Catholics pray for more to take up religious life

October 16, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Sister Mary Charlotte, a School Sister of Notre Dame for 60 years, introduced a holy hour to pray for more people to pursue religious vocations Thursday evening with a call to service.

"Jesus calls us to serve our sisters and brothers, to become the servants of all just as he did," she said.

About 150 people, many representing communities of priests, nuns and brothers, took part in the service at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster.

Paul Gallagher, pastoral assistant at the parish, organized the service and invited other Catholic communities to celebrate National Vocational Awareness Week.

"I have been going for the past few years to a service at the Cathedral," said Mr. Gallagher, who is studying for the priesthood at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. "The Cathedral [in Baltimore] is too far for some to travel."

Led by Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop John H. Ricard, participants prayed for an increase in the number of people in religious vocations. Their numbers have declined steadily for the past two decades.

"How many children do not have the opportunity to know God because there are not enough generous hearts to provide that opportunity?" the bishop asked during his homily.

The bishop echoed words from Scripture in his prayer that "the Lord send the young into the harvest and that they stay and be joyful and productive in that harvest."

Michele Armshaw, a youth minister at St. Peter Church in Libertytown, attended the service because "prayer is the answer to the crisis in vocations." She urges young people "to see if religious life is for them."

The Baltimore archdiocese, an area with 160 parish communities, is "doing well" with the numbers of young people studying for religious life, the bishop said.

"We have about 50 studying for the priesthood now and we ordain about five each year," he said.

Bishop Ricard was ordained in 1969, with 11 young men, more than twice this year's number.

"I am not alarmed at the decrease," he said. "There has been such an expansion of the lay ministry, who serve in many capacities."

The Rev. Mike Camilli, of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, added a note of levity, when the priests and sisters remained after the service to discuss their communities. "Join us," he said. "You won't go first class, but you will see the world."

The Rev. Albert Anuszewski, a Trinitarian priest, said a shortage of priests often means "people are unable to hear the word of God and receive the sacraments."

Through his retreat center in Pikesville, he is working with about 350 men across the country who are "in the discerning process" and considering the priesthood.

With 10 postulants studying to become Dominican nuns, Sister Mary Louis said she believes her community is blessed. The teaching order staffs Mount DeSales Academy in Catonsville and often attracts graduates of the school to the community based in Nashville.

Tim Fell, in his second year at St. Mary's Seminary, said he graduated from college and left a good job to join the priesthood.

"My vocation kept coming back to me like a textbook call from God," he said. "I couldn't think of a better way to spend my life."

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