Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 18, 2009
Seminarian numbers pleases vocations director
Fr. Patrick Baska
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON – Father Patrick Baska, the vocations director for the Edmonton Archdiocese, is excited about the future of vocations to the priesthood.
“It’s a future that looks bright with hope, although it won’t be an overwhelming change or response to our current situation,” he said.
Out of the 35 seminarians currently in formation at St. Joseph Seminary, 11 are studying to become priests for the Edmonton Archdiocese — the same number as in the previous year, Baska said. An additional four could be admitted to the seminary in the fall.
That’s a lot more than when Baska studied at St. Joseph’s in the mid-1990s. “In my time, when I entered, I was the lone Edmonton seminarian at least for the first two years and then there were a couple more that joined. We were a small contingent at the seminary in those years.”
Impressive as they are, the numbers may be deceiving “because of the 11 we don’t know who is going to be ordained,” Baska said. “We don’t know that until they complete their formation and so, for example, from the year before there were three that discontinued and then we got three more up again the following year.
“So (a seminarian) is not a guaranteed product at the end. They are there to discern their vocation to the priesthood and that vocation, of course, is being tested, is being formed.”
Even if all 11 are ordained, they are not enough to cover the needs of the archdiocese, the vocations director said. Many priests are handling three or four parishes and some continue to serve well past their retirement age. Some larger parishes that may need two or three priests have had to do with one because of the priest shortage.
Baska noted the Edmonton Archdiocese, like many North American dioceses, has had to import priests from other nations to meet their needs.
“I think (having foreign priests) is very commendable and good, but at the same time I think we should begin to impress upon people the importance of having priests that are home grown.”
Who is going to give the sacraments to the next generation?
“The obvious answer is a priest but where would they come from?” Baska asked. He is hoping they will come from the parishes of the Edmonton Archdiocese. As vocations director Baska is often present where young people are: retreats, rallies, school gatherings and other events that young people organize to support their faith. But he is not inclined to use those events as a recruiting tool.
“I believe it is important to know the person (before asking them to consider a religious vocation),” he said. The invitation to the priesthood must come from the parish pastor or others in the parish who know a person well.
“Asking someone out of the blue is in some respects an insult to the person.”
Baska noted, “It’s vital to develop a healthy prayer life and pray for relationship with Jesus because after all it is Jesus who calls. Prayer also afford us the opportunity to get to know ourselves — what are my faults, my beliefs, my values?”
People can also call Baska directly.
“ I have met with fellows who have taken up the initiative and called in, but I always seek to try to connect them back to the parish or to the religious (congregation) of their choosing for spiritual discernment and spiritual direction,” he said. “Certainly I’m always here too and continue to be in conversation with them.”
Becoming a priest is a leap of faith. “We can do all our time praying, we can do all our time getting spiritual direction and trying to get to know ourselves. But it takes faith to leave the fishing net behind and follow Jesus,” Baska said. “Never mind the hesitancy to take that step but you’ve to go for it with the continuing trust God will lead you.”