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June 25, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 17

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THE CATHOLIC  DIOCESE OF  RICHMOND

– Necrology

COMMENTARY

The one and only

Catholics of the Diocese of Richmond can surely rejoice in the June 2 ordination of four new priests. It is a sign that bodes well for the future of the Catholic Church in our diocese.

Three of the four new priests grew up in Virginia and two of them attended Catholic schools. The fourth priest, Father Carlos Lerma, is from Colombia and says he was readily embraced by both Hispanic and Anglo Catholics who helped nurture his vocation. In recognition of that, his first Mass after ordination was a bi-lingual liturgy at St. Augustine’s Church in both English and Spanish.

Father Lerma’s Colombian roots help achieve an ever growing diversity in our diocesan Church. As a sign of increasing diversity, we have in recent years welcomed priests from African dioceses and from the Philippines. We need each and every one of them to make the Church’s sacraments available to all who want and need them.

While Catholics should never be triumphalistic over those they deem less fortunate, we in the Richmond diocese need to realize that other much larger American dioceses are not faring as well in gaining new priests.

A case in point is the ordination of only one priest this year in the Archdiocese of New York. Not only is New York by far the largest city of the United States, a much larger percentage of its population is Catholic.

Yet only one priest, Father Patric F. D’Arcy, was ordained in the Archdiocese of New York this year. It is the only time in the past 110 years that New York has seen such a low number.

Father D’Arcy is not even from New York nor even an American citizen. He comes from a small suburb of Toronto. He transferred to a New York seminary here three years ago, he said, because he had a special interest in working with Latin American immigrants. With that interest, he could have chosen to go to any number of dioceses.

While the number of seminarians in larger American dioceses has declined in recent years, the Diocese of Richmond is seeing an increase in the number of men inquiring about the priesthood. Father Michael Boehling, Vicar for Vocations, emphasized we should be cautious because simply by the way formation works, we may have a few lighter years in number of men being ordained.

In the meantime, two new candidates to the diocese’s priestly formation program were accepted earlier this June bringing the total to 17 men who are in formation. Thanks should go to Father Michael Boehling who regularly visits college campuses and meets with students who have quietly expressed an interest in learning about the priesthood. Such dialogue is critical.

“Quality is more important than quantity,” Father Boehling told The Catholic Virginian. “Of course, the longer term perspective looks good.”

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