The Truth About the Priest Shortage (And How Catechists Can Help)

Yesterday I saw a site called Why Not Priest? It’s a great looking site with a simple design. It has engaging videos on the priesthood and a place to ask questions about your calling.

Here’s one of the videos featured on the home page of Why Not Priest? called “Go Forth.”

One thing most priests cite as being instrumental in the development of their vocations was another priest, or adult associated with the Church, take an active interest in their calling.

And this is related to why there aren’t many men answering the call to the priesthood.

Fostering priestly vocations

A few weeks ago, my 9 year-old son told us he wanted to be a priest.

This has been an on-again/off-again thing since he was about five. He goes back and forth. Right now he’s pretty serious about it, though.

I don’t know what will happen with this. Whether he actually becomes a priest or not is mostly out of my hands.

What I can do though is nurture his inclinations and steer him toward places where he can ask questions and relate to others who have had similar experiences.

So, we’re having him talk to priests and ask them questions.

We went to the Why Not Priest? site and watched a few videos. My son was so excited! He said, “This makes me want to be a priest even more!” He also asked some questions. We haven’t gotten any responses back yet. Hopefully, we will soon.

The real truth about the shortage of priests

We have a shortage of priests, but I believe it’s not because God isn’t calling.

I think he’s calling more now than ever. The truth is there’s a shortage is in boys and/or young men who are able to listen.

They can’t hear the call because the world is drowning it out. Boys are exposed to sexual images too early. Movie stars and sports figures are terrible role models. And, making money is exalted as the highest calling.

On top of that, a large part of that deafening deluge comes from parents who don’t help their kids to listen or actively promote the priesthood as a great thing, something worth giving your life to.

You may not be able to change that, but catechists can change how kids perceive the priesthood in their classrooms.

Fostering vocations is part of the catechist’s job

One of the catechist’s jobs is promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Your attitudes and the way you talk about priests will register with your students.

If you’re positive and enthusiastic about priests, they’ll pick up on it. If you’re negative, they’ll get that too.

Think about it, you may be the only adult link to the parish those kids have. It’s possible their parents are indifferent about religion and don’t even think, much less talk, about it outside of Sunday.

Worse yet, one or both parents may be hostile toward the priesthood and Church teachings. But they bring the kids to religious education…and there they are in front of you.

Perhaps someone may ask you about feeling a call toward the priesthood. Why Not Priest? could be a good resource to send them to.

So what do you do to foster vocations in your classroom? Do you have other tactics? What about vocations to the religious life for girls?


Subscribe and start receiving free updates via email.
I guarantee your email address will never be shared.


  1. When my oldest son was about that age, he, too, expressed that he thought he might want to become a priest. Of course, I was encouraging. About a year or so later, he came to me and asked. “Priests can’t have families, can they, Mom?” I told him no – they cannot get married and have children, but that they could have many friends. “I thought so” was his answer. He pondered that for a moment, then walked away. He never brought it up again. It was not the sexuality, but rather the loneliness of celibacy that put him off.

    I understand what the Church says about celibacy, but the solitary life of a diocesan priest, who does not live in community, really is a charism for only a few – and today, fewer and fewer are willing to make that sacrifice. Until there is an option for married priests, we may have to be content with a shortage.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      I think it can be hard for diocesan priests at times. I don’t think they’re really called to be lonely as a sacrifice of being a priest, but they do end up that way sometimes. I think they need to be more intentional about it and seek it out. The priests in our city make it a point to get together every week now. They didn’t do that when I first got here. That kind of thing is important because no one is called to be lonely. We’re all made for relationship. I think I would want to be a priest in an order for that reason though. It seems like more fun.

      I don’t think married priests are really the answer either. John Paul II put that one to rest and it’s not going to happen anyway. I think seminarians need to learn how to live out their priestly vocation and celibacy more fully. If they’re correctly giving themselves to God and to their flock, and they have the charism of celibacy, fulfillment in relationship shouldn’t be a problem.

  2. Joyce, solitariness and loneliness can be a part of any vocation and any state in life. To be a stay-at-home mom with her first baby and no friends or family close by to help her can be lonely. To be an elderly person in a nursing home with no visitors can be lonely. To be a single person who never gets married or has children can be lonely. The list goes on and on. There is no reason to assume that diocesan priests are always lonely. Similarly, there is no reason to assume that married priests are never lonely. At some point in life, everyone will be lonely. No one can avoid the cross. Perhaps the shortage in the priesthood is really due to a culture that values comfort over sacrifice, and tells people that somehow they can avoid the cross.

    In short, I agree with Marc. All of us should be promoting and encouraging vocations to the priesthood as much as we can.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Yeah, as I said before, I don’t think anyone’s charism is to be lonely…but we all end up there at some point in our lives don’t we? I definitely agree with you that there is a shortage in values that prefer comfort over sacrifice. You’re right there.

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. Sherri Paris says:

    That’s a very beautifully done video…thanks, Marc!

  4. My parish does not have a shortage of vocations; we crank them out to put it bluntly. We’ll see our third seminarian in 8 years be ordained next month, with the fourth in 2014.

    And yeah, I make it clear in catechism class that it’s important to keep your ears open to God’s call. I deal directly with the celibacy issue as well, with reference to:

    Matt 19:12: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” That is straight out of God’s mouth, by the way.

    The lives of the apostles, including married Peter, who said, “We have given up everything [everything?] and followed you. What will there be for us?”

    The general idea that giving up, foregoing a good thing, can itself be- a good thing.

    And that nuns who ‘marry’ Jesus, and priests who ‘marry’ the church are anticipating life in heaven: “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven.”

    When all the parts of a parish are working in harmony together, vocations aren’t something that needs special seminars or special anything. They are simply the natural fruits of a motivated Catholic community.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Yeah, I believe it that there’s no shortage of vocations in your parish, Christian. You’ve got great preaching, great examples, and great catechists…if you’re any indication. Can’t go wrong with that!

  5. BTW, ‘shortage’ is a relative term. In 2011 NCR said: “In the United States and Europe, the priest-to-baptized Catholic ratio today is 1 in 1,300; in Africa, it’s almost 1 in 5,000; in Southeast Asia, it’s 1 in 5,300; and in Latin America, it’s a staggering 1 in 7,000.”

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Well, I suppose it is relative but there’s no denying that the amount of priests in the United States is not ideal for the number of Catholics in the average parish. They say that one person can only really effectively pastor 250 people on a personal level. Because most parishes don’t really have many assistants or lay people assisting the pastor, we could use more priests to meet the ideal. But, I suppose you make do with what the Lord gives you!

Speak Your Mind