'challenge' By Bart Harrington II is only right that, once they are recognised, new situations should he met with new approaches. The trouble is that all too often our essential conservatism, our tendency to accept and to retain the status quo and to continue with previously acceptable solutions, combine and result in a failure to recognise an embryonic crisis and to act early enough. A chronic state of affairs has evolved before remedial and restorative measures are taken.
The shortage of vocations has been rather like that but not, thank God, fully like it. The recent moves the Liverpool archdiocese has made are a hopeful indication that the crisis will not develop into a lasting sickness. There is a shortage of priests: it will become greater as retirements accelerate in the next 15 to 20 years, when 200 of the present 472 seculars will Rave retired.
At least 15 new priests a year will be required simply to
replace them, let alone the increased numbers required for the expanding services the priesthood is now called upon to provide. the crisis of the 1980s is clearly being seen now. so that it is wrong, perhaps, to call it a crisis.
"Rather than a crisis. it is a challenge," i says Fr. Francis Burke. Liverpool's Director of Vocations. "God is obviously trying to tell us something. Something very positive will come out of it, hut it is difficult to assess what."
But the problem is not one of numbers alone. It roust be. in these days of advancing educational standards, one, in part at least, of intellectual quality and educational background as well. Fr. Burke says: "Catholics have moved up, and are continuing to move up, the social and educational scale.
"Those who have benefited front the tertiary education that often their Catholic primary and secondary education prepared and equipped them for. should he able to have the opportunity It) consider returning something to it."
And so, assisted by students who are themselves former graduates now studying for the priesthood, and by Mr. Peter Deary, a Liverpool University careers adviser, he has advertised the priesthood as a selfrewarding career of service in the 1974 "Directory of Opportunities for Graduates."
"Within a few years 30 per cent of all our young people will he in tertiary education," he says. "Many will enter universities, colleges and polytechnics without having made their final career decision, the age of which is getting later and later. Even second-year undergraduates do not know what they intend to do, and this is recognised by the way many businesses build in 'planned procrastination' in their approach.
"It would be foolish of us to neglect this area in the future as vive have done in the past. We have just not approached it, yet each part of the Catholic community should produce its ov,n 'eucharistic leaders.' "
The advertisement is placed alphabetically, and in sharp contrast of material prospects between Rolls-Royce and Rothschilds. Under the subtitles of "Why Graduates?" ... "The Training" . . . "The Work" . . . "The Person" . •
"Satisfactions and Frustrations" ... "The Salary," it gives something of a job analysis and evaluation.
Why Graduates? "The main work of the Church can best be done by those whose academic competence ,s acceptable to the community in which they live and work."
The Training "A special postgraduate course or intensive training is now available lasting four years . . . it will cover biblical exegis, patristics, the formulations of the great Councils of the Church, the developments furnished by the great Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages, the Reformation and post-Reformation periods and of modern times . . practical courses in pastoral care, including work in local hospitals, at approved and special schools and among the aged."
The Work. "The central powerhouse of this work is the celebration of the Eucharist . . from this flows a deep concern with all the problems of those in need and lead naturally into situations where guidance is needed; or where practical solutions are called for to problems (often of a social nature) which may beset individuals overwhelmed by the de-personalised processes of our society. Such problems, e.g.. serious illness, do not always occur in office hours: hence it is definitely not a life for those with a nine to five mentality."
The Person. "Must have a profound commitment to the Catholic Faith and a desire to didicate themselves to the service of God by giving themselves to their fellow men, both On the spiritual and on the material level . . . he should have an understanding of people and a maturity that brings with it confidence in personal relationships." Satisfactions and Frustrations. "There is probably no other way of life which brings more 'job satisfaction' due to the very deep level at which one is working . . By the same token there is probably no other way of life which can be so frustrating. because people will not always be prepared to accept what one has to offer, and in the realms of the spiritual, minds and hearts have to he won, not forced ..."
The Salary. ". . . the parish provides his day-to-day needs in terms of food and living quarters. A modest salary supplemented by the offerings of' his people takes adequate care of his other requirements."
Fr. Burke's approach to vocations is not exclusive or restrictive. He realises only too well that at the end of the day, and at its beginning. as the Catenian leader writer said in the article recently quoted in the Catholic Herald, that what the lay-man wants is sacramental comfort, and that may come to hint as much and as satisfactorily front the non-graduate as from the graduate. And so he continues to try to attract young as well as relatively mature entrants.
This, of course, is essentially true and must never be forgotten. Nevertheless. it is refreshing and optimistic to know that a previously forgotten segment of our community is being remembered and that the priests who may come from this new effort will be able to serve their own special fellows with an understanding born out of their shared experiences.
The Church in Liverpool is right to go out for the aboveaverage as well as the average educated Catholic. Only good can resul:.