In past 10 years, Archdiocese of Detroit has ordained 42 men to the priesthood, while 125 priests retired or serving in archdiocese died
DETROIT — During the Chrism Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on April 14, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron announced to the faithful that the Archdiocese of Detroit will begin a Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations, starting with a Holy Hour on the vigil on Pentecost on June 4 and ending on the solemnity of Pentecost in 2023.
This year of prayer is a response to the fact that for the first time in at least 70 years (Detroit Catholic could not verify records before then), there will be no priestly ordinations in the Archdiocese of Detroit this year.
“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.”
Fr. Craig Giera, director of priestly vocations for the archdiocese, said the year of prayer is a call to arms for the Church in Detroit to rally together and pray for more men to answer God’s call to the priesthood.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize there is a shortage of priests, and (the year of prayer) will be a great way for people to understand the situation that we are in,” Fr. Giera told Detroit Catholic. “We are certainly in a decline when comparing the number of ordinations to the number of priests who are retiring, and it's a fast decline. So this Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations is to get the whole archdiocese involved in praying for men to say 'yes' to their vocation to the priesthood.”
In the past 10 years, the Archdiocese of Detroit has ordained 42 men to the priesthood, while over the same span, 125 priests who were retired or serving the archdiocese in some capacity died, according to an unofficial Detroit Catholic count (the latter number includes religious order priests).
While the archdiocese receives some priests from religious communities and from other dioceses who serve in its parishes and schools, it's not enough to make up the difference.
The year of prayer will launch with a holy hour on the vigil of Pentecost at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament to beg God for more vocations, Fr. Giera explained. In addition, Archbishop Vigneron will release a pastoral note to help guide the faithful in praying for vocations.
Fr. Giera said a special prayer will be added to the prayers of the faithful for more priestly vocations, and resources will be made available with information on how people can participate in the year of prayer.
If something doesn’t change soon, the Church will soon feel the impact of this shortage, Fr. Giera explained.
It takes six to eight years to form a man to be ready for priestly ordination. Currently, there are 22 men from the Archdiocese of Detroit preparing for priesthood, with the majority studying at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. This year, five men will become transitional deacons, Fr. Giera said, and the expectation is those five men will be ordained to the priesthood next year.
According to a report released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) out of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., from 1970 to 2020, the number of priests in the United States has declined by 60 percent. In 2021, there were 441 priestly ordinations — a 45 percent decrease since 1970.
“I don’t know statistically why this (shortage) is happening, but I think the culture and secularization of our world is taking God out of everything, and men are not thinking about coming to the priesthood,” Fr. Giera said. “It is somewhere stated that the largest growing population of religion in America right now is called ‘nones,’ meaning people who don’t believe anything. I think they have surpassed the number of Roman Catholics in the U.S. today.
"There are whole generations that have not walked into a church before or believe anything," Fr. Giera added. "This, of course, permeates all of the culture and makes it hard for men to discern a call even if they are in the Church.”
In order for men to hear the call to the priesthood, they need to know they have a good and loving Father in heaven and develop a personal relationship with Him, Fr. Giera said.
“A vocation comes out of a relationship, just as a vocation to marriage comes out of two people falling in love and getting to know each other. A vocation to the priesthood is a relationship with God," Fr. Giera said. "(By) growing in that relationship, a man can hear God’s voice and say 'yes' to his invitation to become a priest."
Having a healthy prayer life is crucial to developing this relationship, Fr. Giera explained.
"Knowing the importance of the sacraments and taking time to read his word but also spend time in silent prayer to hear him speak heart to heart, those are incredibly important for men to hear a call to the priesthood.”
To help encourage men who might be discerning a vocation, Fr. Giera leads a regular discernment group — a small group of Catholic men ages 18-55 who meet for prayer, discussion and no-pressure fellowship. Men can also take part in discernment weekends at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where those who feel a calling can spend four days living at the seminary to experience what it's like and interact with other like-minded men.
Fr. Giera said men who already know their vocations and have been ordained to the priesthood need to be inviting, encouraging and supportive of young men who might be called.
“This is a call to everybody to take this to heart — we need priestly vocations in order for the sacraments to be taking place, especially the Eucharist and confession," Fr. Giera said. "Beg our Blessed Mother; our mother always intercedes for us through her son, Jesus. And encourage and support young men to say yes."
Archdiocese of Detroit ordinations since 2012
*Five men will be ordained transitional deacons for the Archdiocese of Detroit on April 23, 2022. If they complete their formation, these men would be ordained priests in 2023.
To learn more about priestly vocations in the Archdiocese of Detroit or to join the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations, visit prayforvocations.com.
Vocations Archdiocese of Detroit