The text of his column follows, with my emphases and comments:
Lately I have had lots of people ask me how recruitment efforts for seminarians are going and what the numbers will be for next year; well, as far as numbers go, only our good Lord knows what those will be, but I will happily let everyone know in the fall what our numbers end up being.
However, I can give you an update on our current situation. By God’s grace, and through Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, we celebrated the ordination of two of our seminarians (Rev. Mr. Albert Allen and Rev. Mr. Zachary Edgar) to the diaconate just last weekend and soon, God and bishop willing, we will celebrate Rev. Mr. Brian Alford’s ordination to the priesthood on May 28 at the Cathedral in Springfield.
Following Deacon Alford’s ordination to the priesthood, we will have 12 seminarians with three new men already accepted for the coming school year, two more candidate’s applications are in process and four more men have received applications and continue to discern for next year [in other words, it looks good].
Our priestly vocations picture is always fluid but it is also hopeful. It should be apparent that the Holy Spirit is active in our diocese. Or maybe it is better to say that the Spirit is always active, but presently there seems to be an increased response to the Spirit’s promptings. This should be a cause of great joy for us!
With a sense of hope and joy I invite us as a diocese to once again renew our commitment to inviting men and women to consider if the Lord may be calling them to Holy Orders or the religious life. On the Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 15, the church will observe the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. For this year’s observance our Holy Father has chosen the theme “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church.”
The Holy Father points to a truth that we all must consider when he says “the ability to foster vocations is a hallmark of the vitality of a local church.” This is not to say that a local church that is not overflowing with vocations is spiritually dead, but there is a natural cause and effect relationship between a local church’s overall response to the grace of God and its ability to raise up men and women who are open to God’s unique call [well said, Father].
Where do we begin? This begins at an individual and communal level. We must all “keep our gaze fixed on Jesus” as the Holy Father says. Each of us must commit ourselves to being a person of prayer, a person who seeks to be in communion with the Lord daily. In seeking the Lord we bring others with us in our prayers and they in turn are the beneficiaries of God’s grace.
We must recommit ourselves to the sacramental life of the church, most especially the Eucharist. We must recommit ourselves to handing on the faith though Catholic education either through our schools or in our PSR programs. Parents most especially must recommit themselves to being the first teachers of their children, which they promised to be at their children’s baptism.
We must be a people who hunger and thirst for the living God. In all things our God must be central to who we are. When this happens on an individual level it translates to the larger communal level and then we find a rich harvest in the field of vocations.
During this month of May we honor Mary our Blessed Mother and Mother of the Church. In all our needs we can turn to Mary. I invite you to entrust all those men and women who are discerning our Lord’s call to Holy Orders or religious life to Mary’s powerful intercession by offering one Hail Mary each day for vocations.
I also invite you to entrust them to the intercession of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton [I'm working on a prayer in this regard]. The Holy Spirit is alive and active in this local church that we call the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Be open to that action and be a part of it!
You can find the complete text of our Holy Father’s message for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations on the Holy See’s website at www.vatican.va, under “messages” on the Holy Father’s page.