorsing is paramount to endorsing liturgical abuses. Simony has been a rampant liturgical abuse throughout the history of the Church. Does that thereby mean we should all now abandon the belief that the sacraments are not for sale? Of course not, that’s a preposterous position to take!

        I roundly reject your your unsupported and absence of any historical citation in your position. You have a belief and you try to jam that belief into a narrative that suits your preferences. The truth of the matter is that until 1994, every ecclesial record we have prohibits women serving at the altar. There has never, ever, been a prohibition against men serving at the altar at any point in history. Your side even must admit the clear preference given to boys serving at the altar by Rome even when she allowed girl altar boys officially for the first time in almost 2000 years. I’m really not interested in hearing about abuses. Abuses undermine your position, but you don’t seem to want to see that logic.

      • It was only following the Council of Trent that men would perform the functions of the minor order of Acolyte while not being in minor orders themselves. There is no history of men not in minor orders performing this function prior to then. There is a history of women not in minor orders performing the function of acolyte within convents prior to Trent and into modern times. Therefore, altar servers performing the ministry of acolytes has a longer history among women than men.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Without citing your sources, the argument is over. You have about as much standing as a man on his belly if you refuse to back up your novel claims.

      • I’m happy to try to accommodate you. What is the point you doubt? That men not in minor orders performing the functions of acolyte prior to Trent, or that in cloistered convents, a nun did not serve at the altar?

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Cite your claims. It’s not very hard.

    • It is interesting to hear about the correlation between Catholic Education and vocations . In countries such as Canada , Australia and the UK we have Free Catholic Schools which are funded by the state and church and that schools system is extensive covering the ages 5-16 , with the only exceptions to widespread coverage being in very rural areas ( in the UK at least ) . As far as I know we have a vocations crisis in most dioceses and this is the same in Ireland , where as recently as the 1960s most families were large and had at least one and often more children entering Holy Orders . My own Diocese in England has at least 10 priests still in active ministry aged 75 or over ( one is 88 this year ! and is still the sole priest in his parish , albeit with a loving and helpful support network of lay people ) . We had 4 priests ordained in 2015 , one in 2016 , none last year and one or two this year . There are only four in Seminary . I don’t know what the answer is other than prayer .Some say we need more tradition , others say ‘ end compulsory celibacy ‘ . I have no problems with Girl Altar Servers or female Extraordinary Ministers as they are necessary due to a shortage of boys and men carrying out those roles . Our Diocese is also being ‘ helped out ‘by priests from Africa who are now evangelising us ! the seminaries in places like Nigeria are overflowing , despite the threat of violence from extremist Islamism .

      • SC-

        I’ve done quite a bit of research in the area of vocations. Here are the numbers and they paint a very different picture from what you are advocating.

        Here goes: In 1950 in the USA there was one priest to every 652 Catholics. That’s a great ratio. The most recent numbers we have are from 2016 and the ratio was 1 to 1,843. So, we have three times fewer priests than 2+ generations ago (generation = 25 years more or less). The ratio has gotten worse every year since 1965 and the trend is spiraling downward.

        Where are the vocations? The more traditional the Diocese, the better the ratio. There are almost no exceptions. As of 2013 Lincoln, NE has a ratio of 1 to 646. It’s like they are caught in a time continuum from the “good old days” (from a traditionalist standpoint) or the “bad old days” for progressives. Chicago, which is the poster child for progressives is 1 to 1,624. Their ratio was getting worse every year under Cardinal Bernardine (progressive) and better every year under Cardinal George (traditional). Now under Cardinal Cupich (progressive) their number is getting worse again. Ye shall know them by their fruits!

        Here’s the shocker for me: The Fraternity of St. Peter (Traditional Latin Mass only parishes) ran their numbers in 2017 and they are 1 to 245. They are more than twice as good as the 1950 number!

  20. I support home schooling, as some of my grand children have been home schooled. It is a better option than public schools, but all mothers are not qualified to do it. Basically they are needed because of the lack of Catholic schools.

    • Walt, Unfortunately I used the word semi-homeschooling, but homeschooling is emphatically NOT what my comment was talking about, but rather creating a culture of vocation in the home. When that is done, it is a KIND of homeschooling in effect, but it would not be a replacement for education in either the public or parochial school, and virtually any parent could do it. This a method that formed both St Therese and Solanus Casey.

      Nor am I talking about a “culture of vocation” in the sense that those in the vocation promotion biz now use it, the vocation cross, “come and see” days, etc.

      if you’ll read my 7/17 comment above, you’ll see it is not the same-old same-old at all. For a person with your interests, it is worth a look.

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