It's right that the People of God have adjusted to having fewer priests and religious. Bravo to us for stepping up to join councils, to work in parishes, to serve as permanent deacons. We should be in the front lines of the church's evangelizing mission, witnessing to the gospel at home, in our neighborhoods and even at work.
But make no mistake. Our eucharistic faith cannot survive without priests. Similarly, our mission in the world is weakened when it lacks the authentic witness of people who dedicate everything to God and church life.
We laity have an urgent mission: encouraging good young people to consider priesthood and consecrated life.
Our youth are not naive. They know it will be difficult to be chaste, simple and obedient. Based on our experience as married or single, we must remind them that no way of life is all joy and no sorrow. We need to put forward priests and religious who can assure our youth that life of service to the church is a radical but viable option that is fulfilling. Most of all, we need to alert young people among us to the need. Those with the call will step forward.
God will provide vocations. But we need to be there to listen. Parents should make sure their children have moments of quiet in their lives so the "still, small voice" of God can penetrate. We laud initiatives like one at Jesuit High School, where five minutes of each day is given to silent reflection.
Adults have several options to help promote and support vocations.
The Serra Club of Portland, named after a Franciscan missionary to the American West, exists solely for this purpose. The club holds events for seminarians, sisters and priests. They sponsor speakers for young people. Most of all, Serrans openly value and esteem men and women who have answered their call.
Second, more parishes should form vocation committees. In some places, a vocations cross is passed from household to household, where families spend a week praying that more people will respond to God's call.
Third, parents cannot stand in the way if God is calling their children to serve. Alarmingly, we often hear of those who push for marriage and grandchildren but don't give ample emphasis on priesthood and consecrated life.
The new year is a good time to get on track for vocations. Jan. 13-19 is National Vocation Awareness Week. It's designed to highlight a vital message — clergy and religious are essential to spread the joy and love of Jesus Christ.