The promotion of vocations to the Priesthood needs to be correctly branded, says the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) Liaison Bishop for vocations.
From May 8-10, the SACBC Department for Formation, Life, and Ministry of Clergy held the biannual ‘Vocations Workshop’ at Padre Pio Centre, Pretoria. During the workshop, Diocesan Vocations Directors together with the National Vocations Director shared “experiences of the vocation’s ministry in the different dioceses, as well as the challenges and the joys of that ministry,” says Bishop Neil Augustine Frank of Mariannhil Diocese.
He adds, “One very important thing that was said in our meeting is to use a marketing word, to brand the priesthood correctly… in-depth, it means it’s calling on priests to live their priesthood professionally and perform their ministry with competence because this is what attracts people to the priesthood. Every priest is a promoter of the priesthood vocations. And we do that just by the way, we do our ministry.”
Among other topics addressed during the workshop was the decline in the number of priests, seminarians, and new vocations to the priesthood in Botswana, Eswatini, and particularly in South Africa due to the “socio-cultural-economic situation.”
The SACBC Liaison Bishop for vocations says the migration of young people from rural dioceses to big cities harms vocations to the Priesthood, “we realise that for some of our rural dioceses, the smaller dioceses, the youth migrate to the big cities… and so the recruitment for vocations in these smaller dioceses is very low.”
According to Bishop Frank some families and “some parents discourage their children from pursuing, a vocation in the priesthood.” He also highlighted the shortage of vocations from other racial groups saying “One concern for South Africa, though, is that most of the vocations are from one particular race group, the other race groups, the Indians, the whites, the coloured have very few vocations to the Catholic priesthood in South Africa. We just take note of that phenomenon and maybe there’s some work for us to do in fostering vocations.”
At the end of the vocations workshop, it was suggested that recruitment to the Priesthood “should be at the university level, not at the school level,” as there is a “perception among some of the youth that if their results are poor in matric, they will consider the priesthood. But if they have better results and there are other opportunities for study, then they will choose other careers.”
“That’s a concern for us because we don’t want priests with low intellectual abilities. We need priests with high intellectual abilities,” says Bishop Frank.
He goes on to say, “Fostering the vocation among graduates might be more beneficial because you’re getting students then who are more mature, have had more experience for life and could still consider. And many of us in the group were already entered the priesthood with degrees and with university studies. So that’s part of the socio-cultural-economic context in which we are working in the new South Africa.”