Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 11, 2002
High school students cool to religious life
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
High school students admire and respect priests and nuns, but they are generally indifferent to those vocations.
Celibacy and the fact the Church does not allow women priests or married priests are also major stumbling blocks for most young people.
"I sense students have a lot of respect for the priesthood, (but) at this age and stage they are indifferent (to the vocation)," said Gordon Willsher, a teacher and part-time chaplain at John Paul II High School in Fort Saskatchewan.
"They are busy with their lives. Lots of sports and activities that these kids are doing at school consume a lot of their time. Lots have part time jobs that consume a lot of their time. They don't really have the time to talk or think about religious vocations."
Willsher said John Paul II High students are exposed to religious vocations routinely through visits by the local pastor, speakers, brochures, handouts, posters and general information he posts on the bulletin board.
Sometimes the topic comes up in religion classes or career days.
"They are always asking questions, especially about married priests, women priests and they want to know the answers," the chaplain said. "And so as best I can, I provide them with the answers."
Willsher said students' overall attitude to the priesthood is positive, "but they don't fully understand it and they have lots of questions."
Compounding the problem is the fact only 15-per-cent of the school's 270 students are actively involved in the parish. That leaves the few that may have an inclination towards religious life isolated and without essential peer support.
With so few students attending Church "there is not much discussion at home" about prayer and religious vocations, the chaplain lamented.
At Edmonton's Louis St. Laurent Junior-Senior High, with a student population of 1,100, the situation is not much different. Chaplain Sandra Talarico says students have an "indifference" toward the priesthood and religious life.
"Kids have a lot of choices (and don't seem to want to choose an option that will put limits on them)," she said. "The celibacy issue is a strong issue with them."
The chaplain said the vocations issue is centre stage on career day when the school invites a priest to talk about religious life. St. Laurent also has a good connection with the parish, so the priest is often around and provides a good role model for the youth.
"But in terms of (are we) actively promoting vocations? Not really," Talarico said. "Occasionally we would put a poster up from the diocese and we talk about it in our religion course just as part of the different religious components, but we don't advertise it to a large extent."
John Paul II student Janelle Morin, 16, says many students back away from religious vocations because they fear losing their freedom. They want to be religious, "but in a different way," she said.
Others simply want to enjoy their youth and explore the tremendous number of options they have before them.
Morin has thought a lot about religious vocations, but doesn't want to become a nun right now because she feels she can serve better at something else.
"But if I did have the option of becoming a priest, it would definitely be something I'd think about."
Celibacy would be an issue for Morin because "I always had a huge family and I think families are important." She believes if priests and nuns were allowed to marry, "there would be a huge increase in vocations."
"For me, the priesthood wouldn't be the journey I would choose at this time, but I don't think it's completely out of the question," said student Kelley McKinlay, 18, also of John Paul II High. "Deep down inside, there is always that possibility."
But McKinlay also has problems with the celibacy requirement and thinks it should be optional. "I know priests and nuns say they are married to the Lord and stuff, but if deep down inside they want to start a family, I think they should have a chance (to do so)."
Talarico is not surprised at the students' views on celibacy. "I think that's an issue with kids and maybe it is because they want everything, not in a negative way, but for them everything is available where it wasn't maybe 20 or 30 years ago.
"They really can pursue many different avenues and kids don't want to be closed off by things. Kids don't want to have limits put on them and for them, that's a bit of a limit."
Talarico is not sure changing the regulations on women priests and married priests would cause an upsurge in vocations "but at least that's another option available to kids that want families."
Willsher said those students who do have support either at home or school do talk about religious vocations and some may be even considering them. He tries to encourage them and to provide them with the proper environment.