Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona and Bishop Josep Angel Saiz Meneses of Terrassa told the Spanish daily La Razon some of the reasons behind the explosive growth in the number of young aspirants to the priesthood who have entered their respective seminaries.
Both seminaries are merely two years old and yet the number of aspirants to the priesthood “grows quicker that in other dioceses with greater populations. Terrassa has 28 seminarians and Tarazona has 15.
“A diocese without a seminary is a dead diocese”
Bishop Fernandez came to the Diocese of Tarazona three years ago. His priority was to reopen the local seminary. “Up to that time aspirants to the priesthood in the diocese studied in Zaragoza, while a building with a capacity for 300 students had been abandoned for decades,” he told La Razon.
Asked if “there could be a diocese without a seminary,” Bishop Fernandez said, “A diocese without a seminary is a dead diocese or in danger of extension,” and he compared the situation to that of “a mother who no longer has any children: she continues to be a mother, but she needs to be accompanied to a good death.” He said he was joyful to be able to give the universal Church “many and holy priests.”
Bishop Fernandez defended the importance of minor seminaries, saying it is important that young people begin their priestly formation at an early age. “I am convinced that the important ideals of a person are forged around the age of 15. Their ideals are full of dreams and imagination, which afterwards will have to mature, but these ideals are an amazing driving force for all of life.”
“We confront vocational problems without hang-ups”
La Razon also interviewed the new bishop of Terrassa, where “there wasn’t even a physical place” for a seminary. Bishop Saiz Meneses, the first bishop of this new diocese, earmarked a donation for building a seminary that has now been open for over a year. The 13 candidates of the seminary had been studying at the seminary in Barcelona.
Asked about the increase in seminarians for his diocese, Bishop Meneses explained that the key is humility and trust in God, and therefore he asked for prayers for vocations and exhorted the infirm “to offer their sufferings for this intention.”
“At the same time, he revealed, we strive to pose the issue of vocations in a direct way and without hang ups. Just to name two specific aspects, I think it is very important that we truly believe that God continues calling young people to the priesthood, and it is also essential that we make the joy of a life committed to the Lord though this walk transparent.”
Bishop Meneses also defended the importance of minor seminaries. “God calls who he wishes and when he wishes. Sometimes people question whether a 12 year-old child or an 18 year-old young person can see his vocation clearly. There are children who from a young age say they want to be a doctor or teacher and end up becoming one,” he said. “Others decide what they want to be when they are older but later they take a different path. The same thing happens with religious vocations. Some of the children who show signs of a vocation end up in the priesthood, others don’t. We need to accompany them in the process of personal maturation and help them to discern the will of God.”
Asked whether it is more difficult today to listen to the call to the priesthood, Bishop Meneses said, “In a society increasingly more secularized and consumerist, it’s not only difficult to listen to the call to the priesthood, it is also difficult to live the Christian faith consistently. God “undoubtedly calls many to the path of the priesthood.” What is needed is “silence, prayer [and] reflection to listen to his call,” the bishop said.