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Archdiocese of Detroit announces Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations
DETROIT (CNS) — During the Chrism Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament April 14, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron announced that the Archdiocese of Detroit will begin a Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations, starting with a Holy Hour on the vigil on Pentecost June 4 and ending on the solemnity of Pentecost in 2023.
This year of prayer is a response to the fact that for the first time in at least 70 years there will be no priestly ordinations in the Archdiocese of Detroit this year. The Detroit Catholic, online news outlet of the Archdiocese of Detroit, could not verify records before that time.
“In less than a decade, we will have approximately fewer than half the number of priests serving this mission of grace. This fact is underscored by another that this spring for the first time in generations, there will be no men ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Detroit,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “As a church on mission, called to proclaim the paschal mystery of Jesus, we cannot be blind to this challenge.”
Father Craig Giera, director of priestly vocations for the archdiocese, said the year of prayer is a call to arms for the church in Detroit to rally together and pray for more men to answer God’s call to the priesthood.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize there is a shortage of priests, and (the year of prayer) will be a great way for people to understand the situation that we are in,” Father Giera told the Detroit Catholic.
“We are certainly in a decline when comparing the number of ordinations to the number of priests who are retiring, and it’s a fast decline. So this Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations is to get the whole archdiocese involved in praying for men to say ‘yes’ to their vocation to the priesthood.”
Currently, the Archdiocese of Detroit has 22 men studying for the priesthood, a process that can take six to eight years. This year, five men will become transitional deacons who will likely be ordained to the priesthood next year.
In the past 10 years, the archdiocese has ordained 42 men to the priesthood, while over the same span, 125 priests who were retired or serving the archdiocese in some capacity died, according to an unofficial Detroit Catholic count (the latter number includes religious order priests).
While the archdiocese receives some priests from religious communities and from other dioceses who serve in its parishes and schools, it’s not enough to make up the difference.
The year of prayer will launch with a holy hour on the vigil of Pentecost at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament to beg God for more vocations. In addition, Archbishop Vigneron will release a pastoral note to help guide the faithful in praying for vocations.
Father Giera said a special prayer will be added to the prayers of the faithful for more priestly vocations and resources will be made available with information on how people can participate in the year of prayer.
If something doesn’t change soon, the church will soon feel the impact of this shortage, the priest said.
According to a report released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, from 1970 to 2020, the number of priests in the United States has declined by 60%. In 2021, there were 441 priestly ordinations — a 45% decrease since 1970.
“I don’t know statistically why this (shortage) is happening, but I think the culture and secularization of our world is taking God out of everything and men are not thinking about coming to the priesthood,” Father Giera said.
“It is somewhere stated that the largest growing population of religion in America right now is called ‘nones,’ meaning people who don’t believe anything. I think they have surpassed the number of Roman Catholics in the U.S. today,” he said, noting that this permeates the culture and “makes it hard for men to discern a call even if they are in the church.”
In order for men to hear the call to the priesthood, they need to know God and have a relationship with him, he said, adding that a vocation “comes out of a relationship, just as a vocation to marriage comes out of two people falling in love and getting to know each other. A vocation to the priesthood is a relationship with God.”
Having a healthy prayer life is crucial to developing this relationship, Father Giera said. He also noted the importance of knowing the sacraments and taking time to read the Bible and pray.
To help encourage men who might be discerning a vocation, he leads a regular discernment group — a small group of Catholic men ages 18-55 who meet for prayer, discussion and fellowship. Men can also take part in discernment weekends at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where those who feel a calling can spend four days living at the seminary to experience what it’s like.
He said men who already know their vocations and have been ordained to the priesthood need to be inviting, encouraging and supportive of young men who might be called.
“This is a call to everybody to take this to heart — we need priestly vocations in order for the sacraments to be taking place, especially the Eucharist and confession,” Father Giera said.
Patti is a news reporter on the staff of Detroit Catholic, the online news outlet of the Archdiocese of Detroit.