To seminary after studies
In recent years the number of candidates for priesthood and religious orders has decreased slightly. However, more and more people finish secular studies before entering theological seminaries.
In the current academic year 851 alumni began preparation for priesthood in diocesan and religious seminaries. Most alumni entered diocesan seminaries. In October 2010, 675 candidates applied to these seminaries. It is only 12 people less than a year ago. There was a decrease of vocations to religious seminaries than in 2009. In turn, 316 women entered congregations and 40 women chose contemplative convents - the representatives of the National Catholic Vocation Council informed at a special conference in Warsaw, summoned before the 48th World Week of Prayer for Vocations that has just ended.
Educating to love
According to Bishop Wieslaw Lechowicz, delegate of the Polish Bishops' Conference for Vocations, the last year statistics are comparable with those of the previous years. For example, in 2009 there were 687 alumni in diocesan seminaries and in 2008 - 695.
For several years the number of vocations has been on the similar level. But there was an increase in 2005,' Bishop Lechowicz said. Explaining the reasons for this phenomenon, specialists spoke about the demographic decline, mass immigration and 'Christ-phobia culture' deriding people wearing habits. Whereas the media, especially those that write about faith and the Church in a sensational way or with aversion, have begun a campaign concerning 'vocation crisis.' Was it a proper diagnosis?
'Speaking about a vocation crisis is not true,' Fr Dr. Marek Dziewiecki said at the conference. 'One should use precise terminology. God does not stop proposing priesthood or religious life to people he chooses. Similarly, God keeps calling young people to marriage and family. So we have no vocation crisis but a crisis of called people. There are young people who do not discover their vocations. Or even if they do they do not see any deep sense in it since they make their lives complicated by alcohol or drugs. Such people do not mature to priesthood and marriage.
In the opinion of Fr Dziewiecki the basis of vocation ministry is solid Christian upbringing of children and young people. 'We should bring up all teenagers in such a way that they will grow to marital and parental love and then they will make proper choices and realise any vocations, including the priestly or religious ones. A well-formed candidate for consecrated life is such a girl who a noble and joyful man would like to propose to. In turn, a well-formed candidate for priesthood is a man whose proposal would love to accept a matured and happy girl,' the national chaplain for vocations said.
The statistics prepared by the National Catholic Vocation Council say that southern Poland is the prevailing place as for the number of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. These are the dioceses in the southern belt from Wroclaw to Przemysl. A true pearl in the crown is the Diocese of Tarnow. It has 47 first-year seminarians. 'They include several alumni that finished secular studies before entering the seminary. The numbers are similar in the other years,' said Bishop Lechowicz.
Such a tendency has been observed in the other seminaries. The leading one in this respect in the St John the Baptist Major Metropolitan Seminary in Warsaw where over half of the first-year seminarians are university graduates.
One can see an increasing number of people at the age of 30-40 and older that apply to seminaries. Some have given up their show-business careers, posts at universities or in politics. 'We need a precise language to describe this phenomenon. These are late vocations and not - as it is most frequently said and written - 'delayed vocations,' Fr Dziewiecki stressed.
Not numbers but quality
The stereotype saying that most candidates for priesthood come from villages is not true. Now candidates coming from cities prevail.
A new tendency, which has not been examined yet, is the information about Poles entering seminaries and orders abroad. Thus, for example in Germany and Italy all seminaries have candidates who come from Poland.
'Our statistics are simplified and will be like that,' warned Bishop Wieslaw Lechowicz and gave reasons for that. 'Speaking about vocations to the priesthood or religious life we touch an immeasurable sphere.'
Yet Fr Dziewiecki stressed, 'We do not want to repeat the mistake of Western Europe that has decreased the requirements for candidates when their number diminished. We can have fewer priests or nuns in the future since the quality of vocations is more important than their numbers.'