By a Staff Correspondent
A BENEDICTINE Abbot recently returned from a British Institute of Management course for managing directors, when asked what he had learnt, he replied: "Barclays Bank have the same problems as we do —recruitment. They arc doing something about it, but in the past I have sat and waited for the applications to come to us".
There are no vocations today, is the universal moan. All this change, what else can you expect, is the cry from one quarter. While others claim that it is perfectly obvious that this situation will persist while celibacy is insisted upon.
The CATHOLIC HERALD has carried out an exhaustive test. not a few phone calls or just a superficial inquiry. For six months we have published a
short weekly Vocations column and asked readers to write to us if they needed information.
There is not sufficient space here, nor have we the time or talents to make a detailed analysis of the results. But there are broad observations we feel entitled to make. After all we have received over 50 enquiries, and as far as one can judge the enquiries were serious ones. Could any seminary in England produce as many?
Only five of the 50 writers were under the age of 20, the majority were in the twenties, or early thirties, Are there any conclusions to be drawn? Yet many dioceses and Religious Orders still appear to concentrate on schoolchildren. Men and women were almost equally divided.
Most of the applicants were educationally highly qualified, Graduates of various
universities, solicitor, S.R.N., teachers etc.
One must remember of course that the readership of the CATHOLIC HERALD is predominantly among the better educated.
Why are these men and women writing to the CATHOLIC HERALD for information? One factor common to almost all the enquiries is "please treat this letter confidentially."
Could it be that they are shy of asking a priest or nun? May be they feel this was like signing an application form and paying their deposit. They are reluctant too about their ignorance, very naturally. One reader was going to see an order of nuns, but before going she asked what was the position about dowries today.
One wonders how many potential nuns, priests or brothers are still awaiting a vision at night, calling them forth to serve God.
But ignorance is not reserved exclusively to the laity. The clergy and Religious have very little information available, or at least they do not know how to go about getting it.
We have had requests from Overseas Catholic Christian Groups for literature; from Overseas Vocations promoters and some at home; from schools for school projects and from one or two priests who proposed to preach on Vocations and who were keen to be given ideas and where to get them.
Vocations are a desperate problem. Even the word Vocations is emotive; to some it suggests an attitude of excessive piety, others object to the word VOcation being reserved for a purely religious life, they argue that laymen and women have their vocations in life.
No one has thought of a better word, so we continue to use it. One can argue that it is a mistake to suggest that the life of a priest, nun, monk or brother is easier today, rather that one should stress the challenge and difficulties of the work.
All these are problems which require much thought, but more immediate is the question what is the Church in Britain doing about the situation?
Some, if not most, dioceses have appointed a priest to look after vocations, but most priests and certainly lay men and women do not know who he is, not even the media of communications, such as the
CATHOLIC HERALD know Who
he is. The Diocesan Vocations priests meet to discuss common problems, but why is there no national body making itself known to everyone.
Religious Orders have priests, nuns and brothers in charge of vocations, some of
these too meet for discussion.
Periodically we have Vocations Exhibitions organised; the general opinion is that these, in their present form at any rate, serve little purpose.
The lay organisation, the Serra Club, is dedicated to fostering vocations. The Vocations Sisters is an order established to foster vocations to the Religious Life.
There appear to be a fair number of men and women all madly paddling their own canoes, but little if any coordination. Is it not time that all dioceses and all the religious Orders put aside thoughts of competition and set up a national body? After all, we have one for Communications.
Why not set up a National Bureau for Vocations, to deal with the problem as a whole. By means of the Catholic Press alone such an organisation could reach over one million Catholics, and obviously the kind of Christians who care about their faith. Perhaps go even further and consider the merging of seminaries, not only diocesan ones, but also those of religious Orders.
The Church does not deserve to succeed if it is complacent about recruitment. How can it go and teach all nations, if it lacks ministers, men and women, to do so.