When Father Gerard Francik recently interviewed a 19-year-old who was thinking about becoming a priest, the Baltimore archdiocesan vocations director asked him to talk about his prayer life.
The former high school footballer told Father Francik how he faithfully makes a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, attends Mass, prays the rosary and observes the liturgy of the hours - daily.
That young man is typical of those who are stepping forward to become priests these days, according to Father Francik. Many are still in their teens, and show unbridled enthusiasm for living out their religious convictions.
The vocations director said there are more young men inquiring about becoming priests than in previous years. 'We have 16- and 17- year-olds just beating down the door,' he said. 'It gives me encouragement to see so many young people on fire for their faith. It gives us hope for the future.'
Last year's incoming seminarian class at 13 was the largest in nearly two decades with the 2008 class also due to hit double digits.
Although parishes and schools have become more proactive there are still some that need to do more. 'Some of our parishes have three or four guys who are in the seminary and many have zero,' he said, noting that there are about 20 parishes represented among the men currently preparing for the priesthood.
If every parish could encourage just one man to consider the priesthood, more than 150 new priests might be ordained in the next several years.
'The pastor really sets the tone,' with personal invitations critical. 'If you talk about vocations and pray for vocations, it makes a difference.' (Catholic News Service)