For first time in generations, no men will be ordained for Detroit archdiocese in 2022: 'We cannot be blind to this challenge,' shepherd says
DETROIT — A chorus of voices rang out in unison during the consecration of the Holy Eucharist as part of Thursday morning's Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, as clergy from across the Archdiocese of Detroit concelebrated alongside their shepherd, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, in a liturgy that included the blessing of oils and consecration of Chrism.
The Mass, an annual celebration of Christ's institution of the priesthood during the Last Supper, is striking for the number of priests usually in attendance.
But the number inside the cathedral on April 14 wasn't the primary focus this day. Rather, it was the number who will be serving the local Church in the years ahead.
In addition to blessing the oils, the archbishop announced at the Mass that the archdiocese will begin a Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations, beginning with a Holy Hour on the vigil on Pentecost on June 4 and ending on the solemnity of Pentecost in 2023.
The reason? This year's Pentecost celebration won't include the typical ordination of priests for the Archdiocese of Detroit, the archbishop said.
“In less than a decade, we will have approximately fewer than half the number of priests serving this mission of grace. This fact is underscored by another that this spring for the first time in generations, there will be no men ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Detroit,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “As a Church on mission, called to proclaim the paschal mystery of Jesus, we cannot be blind to this challenge.”
Addressing the priests, deacons, bishops and lay faithful in attendance, Archbishop Vigneron said the Chrism Mass is a reminder that despite challenges, the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church.
“I believe it's made very clear in the text of the liturgy that the Chrism and the other oils are instruments for the working of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is an essential agent in all of the saving works that are accomplished in the liturgy,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “This year, I'd like to consider the role of the Holy Spirit more specifically in the Passover mystery, in the dying and rising of Jesus, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our share, our participation in the Passover mystery of Jesus — our share in his dying and rising.”
What the Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to accomplish in his paschal mystery is also what the Spirit enables the faithful to accomplish as members of Jesus, the archbishop said.
“Paul writes in the eighth chapter of the letter to the Romans, ‘You receive the spirit of adoption, through which you'll cry out, "Abba. Father."’ Paul goes on to say that this means as adopted sons and daughters in (Jesus Christ), we suffer with the Son, (Jesus), so that we may be glorified with (him),” Archbishop Vigneron explained. “We, like Christ, with Christ and in Christ, are able by the power of the Spirit of Christ to abandon ourselves into the Father's hands. We can say with Jesus: ‘Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.’”
This is what it means to be disciples and take up one's cross and follow Christ, the archbishop added.
The Holy Spirit can be seen working in all the sacraments, Archbishop Vigneron said, and this movement of the Spirit to make Christ's paschal mystery present in the life of the faithful is accomplished especially through priests.
“We are the Holy Spirit's instruments, his coworkers in reshaping the world by our work in cooperation with him of reshaping hearts and minds into the pattern of abandonment that belongs to Jesus the Son," Archbishop Vigneron said, addressing his fellow priests. "This is the heart of our ministry.”
This truth about the priestly role underscores the importance of priesthood in the Church, the archbishop explained. While priests aren't the only ones called to advance the Church's mission, their role is indispensable.
In light of this, Archbishop Vigneron said, the Church must face the reality of the shortage of priestly vocations in the Catholic Church at large, and specifically within the Archdiocese of Detroit.
The best way to do so is through prayer, the archbishop said. In addition to a Holy Hour to start the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations during the vigil of Pentecost, Archbishop Vigneron said he will release a pastoral note on priestly vocations in the coming weeks as a foundation for catechesis.
“We know that the Lord is calling men to share his priestly ministry. He never ceases to call men to be his coworkers,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “So we pray that more of those called will hear this invitation, listen with open hearts and respond generously and courageously to the challenge of becoming fishers of men in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Charlie Giroux, a third-year theology seminarian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said he is grateful for the archbishop's call to prayer and for drawing attention to the need for the people of God to support vocations by praying for the grace needed for young men to follow God's call for their lives.
“We are at a time where we need (this), and not just priestly vocations, but across the board," said Giroux, who is studying for the Archdiocese of Detroit. "We really need an increase in people’s desire to follow God’s calling for them.”
Giroux said his parents' constant reminder of God's persistent blessings and gifts has been instrumental in his discernment.
“We really don't deserve (His gifts), and because we don’t deserve it, it is something we can always fall back on, and it is something that no matter what happens or what is going on in life, we always have a home in God,” Giroux said. “Ever since I was young, that's what I've wanted to let people know: that they have a home in God.”
While Giroux is among a group of still-vibrant seminarians seeking to answer God's call, priests at the other end of the spectrum welcomed the archbishop's call to prayer.
Fr. Ted Parker, pastor of St. Charles Lwanga Parish in northwest Detroit, who is celebrating 50 years of priesthood this year, said the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations is an essential start to the archbishop's call for the Archdiocese of Detroit to place itself in the Holy Spirit's hands.
“We have to ask the Holy Spirit to grace us with people who are willing to be of service,” Fr. Parker said.
Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations
To learn more about priestly vocations in the Archdiocese of Detroit or to join the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations, visit prayforvocations.com. The year of prayer begins with a Holy Hour on June 4, 2022, the vigil of Pentecost, and concludes on the solemnity of Pentecost, May 28, 2023.