Today’s mainstream culture poses challenges to those called to a religious vocation, said Father Anthony Chandler, director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office.
“We need to help young men and women rise above the predominant culture and say, ‘No, I believe and I will do whatever I can.’ ”
The archdiocese has just 10 men in formation for the priesthood now, compared to 13 at this time last year. Two men from Vietnam were ordained in May.
Father Chandler believes culture affects the way young people have responded to the pandemic and the way they have — or have not — heard God calling them to religious life.
“Some dioceses lost half of their seminarians,” he noted. “Because of the way they’ve been raised, they’ve never been allowed to fail. They lack resiliency.
“There are many challenges in life, but if no one has allowed you to face them, you don’t have the skill set. COVID didn’t go away and you had to face it.”
At the same time, he said, the culture “is so noisy.”
“When do you turn off the iPod, phone and just sit and listen to God?” he asked.
It’s up to families and parishes to help young people move counter to the culture, he said.
“To be a Christian is countercultural. To be a seminarian is countercultural,” he said. “Everything starts and ends at the altar. The love of Christ impels us to this work and the grace and blessings of Christ give us the strength.”
The archdiocese’s seminarians are excellent, he said. And their success is due in part because of their family of origin, their faith of origin and their social skills.
Father Chandler noted that he and the associate vocation director, Father Kien Nguyen, recently conducted visits — virtual and in-person — with seminaries that archdiocesan seminarians attend.
“I was so pleased by all the reports we received about our seminarians,” he said. “I found that the men who are there are resilient, feel the call and believe in the salvation of souls. They’re willing to stand in the culture and proclaim in the name of Christ.”
For those who may be interested in joining them, Father Chandler had some advice.
“Go to Mass. That’s number one,” he said. “You worship in community.
“Stop and find quiet,” he said. “We’re asking people to respond generously with open hearts and spirits. But you have to listen to do that.
- “You’ve got to be a man of prayer.
- “You’ve got to have a good sense of self-worth because God created you, but also be willing to improve yourself.
- “You need support of family and friends.
- “You need friends of both genders.
- “Be mentally physically, and emotionally, healthy.”
- Above all, he added, “You have to love enough to make sacrifices.”
“You encounter people of every walk of life and you have to be open to them,” he noted. “You have to desire to be heroic and do something extraordinary for the Lord. People may say, ‘That’s difficult.’ But, not with the grace of God.”
For more information about vocations in the archdiocese, visit louisvillevocations.com.