There are now 33 seminarians in the Diocese of Madison, up from six in 2003. Six were missing for this photo, taken at the seminarian gathering in Madison in August. Also pictured are Bishop Robert C. Morlino and Fr. Greg Ihm, director of vocations. A capital campaign seeks to raise $30 million for the education and formation of priests. (Catholic Herald photo/Pam Payne)
MADISON -- Both by lay people and priests alike, it’s been talked about, studied, and identified as the top concern facing the Diocese of Madison for several years now: the vocations crisis.
With a continuous line of faithful senior priests reaching retirement and a decidedly thinner lineup of priests ordained in the 1980s and ’90s, it would be hard to deny a crisis brewing.
Number one priority
In fact, so serious was the concern in the mind of Bishop Robert C. Morlino, and so clear was the message that he received from around the diocese, that he made the fostering of vocations to the priesthood his number one priority upon arriving in Madison in August of 2003.
The bishop, priests, and faithful of the diocese together initiated a program of fostering a “culture of vocations,” of inviting young men to consider the call God might be making to them, and to prayer -- especially in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament -- asking that more and more might answer the call of Jesus Christ.
And increasingly, men have been answering this need and God’s call with a profound “yes.” From six seminarians in 2003, the diocese has seen a near six-fold increase.
This year, the diocese is blessed to have 33 men studying for the priesthood, and the good news is that hopes remain high that (with continued prayers) growth in seminarian numbers will continue.
MADISON -- It was 10 years ago that three diocesan seminarians began a Holy Hour for Vocations in the chapel of the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center in the summer of 2004.
Knowing that the seminarians would be returning to their studies in fall, members of the Serra Club of Madison -- along with then Fr. Jim Bartylla, the club’s chaplain and director of vocations for the Diocese of Madison -- decided to institute daily Eucharistic Adoration for Vocations weekdays in the chapel from 9 to 11:45 a.m.
As with most anniversaries and milestones, it’s hard to believe it was 15 years ago, this past Sunday, that I knelt on the floor of the Cathedral of St. Helena, with the Gospel book opened over my head, being commissioned and ordained a bishop.
In some ways, that morning in Helena, Mont., seems like an eternity ago, and in other ways, it seems like just yesterday.