When the annual statistical report was released by the Vatican this week it turned out to be one of those good news, bad news stories.
On the good news side is the fact that worldwide vocations to the priesthood are up 1.4 percent over the last decade (1999-2009). Vocations to the diocesan priesthood increased 4 percent but vocations to religious communities decreased 3.5 percent.
The bad news is that in North America priestly vocations continued to decline. Diocesan clergy declined 7 percent and religious clergy 21 percent.
Not surprisingly the data confirms the new springtime of the Church in those parts of the world that we once considered missionary territory. In Africa priestly vocations among diocesan clergy increased a whopping 38.5 percent while in Asia the increase was 30.5 percent.
All Christian groups are growing in Africa as they compete with Islam to win over those Africans abandoning tribal religions. An evangelizing church is a vigorous and growing church. It doesn’t have time for internal squabbles. The polarization we have in the United States does not exist in Africa.
Happily we are enjoying an increase in seminarians in the Diocese of Dallas and will be ordaining three diocesan priests this year. I am convinced that this wonderful news is due to continued prayers for vocations, parents encouraging their children to consider priestly and religious vocations and the example of our priests.
We must continue to work and pray for a new springtime in the Church in North America and in the Church of Dallas.