Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 17, 2002
International priests meet to discuss challenges
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The Diocese of London is gearing up to welcome an international gathering of young priests and seminarians July 19-21.
Cardinal Francis Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Vatican's coordinator for World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto July 23-28 said "St. Peter's Seminary offers tomorrow's priests and lay leaders the riches of our Catholic heritage which they in turn will share with those entrusted to them in our rapidly-changing world."
The "extraordinary international gathering" will provide an opportunity for the participants to share their vocation with other seminarians and priests from around the world "and together face the challenges presented by the priesthood in the 21st century," said Stafford.
Entitled Priests for the New Millennium: Bearers of Salt and Light, the rector of St. Peter's Seminary, Father Bill McGrattan, said the event would provide an opportunity to "reflect on the call and the vocation that those that are priests are living and seminarians are aspiring to." As well, it will help them to "honestly look at that call to holiness that is talked about in the (papal) document, Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Beginning of the Third Millennium).
Conference coordinator Father Murray Watson said, "It's an opportunity to talk about the challenges facing the priesthood and we hope its going to draw more attention to the priesthood. People need to see the goodness in the priesthood."
Although the number of priests in Canada and the U.S. has declined substantially over the past few decades, McGrattan says there has been an increase in interest recently.
"In our seminary and across Canada - and I think I can speak for St. Augustine's (Toronto) and St. Joseph's (Edmonton) - we have noticed an increase of approximately 10 to 15 per cent in vocations over the last five years."
The reason for the increase could be that "the sense of the call to serve maybe transcends what society is projecting or at least portraying in terms of vocations to the priesthood," said McGrattan.
"That call is a very special grace and I think many are trying to discern whether they are actually being called."
He also noted that surveys by Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby show that young people are more receptive to organized religion than a decade ago.
Stafford acknowledged one of the goals of World Youth Day is to foster more vocations to the priesthood.
"In each of the cities that it's been held in there's been a dramatic increase in the number of vocations both within the diocese in which it was held and in the region and in the country," he said.