Paris -- Worshop on priestly vocations

On Tuesday, February 1, some fifty priests from various dioceses gathered at the parish of Saint Pierre du Gros Caillou in Paris. Among them were three diocesan delegates of vocations and the superior of a Belgian seminary. They met to study the question of priestly vocations, so essential for the life of the Church.

The workshop included three presentations followed by a discussion, a Eucharistic concelebration and lunch. “We wanted to discuss this subject,” explained one of the organizers, “from three viewpoints. Msgr. Anatrella dealt with the individual facing the decision of the priesthood. Fr. Guillaume de Menthière emphasized the way the Church calls candidates to the priesthood. Finally, Professor Levillain focussed on the topic from the viewpoint of history in general and the history of the Church in particular.”

Msgr. Tony Anatrella, a specialist in social psychiatry and a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Family, explained some psychological characteristics of the process of personal maturity in candidates to the priesthood, and the importance of channeling them towards the cultivation of interior life. In addition, he emphasized the influence of the “visibility” of the priest in the process of young people identifying with the priesthood. Priests, he said, have to attract by their example, and thus they have to care for the image they project in their way of dressing and conducting themselves.

Fr. Guillaume de Menthière, a teacher at the Cathedral School in Paris and pastor of the church of St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, spoke of the need to create a culture that fosters vocations, as John Paul II recommended. “The Church calls the candidate who has the necessary qualities,” he said. But, he explained, “such suitability is necessarily somewhat open, for in reality only God knows what priests the Church needs. Therefore, one should have no fear of calling people, of having imaginative initiatives, of launching out in an apostolate that seeks them out.”

Finally, Philippe Levillain, professor at the University of Nanterre and member of the Institut Universitaire de France, spoke of priestly vocations in France and of applying in French seminaries the guidelines of the Council of Trent on the formation of the clergy. After an historical journey through the 19th and 20th centuries, he said: “societies have the priests they deserve.” If at times vocations are lacking, it is because the laity are not responding to the fundamental questions facing humanity at a particular period.

Romana, n. 40, January-June 2005, p. 154-155.

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