What I Have Seen And Heard
Published: January 5, 2012
All in all, I think there were about 40 of them, many of them looking quite relaxed wearing jeans and running shoes. Some sported mustaches while others were clean shaven. There were Koreans, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Anglos and African-Americans. Their ages varied perhaps from the early 20s to the mid-30s—maybe one or two of them in their 40s.
The young men who participated in our annual discernment retreat this year were quite characteristic of the Church in North Georgia. One was the son of one of our deacons, while many others were transplants to the Atlanta area from other states and countries. They presented a very hopeful outlook for the future.
Not all of them will eventually apply to enter the seminary, and not everyone who does apply will be accepted as a candidate for the priesthood—still, it was very invigorating to see so many of them even considering the Catholic priesthood in this local Church at this moment in time.
Someone or something obviously had inspired them to participate in this discernment exercise. It was not only an opportunity for them to look at the possibility of becoming a priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta but an equally important moment for us to look at them as our potential priests. Vocational work is unquestionably one of the most important activities in which I engage as the Archbishop of Atlanta. We obviously want and need more priests to serve the needs of this flourishing Archdiocese.
At almost every meeting that I attend of our staff, Presbyteral Council, or Pastoral Council, someone inevitably raises the question of how will we serve the growing population of Catholics in North Georgia. That is an important question, and one that deserves serious reflection, prayer and planning.
But even more important is the issue of the quality of our candidates—what type of priests must we prepare to serve the Church in North Georgia?
The Church needs genuinely holy, humble and joyful candidates for the priesthood. We need candidates who can and want to communicate the Church’s teaching to all people—especially to the young from whom they themselves are now emerging. We need spiritually and psychologically healthy candidates. We need candidates who can and will embrace the Church’s requirements to live a life of integrity, generosity and chastity. We need candidates who are in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and who are respectful enough to acknowledge that the laity whom they will serve are themselves people of spiritual dignity and holiness of life. We seek candidates who are reverent and respectful of the things of God.
The Church longs for priests who will celebrate the mysteries of salvation with reverence and who will proclaim the Word of God with consistency so as to inspire others to believe in that Word and to try to live it in their own lives. We need priests who know and truly love their Catholic faith and yet who are also humble enough to admit that there is still much that they must learn about the richness of the Church’s faith. We need candidates who are not merely pious but truly seek to become holy men of God who allow God’s grace to penetrate their lives and to transform them into the image of Christ the Good Shepherd.
Those are the kinds of priests that we need to serve the people of God here in North Georgia.
We just received a most generous gift from one of our families to support the work of our Vocations Office. Our people yearn for the type of clergy that will advance the mission of the Church for them and for their children. Perfection has never been a requirement for the priesthood – as evidenced by those of us within the sacrament. However, priests must be men of integrity of life, openness to God’s Spirit, psychologically and emotionally wholesome, and filled with zeal and joy. For our people deserve nothing less!