- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2005

M:Mb?T Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a new program yesterday aimed at getting priests to work harder recruiting other men to the vocation.

The “Fishers of Men” program will poll priests in each of the country’s 195 dioceses on why they entered and remained in the clergy. The polling results will be announced at a summit in each of the dioceses. Also at these summits, priests will be asked “to discuss ways to share their renewed sense of contentment with other men who might be thinking about a vocation to the priesthood,” according to a fact sheet.

“One of the most effective ways of encouraging a man to consider the priesthood is for a priest to invite him to do so,” Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., chairman of the USCCB’s vocations committee, said at a press conference.

Only 30 percent of priests actively invite men to the priesthood, according to a 2001 survey conducted by Catholic University sociologist Dean Hoge. Thus, Catholic officials are turning to the priests themselves to do a better selling job.

They came up with the $200,000 recruitment program, which includes a $60,000 video showing images of recent popes and scenes of priests in their daily lives. It is intermixed with a few medieval art drawings of martyrdom, including one image of a man being drawn and quartered.

In reality, the occupation is not so fearful, said the Rev. Edward Burns, executive director of the USCCB’s vocations office.

Referring to a 2002 Los Angeles Times survey of Catholic priests, “Ninety-two percent of priests say they are ‘pleased’ to be priests,” he said. “Eighty-nine percent said they’d ‘do it again.’”

The program already has been tested in several dioceses in Alaska, Texas, Delaware, Ohio and Missouri, with “exhilarating” results, Father Burns said.

“The image of the priesthood is not going to be defined by the men who’ve abused children,” he said, referring to the sex abuse crisis that has roiled the U.S. Catholic Church since 2002. “This will help recapture a sense of enthusiasm for their original decision.”

The Catholic Church ordains fewer than 500 men annually to supplement the nation’s 44,528 priests, who serve about 67 million Catholics. In 1965, the church ordained almost 1,000 priests yearly for 46 million Catholics.

The church is looking for men with spiritual depth, psychological maturity and intellectual aptitude, Bishop Cupich said.

But when asked about a pending Vatican document rumored to quash the presence of homosexuals in Catholic seminaries, the bishop did admit candidates would have to be free of “crippling addictions in life or those behavior patterns they find to be unhealthy.”

Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick commonly inserts pleas for more priests at gatherings he attends, including a jest at the Oct. 2 Red Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral when he said he might recruit the 4-year-old son of new Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

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