Six distinguished alumni will also Â be properly honored- an archbishop, a bishop, two former priests and Â two lay persons in crucial Â government service. But the greatest celebration has to be the investiture of 25 seminarians in the Lord’s Vineyard.
The large harvest is a silver lining in a darkening firmament of lesser priests to serve the ministry today. The priestly vocation -has been taken too literally -as many are called and few are chosen.Â That’s why there are too few chosen ones today.While the Roman Catholic population has doubled we have less priests today than before.
World-wide, in 1980 there was one priest for every 1,800 people; today it is 1 for every 3,000. In the Philippines, it is one for every 8,000-mainly because we are mostly Roman Catholics.
Statistics show that in 1970, there were about 419,000 priests; 44 years later in 2014-only 414,000 priests , there are. Worldwide, there are 50,000 parishes still without a parish priest. “Linking” is often resorted to Â in Â some areas- like Â two parishes sharing a common priest.
Priests die, retire or leave the priesthood much faster than we ordain new ones . The result is that the average age of the priests today is getting older while the population gets younger. The “generation gap” can sometimes pose problems in evangelization.
The lack of priests has Â truly become an “acute crisis” for the Â Catholic Church.
For man is composed of body and Â soul-we were told in kindergarten.And we have to take care of both.
Modern society, however , has become too Â secularized and has Â prospered in large measure. The tenets of spirituality and “poverty in spirit” are, thereby, being pushed away into the margins of public consciousness, as a result. This phenomenon can also affect priests, human as they are.
The ratio of seminarians Â eventually becoming priests, we were told, is just a low Â 10%. It is true in our case where only one of the nine seminarians from Bohol entering the Â SVD batch of 1965 became a priest. Only the saintly one.
There is just so much temptation lording over media, the arts and film, music , advertisements and consumerism that one is made “the odd man out” if he is “not of this world.”
One extreme comment that we do not necessarily buy is that there “are fewer priests to be role models” today Â for those wanting to enter the royal priesthood. Our own seemingly agnostic president Rody Duterte accuses the church of being a bastion of hypocrisy.Others accuse it of wallowing in extreme wealth amid the wanton poverty of parishioners.
There have been challenges Â as highlighted by the movie “Spotlight” (Oscar awardee) of priests molesting children in a state of the USA and the Â church hierarchy becoming a willing Â conspirator by hiding the offenses by merely reassigning the culprits- thus failing to address the Â root cause of the problem.
Let us be frank and be adults. There are also stories of priest maintaining Â girl friends and even siring children while donning the cassock. This has become a positive scandal to many people.
Thus it Â has been Â soundly argued that the vow of “celibacy” has been the single biggest deterrent why men do not enter the seminary.Â They claim it is totally against human nature not to indulge in sex.
A joke has been circulating, for instance, Â that a new papal decree now allows priests to marry at the age of 65- on ONE CONDITION. That they Â have to get the written consent of their grandparents!
Meaning it is Â really now an impossibility to repeal celibacy as a sacerdotal requirement- the current Pope Francis has so emphasized his doctrinal stand on the matter.
But on balance- a huge majority of the clergy still stands as a paragons of virtue and aptly represents Christ here on earth. They continue to edify the flock with good behavior and even act as enlightened counselors for community problems from the prism of Christianity’s standpoint.
Most Â priests and bishops continue to dispense the sacraments needed by the faithful to stay in grace till death. From Confession, Mass and Communion, Extreme Unction, Baptism, Confirmation Â and Holy Orders- our beloved priests are fitting instruments for dispensing God’s grace here.
The kingdom of priests is needed, indeed, to bless a nation yearning to become holy-as depicted in the Old Testament.
Indeed- does this secular world of perverted values need more dedicated priests. The former Cardinal Ratzinger opined that one of the other reasons of the paucity of seminarians now is the lowering of the number of Â members in the family which is now just 1.8 children per family. The choice of surrendering one member (in a tiny family) Â to God’s crusade becomes more daunting.
It is in this world-wide “vocation crisis” that we realize the importance of an institution like the IHMS which in this secular world continues to spin out graduates into the ever widening vineyard of the Lord.Â All our prayers , then, today a Sunday -should be directed towards giving strength, stability and definitive purpose to this special school in Taloto. On record, the seminary has produced eight Boholano bishops, namely, Most Rev. Felix Zafra,, Most Rev. Jesus B. Tuquib, Most Rev. Juan de Dios M. Pueblos, Most Rev. Zacarias C. Jimenez, Most Rev. Alfredo Baquial, Most Rev. Antonieto D. Cabajog, Most Rev. Bernardito Auza and Most Rev. Crispin Varquez
It has been one of the reasons Â why Bohol continues to be perceived as the province with the most produced numbers of priests and nuns.
What is also often overlooked is the role of the IHMS alumni Â (lay persons) play in the various fields and communities they thrive. Many of then hold the torch of rectitude, ethics and Christian morality in their lives for others to witness and emulate. They too are ambassadors Â of God’s Gospel.
In all of these, thank you IHMS for what you have made of all those men who once Â passed your Â blessed corridors. SHALOM!
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