Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Generally speaking, when we look at the current state of our Catholic faith among the young, most of the data we see is not good. As we look at “age strata” of the population, the regular practice of the faith (measured via attendance at Sunday Mass) is highest among the elderly and drops off with each successive generation. Among the youngest generation (the “millennials,” as they are often called) it is estimated that of those who were baptized as Catholic, less than 10% are currently attending Sunday Mass with any regularity. This is a great crisis for the Church that all of us are called to try to understand and address lest Catholicism all but disappear from our country in the decades ahead.
However, the news is not all bad. Those who attend Mass at the Dominican monastery in North Guilford
have surely noticed that over the last few weeks, there has been a young woman there who first was sitting “outside” the grill, then after two weeks of quarantine has joined the community on the inside. She is in the final stages of discerning a possible call to join the community as a cloistered nun. If she does, she will join several other young women who, over the last few years, have discerned that calling and are now in the formation process to be fully professed Dominican nuns.
This past week, our province of Dominican friars welcomed eleven young men to our novitiate house in Cincinnati to begin their discernment with us. On August 8th, the feast of St. Dominic, they received the Dominican habit and their religious names. Over the next year they will live the life of a Dominican friar (as novices) and, if they still feel called and they are judged worthy by the community there, they will make their first profession of vows (temporary vows) next August and then move on to our “seminary” (or as we call it in Latin, studium generale) in Washington, DC the Dominican House of Studies to begin their academic formation in preparation for the priesthood. This continues a trend we have seen over the last decade or so, where the number of vocations we are receiving are at levels we hadn’t seen in 40+ years.
In recent years, many of our Dominican monasteries of cloistered nuns, some of our communities of active Dominican sisters, and certainly our own province of Dominican friars have seen increase seven explosive growth in new vocations. While this is not true of all dioceses and religious orders, it is certainly true of some outside our Dominican charism as well. Groups like the Franciscan friars (and sisters) of the Renewal, the Sisters of Life, some of the onasteries in the Benedictine and Norbertine traditions, and others have seen similar trends. Even in the midst of a younger generation that seems to be “losing the faith,” God is calling and open hearts are hearing and answering the call. This news ought to be a great joy for all of us, and is a sign that even in our day God continues to bring a spiritual fruitfulness to our Church.
I would ask every person reading this to please pray for these young men and women who have embarked upon the beginning stages of priestly or religious life. Pray for their continued discernment and (if it be God’s will) their perseverance. Please also pray for the young men and women out there whom God is still calling, that they might answer the call. And for any of the young out there reading this, let me simply say this: if you think you may be feeling
God calling you to this vocation… listen. Don’t ignore His call, or pretend you aren’t hearing it. I tried that myself for several years. Trust me: it won’t work! (Haha). Please know that if He is calling you to this life, then to say your “yes” will put you on the greatest adventure, and bring you a greater joy, than you can possibly imagine. It is an AMAZING thing to follow Him in a priestly or religious vocation. All He needs is your open heart. He will do the rest.
Fr. John Paul Walker, OP