Poland: Worrying decline in vocations

Source: FSSPX News


In 2007 religious vocations fell by 24%, even though the great majority of Poles continue to declare themselves Catholics. At the beginning of the academic year 2007-2008, the diocesan seminaries received 786 new candidates for the priesthood, compared with 1,029 the previous year.

Up until the present time, the Polish Church has played the role of breeding ground of priests and religious for the other countries of Europe and the rest of the world. In 1988 there were 21,854 priests, in 1998 the figure rose to 26,879 and in 2004 it stood at 28,546. The number of religious increased from 5,903 in 1988, to 7,485 in 2002, but that of apostolic religious diminished: 26,066 in 1988 compared with 23,905 in 2002. In the seminaries and theological colleges, 8,072 young people were undergoing training in 1992, compared with 6,427 in 2004.

 “The candidates for the priesthood,” writes Fr. Krzyszof Pawlina, rector of the Warsaw seminary, “are characterised by a personality ‘in pieces’, by emotional immaturity and relationship problems. Also discernable are their confusion and their inner divisions.

Many of those who enter the seminary today do not do so because they wish to become priests, but simply because they do not know what to do with their lives. So they are searching and it is perhaps the seminary, perhaps the university which may give them an answer.

In order to cope with this decline in vocations, the religious orders have turned to the Internet and the Jesuits have produced a film available on YouTube. The Jesuit, Andrzej Batorski, the university chaplain had the idea of organizing in Lublin a show of religious orders in Poland.

It was to present the religious habits (sic) at the John Paul II Catholic University, a “little incitement” destined to attract young people to the consecrated life. This very unusual “fashion show” brought together the Jesuits, the Capuchins and the Divine Word Fathers, as well as the Poor Clares. During the event, supported by the Commission for Vocations of the Bishops Conference, the organizers explained the symbolic features of the religious vestments.

 At Easter, the Polish Bishops Conference sent a letter to their priests, which has since been published. The bishops said they found it regrettable that many Catholics, including some priests, think that to be employed by the Church is a contract which can be signed, amended and even annulled. “Sometimes one hears that parish work must be founded on a contract in which each task must be specified. We are alarmed by this attitude towards the vocation to the priesthood, which ought to be, in essence disinterested.” The Bishops Conference regrets that in Poland the Church is considered as a well-organized enterprise and the priesthood as a job which can be evaluated according to the standards of this world. The bishops insist on recalling that only a personal and profound bond with Christ, accepting His manner of serving humanity, is the key characteristic of every Christian, and in particular every priest. This, they point out, is the essential criterion for acceptance of candidates for ordination.

 The publication of the letter preceded the third anniversary of the death of John Paul II on April 2, which prompted Masses and commemorations throughout the country, and renewed appeals in favor of his canonization. The bishops recalled that John Paul II had often warned against “the dangers resulting from a civilization and ideology which promotes human life without God.” In their letter the bishops asked: “Have we heard this warning, and have we seen to it that his diagnosis be heard more often by the Catholics of Poland?” (Sources: apic/cwnews/eni/VIS)