Toronto's priestly vocation healthy

  • April 18, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - Vocations in Toronto might seem healthier from the perspective of other Canadian dioceses. Where some areas of the country generate zero priestly vocations on a yearly basis, the archdiocese of Toronto’s mean average is four or five. In fact, Toronto will  be ordaining seven priests for the archdiocese in May.

“We’re doing very well in regards to when we look at other dioceses,” said Fr. Liborio Amaral, vocations director for the archdiocese of Toronto. “But we also have to realize that we are a big diocese that requires a lot of work to be done by the priests.”

Amaral says that in Toronto the Catholic faith is very much alive and growing. Parish sizes are actually increasing, he says, especially in the suburbs, where some parishes have anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 families. With such growing numbers, churches certainly aren’t closing.

“We’re building churches,” he said. “That’s a great sign of the vitality and the growth of the archdiocese.”

Amaral said he thanks God that the archdiocese has enough priests to service all the parishes right now, but adds that more priests are always needed — especially with the larger congregations. In many churches, the priests are alone.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, there would be one to four priests in a parish . . . there would be a pastor and a few curates,” he said. “They were able to do hands-on ministry that priests aren’t able to do now.”

The age of priests being ordained varies, as this year saw a span from the age of 25 to 50. But Amaral said new priests are commonly ordained in their late 20s and early 30s.

As one who works directly with discerning men, Amaral said it is striking to see the age at which they “come and see” about vocations. He said that he has had youth contacting him who are in their late teens and early 20s.

“That’s a strange thing,” he said. “In years past, we might have been looking at a man who began the enquiry stage probably in his late 20s, but now it seems that those who are enquiring are in their last year of high school and first year of university.”

Amaral believes this may stem from a growing detachment among Catholic youth from worldly distractions.

“I think it’s because the allurement of society is not as attractive as it used to be,” he said. “I think these young men and women are turning away from the ‘me, myself and I’ mentality.”

Another factor, he said, is that perhaps they are being better taught to block out the “noise that exists out there in the world” which gets in the way of hearing the call to a specific religious vocation.

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