Category Archives: Vocations

The Jesuits by the numbers

Ignatius Loyola

Statistics are not that interesting unless you’re bean counter. Even then the numbers don’t account for everything that’s happening in the Church and in a group. Admittedly, there needs to be room for the work of the Holy Spirit.

Having said all this, if you want to see how culture and theology are working together –or not– you need to look at the numbers. There is a claim that the largest order of men in the Church is the Society of Jesus, founded in 1540; if you bring together the various Franciscan groups of men they’d likely outnumber the Jesuits.

Several years ago Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach said that looking at the original charism of the Society the vocation to be a Jesuit was given to very few men. In the course of history, and for particular reasons, the Society exploded in numbers surpassing expectation and control. And yet, there has been a tremendous amount of good done through Ignatian spirituality, but there has been a demonstrable chaos wreaked by the same. It looks as though the chaos is lessening but it will take another generation or two for a more authentic living of the charism of Saint Ignatius and the first Jesuits to be fully lived again.

To give you a sense of the scope of the Jesuits worldwide consider this information for today:

  • There are 83 provinces, 6 Independent Regions and 10 Dependent Regions;
  • Roman Houses (including the Jesuit curia) 403;
  • As of 1 January 2013, the total number of Jesuits was 17,287: 12,298 priests, 1,400 brothers, 2,878 scholastics, and 711 novices – a net loss of 337 members from 1 January 2012.
Compare total numbers in the USA:
2012: 2547
2013: 2467
Compare total numbers worldwide:
1974: 29,436
1984: 25,724
1994: 23,179
2004: 20,408
2013: 17,287
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Congrats to the newly ordained

new bport priests.jpgIn recent days several dioceses and religious orders have ordained men to the priesthood.

The priest is to “understand … imitate … and conform” his life to the Cross of Jesus. The bishop exhorts the man to be ordained to see that he believes what he reads, that he teaches what he believes and practices what he teaches.
Here is a random sample:
The Archabbey of Saint Vincent: 1
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal: 4
The Order of Preachers, New York: 6
The Idente Missionaries of Christ: 1
The Archdiocese of Boston: 5
The Archdiocese of Hartford: 7
The Archdiocese of New York: 6
The Archdiocese of Newark: 5
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia: 3
The Archdiocese of Los Angelus: 2
The Eparchy of Newton: 1
The Eparchy of Saint Maron, Brooklyn: 2
The Diocese of Bridgeport: 7
The Diocese of Paterson: 9
Saint John Mary Vianney, pray us.

Who were the Beguines?

some beguines.jpgThe beguines? Indeed, a good question. I have only heard of the beguines in a school a decade ago and thought nothing more of them. The beguines are a group of women who’re not nuns bound by vows, but lived in community and wore a habit. A lay movement from the 12th century. The women who followed the beguine way of life were united in the common life, in prayer, in mission, that is, they had a life of living of the gospel in service of humanity. 

Imagine my surprise when on May 12th The Economist published an article on the death of Marcella Pattyn (+April 14, 2013), the last beguine. Sister Marcella, 92, was blind and was refused entrance to the religious orders of her time.
Who were the beguines?“, The Economist opens a door.
It seems to me that the vocation to be a beguines is still needed today. Anyone willing to take up this vocation anew? To live your baptismal call more and more intensely without the constraints of vows (and the dysfunction?) of religious life is what’s happening today with the rise of ecclesial movements and secular institutes.
Let us pray for the repose of the soul of Marcella Pattyn, may her memory be eternal.

What does it mean to be a priest?

Jesus in the synagogue.jpg

The priest as a spiritual father is the compass leading the people to righteousness, to virtuous path to God. He protects the Christian identity in all its complexities by educating our religious sense as Fr Giussani teaches. The faith community is as strong, stable, and capable in mission,, vocation, and charitable activities as the leaders are willing to lead.  A “high ecclesiology,” if you will, shows us that the priest is gateway to the faith and he shows the way to salvation; but a priest can only be a gateway if he has the people who form the walls and is aware that Christ is the foundation. Too often these days the Catholic priest is not a man of prayer, learning, culture, good humor; many priests have lost a sense of heroic virtue.

How does the priest address the needs of the faithful today? Can the priest answer the questions being asked by the faithful and those seeking to know God,or at least willing to do the work needed to answer these questions? What type of witness needed today by the priest viz. the culture, media, and politics, so that we are happy, healthy and loving Christians? What are the concrete ways can we focus on God? How do Christians face nihilism with faith, hope and charity? What does it mean to be a person –and not merely an individual– realizing that the person is a part of a whole who glorifies God?

As you can tell, I am thinking about these things. What I am reading on this subject will make for another post, but I spent time listening to two presentations.

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Pope ordains 10 men to the priesthood of Jesus Christ

Francis ordains.jpg

Earlier today in Rome Pope Francis ordained 10 men to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. He showed up early to the sacristy to spend time in prayer with each of the men to be ordained. For bishops, ordinations are their way of being generative; the newly ordained are often referred to as spiritual sons of the bishop. The Pope ordained pastors, not functionaries; he ordained shepherds of souls, not church babysitters. Below is his homily.

Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.

It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.

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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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