(This letter refers back to letter from Fr. James Dean. Cf. also the article on the Priest Shortage as Slogan.

Dear Father,

Just a few more thoughts on this matter...

So often we hear about a vocations shortage. And, why not? There surely is a grave vocations shortage, but in more ways than one.

I truly believe that we have been and continue to fail, not because of the people, but because of the way we teach. for example, the number of annulments that are granted each year is astounding. I do not doubt for a minute that these annulments are valid proclamations. for the most part, Catholics do not understand the Sacrament. How can they seriously approach a Sacrament without proper teaching... from childhood. The subject usually does not come up until the passions rise, and then communication is barely possible. The concept of holiness never makes it past the paperwork.

For years now, I have been part of a team for a program called "Evenings for the Engaged." How appalled I was to see an instruction that says, "Don't get too theological..." My younger brother's words just rang in my ear, "It's interesting that my Sacrament is just as much of a Sacrament as yours. I had to go away for a weekend and you had to study for eight years." This thought still reverberates in my head.

As you know, NO Sacrament is secret. Even when one goes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there is a public witness. The moment one sees another go through the door, and unspoken statement of sin and the belief in forgivess is present. But, how often does one hear, "What goes on in my marriage is no one's business!"

Now, where am I going with all of this? The first vocation a child ever sees is that of parents. How can a child possibly grow with any concept of intention, commitment, and public holiness if not seen through the Sacrament of Marriage? Surely, a child cannot ever grow into an understanding of celibacy if Matrimony is not understood as its complement. For the most part, children are raise with legalities, arrangements, and professionalism, rather than covenants, commitments, and vocations.

Another trend that I've been seeing is that the pendulum has been swinging back to the more orthodox. Since young men are more educated about the faith before they enter the seminary because of the availability of materials, the are often stamped "too conservative" before they ever set foot in the door and sent on their way. They are not even given a chance to learn more to expand their views. So, even modern day vocations offices now turn down "committed" men. And yet, I've seen so many of the "perfect prospects" leave the priesthood.

One of the reasons for this is lack of focus. Sometimes when I hear priests speak of "my priesthood" I want to scream. It is never "my" priesthood. It is the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Political views within the Church often govern who gets accepted. Before entering the seminary, I was turned down by a diocese because I did not speak favorably for ordination of women. I learned eventually to merely answer, "Well, I don't think I'm equipped to answer that since I have no formal studies in that area."

Again, loyalty and commitment to Jesus, trust in the Holy Spirit to lead us, and disinterest in Church politics on the part of a young man often leads to disinterest in a candidate. This is typical in today's society whether in marriage or vocations. Yes, there is a vocations shortage.

God bless,

Fr. Amaro Saumell
Diocese of San Bernardino