Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, has announced plans for a house of discernment for potential priests, emphasizing the need for “a renewed love for the priesthood.”
“If we truly open our hearts in prayer within our families and parishes, I have no doubt this gift of new vocations will be given us,” the bishop said in his homily during the April 16 Chrism Mass at St. Anthony’s Church in the Wythenshawe district of Manchester.
The new discernment house will be based at the Shrewsbury Cathedral and is set to open in September 2015, the Diocese of Shrewsbury reports.
Bishop Davies said the house will create “a community at the heart of our diocese where the vocation to priesthood can be actively discerned and supported.” The house will be a year-long program.
He told the congregation that Catholics must recognize their role in caring for “the supernatural environment of faith and love within which each new generation grows.”
“Each of us has a part in making an environment where vocations can flourish,” he said.
The bishop lamented that some young people have told him that they were discouraged from their vocation, not by “hostile influences” outside the Church, but by Catholics.
Bishop Davies compared concerns for the vocations environment to concerns about the natural environment. He noted that problems in the natural environment turn people’s attention to the state of the water, soil and air.
“Likewise in the supernatural order if these vital signs of life in the vocations of marriage, consecrated life and the priesthood die away in a local church we also must be alert to the environment,” he said.
“This crisis of vocation is neither inexplicable nor irreversible,” the bishop continued. He encouraged prayer and a “renewed love for priestly vocation” to resolve the vocations crisis.
Bishop Davies noted that Jesus teaches Christians to pray “not as a last resort but as the first and irreplaceable means towards receiving this gift from God.”
He also announced prayer cards for vocations, which bear a prayer he wrote himself. These cards will be sent to all his diocese’s parishes.
The bishop also voiced gratitude for priests.
“Today we give thanks for every priest who has faithfully accompanied us along the path of our Christian lives bringing us the word of truth, the grace of the Sacraments and, above all, the supreme gift of the Holy Eucharist,” he said.
This love for the priesthood is not “human adulation” but rather “a faith-filled appreciation of the gift God gives in every man called to share in Christ’s priesthood.”
The priesthood is a life and ministry in which a man seeks “to draw all eyes to Christ the Lord,” Bishop Davies explained.
The Diocese of Shrewsbury presently has eight seminarians and 111 priests, including 28 retired priests, who are serving 98 parishes with 121 churches.