Take a look at some of the good news coming from various seminaries across the US and you'll find that the Holy Spirit is still at work in the Church.
The St Paul Seminary is welcoming 33 new seminarians this autumn, bringing its total number of men studying for the priesthood to 92. It's the largest group the seminary has had since 1981. The seminarians for the Archdiocese of St Paul-Minneapolis are from 14 dioceses and three foreign countries.
"Our strong enrolment reflects the growing number of men who are answering God's call to the priesthood," said Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan, Rector of the St Paul Seminary School of Divinity. "Their witness offers hope for the future of our Church."
The Diocese of Saint Cloud, Minnesota, currently has more men in formation than it has had in over 40 years.
Meanwhile, the Sacred Heart School of Theology - a seminary for men over the age of 30 - in Franklin, Wisconsin, has accepted their largest enrolment class in 20 years. Forty-two new seminarians have been signed up for autumn, putting enrolment at 210. The incoming class is nearly double last year's.
"A lot of guys ... [have] decided that all this stuff they've been chasing all of their lives is not as important as they thought it was," said Father Thomas Knoebel, Vice Rector for the seminary.
The Dominican order, too, - both male and female - is experiencing what Sister Joseph Andrew, Vocation Director with Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, describes as a "spiritual explosion."
On 28 August, the teaching order Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, welcomed 22 new young women as aspirants to their community. The average age of the aspirants who just came in is 21. The average age of the entire group is 26. Founded in 1997 by four sisters originally from the Nashville Dominicans, the order presently has a total of 113 in the community.
The order is currently looking at the possibility of starting another mother house in either California or Texas, where land has already been donated.
Other Dominicans are experiencing growth as well.
On 2 August, the Dominican Province of St Joseph accepted 21 men as novices. That's the Eastern province's largest novitiate class since 1966. As evidenced both in diocesan seminaries and religious orders, those entering religious life are trending younger. The average age of those coming into the Eastern province is 24.
The Nashville Dominicans thought that last year's class would be their largest group of incoming postulants at 23. However, during the order's 150th Jubilee, they had their biggest incoming class ever this year with 27 women entering. The order's average age is 24.
Overall, the order is comprised of 274 nuns teaching in 34 schools across the country.
Why are young people being attracted to the Dominican order in such numbers?
Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP, the American-born Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, had some thoughts on the question which he shared with the Capitulars of the Provincial Chapter on June 12.
"Our [Dominican] tradition is constituted by a unique convergence of qualities:
"Optimism about the rationality and fundamental goodness of the natural order; an abiding certitude that divine grace and mercy are sheer gifts, unmerited and otherwise unattainable; a healthy realism about the peril of the human condition apart from this grace and mercy; a determination to maintain a God's-eye-view of everything that exists and everything that happens.
"An appreciation of the inner intelligibility of everything that God has revealed about himself and us; a wholly admirable resistance to all purely moralistic accounts of the Catholic faith; an unfailing devotion to the Eucharist and the Passion, combined with an unshakable confidence in the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
"A zealous willingness to preach and teach about all this, in season and out, because we are convinced that the world is dying to hear it and dying from not hearing it; and, internally, a commitment to liturgical prayer, to study for the sake of the salvation of souls, and to a capitular mode of governance in a common life consecrated to God by poverty, chastity and obedience.
"This is a powerful combination, and the Church really does need us to be true to it now more than ever."
Tim Drake is a columnist with the US Catholic weekly, National Catholic Register (NCR), and is a regular contributor to other Catholic publications. This article first appeared in NCR and is reprinted with its permission and that of the author (www.ncregister.com).