Yes, the Church needs
priests and religious,
but it needs everyone
Sister Margie Lavonis, CSC
The shortage of priests and religious men and women in the Church, particularly in Europe and North America, is common these days. Many international congregations like my own, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, are still getting new members, but in countries other than the United States. Many consider it a crisis.
Too often when we speak of vocations we limit that term to mean the call to ordained ministry and the consecrated life. When we pray for vocations we usually ask God to inspire young people to answer a call to be sisters, brothers and priests. Once in a while we might include the call to lay ministry in the Church, but that is the exception.
We do not have to look far to find vocations. The truth is that each baptized person has a vocation, not just religious and clergy. By our baptism each of us is called to share the mission of Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, every Christian is called to reveal God's unconditional love and to spread that love to others. The next time you are at a baptism liturgy listen closely to the prayers.
Don't get me wrong, as a former vocation director for the Sisters of the Holy Cross I am all too acutely aware of the need for individuals who desire to give their entire lives to God and to fulltime service of the Church, but they are not the only ones who have a call from God.
When we were baptized we were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ and we share in his priesthood. Through baptism we become part of his body. We are not called just to go to Church. We are called to be Church! All of us are called to holiness and service. Each of us has the right and the responsibility to serve others in the name of Christ. It is not the task of a select few.
Every time we participate in Mass we are reminded of our Christian vocation when, at the final blessing, the celebrant commissions us to "go in peace to love and serve the Lord." Prayer and service are integral to the vocation of every Christian whether single, married, religious or ordained.
I believe it is possible for someone to believe all the Church's dogmas and follow all the rules and still not live one's baptismal call. Religion without love and service is empty.
Perhaps it would be good to take time out and do some serious reflection on how we are responding to our Christian vocation and how seriously we take and live the gospel message of Jesus. Jesus was less concerned about rules and ritual than about reaching out in love to sinners and to those in need. If each of us truly lived our baptismal vocation, think how different the world would be. Yes, the Church does need more priests and religious, but it also needs everyone else in the pews to spread God's love. That is the only way we are going to fulfill the mission of Christ.
(Holy Cross Sister Margie Lavonis works in communications for her religious community in Notre Dame, Ind.)
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