LONDON, APRIL 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- As controversy continues to surround the Beijing Olympics, the Church in England and Wales is using the human rights situation in China to promote vocations to the priesthood.
Materials for the annual Vocations Sunday, celebrated on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, include a workshop to examine China’s treatment of religion and the imprisonment of many bishops and priests, who nevertheless remain faithful to their vocation.
This workshop, along with one on World Youth Day in July and another on the 150th anniversary of the Lourdes apparitions, are helping to promote vocations to the priesthood in England and Wales.
Various local initiatives support the national vocations campaign. The Diocese of Clifton, for example, posted on its vocations Web site various interviews with current seminarians.
Church leaders in those countries are guardedly optimistic as the situation of priestly vocations there has steadily seen improvement. There are currently 160 men training to become priests in England and Wales, the highest figure for a number of years. In 2007, 44 men began priestly formation — the same as the previous year, which was the fourth consecutive year in which the Church reported an increase in the number of those beginning seminary studies.
Still, the director of the Church’s Vocations Office, Father Paul Embery, is not complacent and is aware of the challenges: “During the 1960’s we saw a large number of priests ordained, which was atypical of much of the Church’s history in this country. Many of these are now coming up to retirement age and currently, there are not enough men being ordained to replace them.”