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Reflections on Vocations
given by
Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz of Anchorage, Alaska
at the Bishops’ Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, June 14, 2001

The U.S. society is experiencing the return of the proverbial pendulum in terms of today's young people, and that should be good news for vocations.

In the last few decades, the pendulum has swung against young peoples' aligning themselves with any institution, be it military, government or church. Right now, as the pendulum swings back, we see young people who are less distrustful of authority and more likely to be involved in service projects and in groups which fight poverty and abortion.

Quoting Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of "Millennials Rising," Archbishop Schwietz said those born in the last 20 years -- dubbed the "millennials" -- "are beginning to manifest a wide array of positive social habits that older Americans no longer associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty and good conduct."

"Over the next decade the millennial generation will entirely recast the image of youth from downbeat and alienated to upbeat and engaged -- with potentially seismic consequences for America," Howe and Strauss added.

I hope that we're also looking at seismic consequences for the church. Note the tens of thousands of young people have participated in world youth days and that 25,000 are expected at this year's National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis in December, compared to 7,000 eight years ago.

Some blame the decline in vocations to priesthood and the consecrated life on celibacy and the male-only priesthood. But the fact is that there is a lack of vocations today in many faith communities, Christian and Jewish, including those which ordain women and have a married clergy. This suggests that we are dealing with a problem which may be more cultural than religious.

The bad news is that this makes the problem somewhat more challenging, though not impossible, to address. The good news, however, is that the culture is changing, and it bodes well for vocations.


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