By Anthony Barich
The leader of the Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Church has issued a blueprint of effective parish and family ministry to boost vocations in his Proclamation to the Faithful for 2009.
Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Halych, Ukraine, said that vocations promotion means more than talking or even praying about it.
Good priests, he said, often preach about vocations and actively seek out worthy candidates.
He said a good priest “intently looks closely to the members of society, trying to recognise at least its embryo in concrete persons and, if such will notice, to take care to cherish it”.
Proper parishes existing as effective spiritual communities and “good Christian families” are the best way to help individuals discern their vocations, he said.
“A good parish is fruitful soil which bears the beautiful fruits of priestly vocations,” he said, using the example of one in Pennsylvania that gave 37 lasting priestly and monastic vocations in the 1920s and ‘30s.
Good Christian families, he said, are like a “cradle or hothouse of new spiritual vocations”.
“In a family of believing people the attitude to the priesthood is honour,” he said. “Even if an unworthy priest is spoken about, this is said with pain but not with spite. And if there are boys in a family, this vocation is examined as the best possible one.”
He said the role of father-pastors and “zealous prayer” of the Church community is to promote examples of heroes of the faith, which leads to an awakening of priestly vocations.
He quoted the late Pope John Paul II who, when visiting Lviv in 2001, proclaimed 27 members of the UGCC as martyrs, saying: “If God blesses your land with many vocations and if the seminaries are full – and this is a sources of hope for your Church – that is surely one of the fruits of their sacrifice. But it is a great responsibility for you.”
The cardinal said the responsibility for any lack of candidates for the priesthood falls squarely on families and clergy.
“If there are not enough deserving candidates, however, often we people are guilty, in particular through the decline of spiritual life in our families, through a lack of proper sermons and encouragement, and also through a lack of honour for the priestly status,” he said.
“There is no hope in gaining priestly vocations in families in which the greatest value is money or in which parents’ major care is family relations.
“It is necessary to remember here the negative influence which the modern mass media has, which quite often becomes the transmitter of anti-Christian ideas and visions. And already quite shattering is the bad life example of some priests, especially the local pastor,” he said, talking in general terms.
These obstacles, he said, are “very large”, but not insuperable.