The March edition of AD2000 reported Pope John Paul's admonition to the French Bishops on the question of priestly vocations. The decline in vocations to the priesthood in France accelerated after World War II.
In 1957, when I was only two months ordained, I was sent from the seminary at Manly to St Canice's Church, Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, to celebrate Sunday Mass.
The then Director of the Propagation of the Faith in Australia, Monsignor Algie Thomas, later the Bishop of Bathurst, preached an appeal for St Columba's Seminary, Springwood, at every Mass.
He told the story of an Australian Bishop who had in 1956 met the Papal Nuncio to France and found him in a sombre mood. The Nuncio pointed to the ordination figures for France for that year to show the reason for his depression.
Monsignor Thomas assured us that this would not happen in Australia. I imagine that the congregation believed, as I did, that we were immune from France's secularism.
St Columba's College and St Patrick's, Manly, like many other seminaries, have ceased to exist. Even the most generous interpretation of the number of seminarians in Australia indicates continuing wintry conditions for the Church rather than a second spring.
There are of course glimmers of light. Last year a young man from Melbourne addressed an assembly of Adelaide priests and spoke inspiringly of what he believes is his call to the priesthood. Michael is not in a seminary yet. He will return soon to Adelaide to tell his story to a gathering of young people.
Perhaps there could be a concerted effort by the Australian Bishops to sponsor apostles like the man I refer to. (They do exist among us.) These could be sent to visit parishes and schools as invited. A positive combatting of the negativity that surrounds the image of a vocation to the priesthood must be the first step in attempting to change our present bleak climate.
MONSIGNOR ROBERT EGAR
Seacombe Gardens, SA