Category Archives: Vocations

Religious life 2013: Profession of vows, entrances and ordinations

Suscipe me secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam, et non confundas me ab exspectatione mea. (Psalm 118)

abbot & monkEach year at about this time I have published a list of those who have risked everything to follow Jesus Christ more closely as a priest, deacon, monk, friars, nun, or sister. I think it is a good thing to keep this information in front of us, especially as it concerns how each of prays, fasts and financially support  vocations in the Church. Our Christian life helps us to see the need for such witnesses and each of us participates through our good example, by inviting others (even ourselves?) to consider serving the Lord and the Church in this “more excellent” way and by assisting by of the good works.

Let us pray with the psalmist, “The just grow tall like palm trees, majestic like the cedars of Lebanon. They flourish in God’s house, green and heavy with fruit” (Ps 92).

“What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life,” the Lord’s cross, Pope Francis said on July 7.

What follows is an imperfect collection of information; if there are updates, please zap me an email.


Monastic life


English Congregation

Swiss-American Congregation
Subiaco Congregation
American Cassinese Congregation
Other monastic foundations


The active life


  • Daylesford Abbey (the Norbertines): 1 professed simple vows, 1 entered the novitiate;
  • Dominican friars, Province of St Joseph: 6 friars ordained priests; 9 friars profess solemn vows; 8 professed simple vows and  18 entered the novitiate
  • Capuchin friars, Province of St Mary: 2 professed final vows, 4 professed simple vows, 4 invested as novices; 1 ordained to the Order of Deacon and 2 ordained for the Order of Priest
  • Opus Dei: ordained 31 to the priesthood
  • Fraternity of St Charles Borromeo: 1 ordained deacon, 8 ordained priests; -in Chile: 3 received the cassock at entrance
  • Conventual Franciscan friars (of several provinces): 7 professed simple vows; 5 entered the novitiate
  • Friars of the Atonement: 1 entered the novitiate
  • Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word: 2 professed simple vows, 1 entered the novitiate.
  • Order of Friars Minor, Immaculate Conception Province: 2 friars profess simple vows; 1 professed solemn vows; 2 ordained priests; 5 postulants entered
  • Franciscans of the Holy Name Province: 4 profess first vows; 1 novice entered; 1 ordained to the priesthood
  • The Society of Jesuit ordained 16 men to the priesthood for service in the whole USA; the NY-NEN-MD provinces professed 5 in simple perpetual vows; 5 men entered the novitiate.

Millennials becoming priests and nuns???

Good question. I hope so. We need people to help all people to see the face of Christ in a new and dynamic way. The radical nature of the vocation –following Jesus Christ and serving in the Church– requires of all people the total gift of self until death with eyes fixed on heaven.

Emma Green’s article, “Why Would a Millennial Become a Priest or a Nun?” published by The Atlantic online surfaces some good questions to consider about the current generation, the millennials, the 20-somethings, who are in discernment to serve the Lord as a priest, nun, or sister.

Ms Green’s articles doesn’t do any heavy lifting. Her approach is more of a sociological look at vocations to Catholic religious orders. Nevertheless, she helps frame other questions and concerns.

What Emma Green misses in the article is the fact a person becomes a member of a religious order or joins the secular priesthood because he or she is in love with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; that relationship with Christ reveals the desire of giving of oneself in a singular manner, forever. Social justice concerns, teaching, serving in a hospital, going on mission, etc., all good and necessary things, are but consequences of the relationship one has with Christ.

Early September I will publish my annual survey of random religious orders who accepted newcomers.

Mystery Priest revealed: Father Patrick Dowling responds to Missouri accident

You may heard of the August 4th car accident in which a critically injured woman requested a priest to absolve her of her sin, pray for her as she faced great uncertainty in Missouri. The remarkable story of a priest doing what he was ordained to do has circled the globe in a story of a “mysterious priest.” The priest is not an angel. He is a real person who is conformed to Jesus Christ as a priest. The man, Father Patrick Dowling, is a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, MO.

The Mysterious Priest story is a terrific human interest story. BUT more importantly for me it is a true narrative about the work of Grace, especially the Grace of Jesus Christ working through the ministrations of a Catholic priest. What can we say about the Church’s sacramentality at work, the priesthood of Jesus Christ in action, and the power of prayer and human need. It is the beauty of simplicity!

The Father Patrick Dowling story is here.

Why is this important to me? Father Dowling’s approach is what is real to me: a recognition of another’s need, a priest who was motivated to respond and the action of the Holy Spirit sustaining all those at work. What struck me was the simplicity of Grace working for someone in need. It seemed like everything coalesced well: the first responders did their work, people cooperated with authority, and a priest responded to someone’s desire to be comforted with prayer, sacraments and companionship in the face of uncertainty. The love  shown by the priest was concrete. Here I’ll define love not as a sentiment but as the Servant of God Father Giussani taught us, love is to have concern for another’s destiny. Indeed, Father Dowling had this concern for Aaron and Katie.

Additionally, that Father Dowling is not an angel but a human being, is important to me because it was another concrete example of the way God speaks through our humanity and not despite it. One last thing: I was struck that Dowling did not make himself the center of attention spoke –this spoke volumes. It is, hence, an irresistible and concrete example of what it means to be have an alive humanity rooted and grounded in Christ. How could one not be moved to the core???

Thank you, Father Dowling.

Gay men and the priesthood: change in content, or difference in style?

This morning a friend asked me about Pope Francis’ statement on the plane ride to Rome coming from Brazil about gay men and the priesthood: did the pope change the Church’s teaching? No, was my reply. The teaching is not changed as the Pope echoed what the Catechism teaches. What the Pope did, I told Harry, was to emphasize a pastoral approach of mercy and helping each person attain a mature Christian faith, and that the Church has always held this approach but frequently gets forgotten due the subject. The approach of Pope Francis is to speak about the merciful face of Jesus Christ; but I have to say, Benedict also said as much but he was often roundly dismissed because of some people’s ideology. Hence, there is a line of continuity in the teaching and style of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI. I don’t see the hard differences between the two.

Aaron Taylor wrote the following piece, “Francis and Benedict on gay priests,” for On the Square published online at First Things (7 August 2013). Taylor’s piece is a short but good piece covering the basic matters at hand; gives perspective that can’t be dismissed. I recommend the article.

Given the ruckus over Pope Francis’ comments on homosexuality, one could make the mistake of thinking he had announced a revolutionary change, not restated basic Christian doctrine:

If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person? . . . These persons must never be marginalized, and “they must be integrated into society.” The problem is not that one has this tendency. No, we must be brothers.

While the substance is old as the Gospel, the form is not what we are used to. Secular journalists are likely to see an irreconcilable contradiction between the Pope who made these comments and the Cardinal who warned that same-sex marriage is a “total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts,” a “move by the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Yet Christians ought to see no contradiction between a robust commitment to defending the dignity of all people, including gays and lesbians, and a robust commitment to opposing sexual sin. In both instances, Francis was simply doing what he does best: stating basic truths in blunt, common-sense words that everyone can understand.

Another alleged contradiction at which many reports are hinting lies in the fact that the Pope’s remarks do nothing to alter the current ban on ordaining homosexual men. Some may ask, if Francis is willing to admit that gays can seek God and be persons of good will, why not allow them to be priests?

Current Vatican policy on the ordination of homosexuals is a disciplinary matter, not a doctrinal one. In theory it could change (though I think it unlikely). But even if it did, there would be no reason to assume that more than a small minority of homosexuals have a genuine vocation. The idea often heard that the priesthood is an “ideal” state of life for homosexual men since they are already compelled to be celibate is woefully misguided.

Rather than focusing on the narrow question of gays and the priesthood, what we need most urgently at the present time are spiritual approaches that help gay Christians to integrate their sexual orientation with their faith in a manner that steers a safe course between the Scylla of indulging in sexual vice and the Charybdis of destroying their sanity through denial about their sexuality.

One such approach, suggested by Cardinal Ratzinger in his Pastoral Letter on the Care of Homosexual Persons, is a spirituality of vicarious redemptive suffering for gay people:

What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption.

The fact that God gives homosexuals a heavy cross means that they have an opportunity to unite their sufferings to those of Christ and become instruments of salvation on behalf of others. It is classic Pauline spirituality: “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24).

Ratzinger’s approach will not be appealing to all gay people, nor need it be. The Church has always accommodated a range of spiritualities within the boundaries of orthodoxy, and gay Christians’ own experience of their sexuality is diverse. For some, it is a great struggle bound up with a history of abuse and compulsive sexual behavior. For others, it is a fact of life that does not cause particular suffering.

Elizabeth Scalia suggests that “homosexuals are in fact ‘special and exceptional others,’ . . . created and called to play a specific role in our shared humanity.” And Joshua Gonnerman tells us that, as a celibate gay Christian, there are nevertheless many things in his experience of being gay that he finds valuable. These new approaches complement rather than contradict the spiritual approach outlined by Ratzinger, and are also grounded in the Pauline witness. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle makes clear that every Christian is given gifts for the building up of the Church. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that gay Christians are an exception to what Paul says.

Aside from the litmus test of orthodoxy, the mark of a healthy spiritual approach to homosexuality should lie in the fact that it empowers gay Christians with a sense of moral agency. Gays are not to be “marginalized,” as the Pope notes, but neither are they to be patronized by well-meaning Christian organizations that portray them as helpless sex addicts who are simply passive recipients of the Church’s pastoral care. With the recognition that one has received gifts from God for active participation in the life of the Church, there comes a grave responsibility to follow the moral law. Christ’s calling restores to people the grace necessary to live in right relationship with God, but this means that gay Christians cannot portray themselves as victims of external forces if they fail to live up to their Christian calling.

Above all, a healthy spiritual approach to homosexuality ought to make clear that gay Christians have a legitimate place within the Body of Christ without having to pretend that they don’t exist by being pressured either into marriage or into becoming closeted priests. Though we should not overstate the innovation in Francis’ off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope has made a significant contribution to the development of a healthy spirituality for gay Christians by speaking of the need to integrate them within society (the Church is a society, too, after all), and by his recognition that many gay Christians already exist within the Church who are of “good will” and wish to “seek the Lord.”

Aaron Taylor, a Ph.D. student in ethics at Boston College, holds degrees from the University of Oxford and from Heythrop College, University of London.

The vocation to be a priest relies on a daily dialogue with Jesus, living with the Church

Mauro Card. Piacenza.jpg

Seminarians get a letter from Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of Congregation for the Clergy for the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, advocating the need for the daily dialogue –the salvific meeting (an encounter)– with the Lord which builds a beautiful edifice of life and love. 

The cardinal highlights Pope Francis’ idea that in the priestly life there is a primacy of grace: a joy of bearing the cross of Jesus Christ, without which the priest is a mere functionary, not a disciple following a path cut out by the Lord –and, today, the Church– that is certain and life-giving. Only in the cross do we see the self-giving nature of God the Son; the lack of an embrace of the cross contributes to worldliness, secularism, the primacy of the self as the measure of all things.

Highlighted, too, is the faithfulness and thus dependence upon the proven tools of the spiritual life: silence, discernment, sacraments, spiritual direction, human and theological formation. Of course, all this demands that the formators in seminaries aren’t dysfunctional and ideological.

For more about the formation of men to be priests is a book written by the Most Reverend Massimo Camisasca, FSCB, The Challenge of Fatherhood (Human Adventure Books).


On the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we celebrate most significantly the day for the sanctification of priests and, as you are in the Seminary to respond in the most fitting way possible to your vocation, it is important for me to send you this letter, with great affection, so that you may feel involved and, as such, remember this important occasion.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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