On October 15, 2021, Fr. Piotr Kot, who has been president of the Conference of Rectors of Major Seminaries in Poland for a year, answered questions from the Polish Catholic agency KAI on the cause of the vocations crisis.
This year, 242 seminarians entered diocesan seminaries, and 114 candidates entered religious orders, for a total of 356 entries as opposed to 441 in 2020. This 20% drop recorded at the start of the academic year continues the trend of previous years.
For more than 12 years, the number of priestly vocations in Poland has shown a significant decrease. The entries were 498 in diocesan seminaries and religious orders in 2019, 828 in 2012, and 1078 in 2007. This is a decrease of two thirds in the last 15 years, as the Polish agency had already specified in 2020.
More than a vocation crisis, Fr. Kot is speaking about a crisis of the called, “for God has certainly not ceased to speak to the hearts of young people.” But those who hear the invitation to follow Him, “sometimes find themselves unworthy or incapable of such a life,” he explained.
The 46-year-old Polish priest points to a lack of suitable role models in the family home, early addictions, personality problems, as well as identity disorders. “Others hesitate to follow the call of a vocation because a negative image of the Church and the priesthood has been established around them.”
In addition, he adds, young people in the modern world have strong individualistic tendencies. Career, self-realization, event culture, combined with hyper-individualism in the experience of faith makes it difficult to make the decision to sacrifice one’s life for others.
“If such a young person does not engage in a life of deep prayer, does not find a spiritual director, does not receive support in a community which lives an authentic faith with enthusiasm, he can hardly be expected to answer the call,” underlines Fr. Kot.
Since 2013, rector of the Major Seminary of the Diocese of Legnica, he is also youth ministry coordinator in the diocese of Legnica and bishop's delegate for the protection of children and young people.
Which leads Fr. Kot to raise another aspect that he qualifies as “vocational”: “the presence of a seminary in a diocese helps to increase the number of men who will recognize their vocation.”
On the question of establishing inter-diocesan seminaries, Fr. Kot recalls that too few candidates or economic reasons may prevent the establishment or maintenance of a diocesan seminary.
But before beginning the process of unifying the seminaries, he says, we must first invite the faithful and the parishes concerned to pray for those who are called and to bear witness to the Christian life.
It is important, he emphasizes, that the beauty of the faith and the topicality of the mission are clearly visible: “Young people are very sensitive to the authenticity and meaning of their vocation. They are drawn to ideals. The point is, those whom the Lord calls to the priesthood can marvel at the prospect of participating in Christ's own mission.”