We (and most dioceses) are darn lucky that we have retired priests. If it were not for the “retired” priests we would be quite diminished. That is not even counting the priests who go at it and quit only when the tread has completely worn off the tire or they die with their boots on. At 70 or 75, these so called retired men fill in gaps so that Masses may still be said when there is nobody available, help out in confessions to cut down on the lines, they may take over parishes temporarily when a pastor is gone or sick, they teach, give spiritual direction, and assist in a hundred different ways. This is critical in a diocese when unexpectedly we had to open a number of parishes and staff them when one of the reasons it was said that they had initially closed was that we were having difficulties staffing all of our parishes. God bless you retired priests!
That being said, how bad is it? Is this dark period in Catholicism in America? At least it is a challenging period. But it is not unusual. Remember the Scripture, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” Luke 10; 2. Perhaps it is endemic to the vocation that it will always need more men. It keeps a sort of balance going – causes us to pray for and appreciate vocations – does not let us slack on our prayer.
What can you do for vocations (besides prayer that is?) Be creative. The first thing that made me think about it (however mildly) was when I was in grade school coming down off of the altar after serving and (what seemed to a little boy) an ancient lady placed a dollar in my hand and said, “You would make a great priest.” She started it. I wonder if she knows.
In a couple of weeks we will be having a dinner at the rectory for men high school age on up who are thinking about the seminary. No pressure. Just prayer, dinner, camaraderie, and possibly a climb up the bell tower. The point is for them to understand that they are not alone even in the parish. It is being put forth as being for those who fairly serious about the idea to those who might do it if the planets align correctly and God sends them the sign of a red headed unicorn. There are already a few young men signed up.
Begging the Harvest Master is imperative but it is not enough. We must also rouse up the potential harvesters! What are you going to do today?