Fr. Britto's Blog

Need for Good Shepherds

You might have heard about this undertaking in the archdiocese called “Renew My Church”. It is an attempt to prepare the Church in Chicago for the future, taking into account the growing shortage of priests. Several parishes have already been closed or merged. Our ordination classes are getting smaller while the number of priests retiring each year is growing. We just celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday when we focused our attention on Jesus Who lays down His life for us. Just like Jesus, we need good shepherds to take care of Catholics here in the US.

“What are we to do?” one may ask. I would like to suggest four things that we all can do quite easily.

First of all, we need to pray. That is what Jesus counseled His disciples to do. He said, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest.” When we pray we do not get discouraged by the dismal numbers. We realize that He is the Lord of the harvest. This Church is His, not ours. The Holy Spirit is very creative and will always find ways to send laborers. When as a little boy I learnt to be an altar-server, I never imagined that someday a married man would be at the altar assisting the priest as a deacon. In our own parish we have two active deacons and a retired deacon. Once upon a time the parishes were completely run and managed by the priests and the nuns. To some extent because of the lack of priests and religious, lay ministries have flourished in the Church. Those of us in the pews have come to realize that we all are the Church, not only the priests, the bishops and the religious. If we keep praying, the Lord will provide.

Second, we need to revisit our image of the priesthood and religious life. Because of the sex abuse scandals and other awful stories about priests and nuns, their image has become tarnished. The priesthood has lost a lot of its appeal and justifiably so. We must bear in mind that in contrast to these terrible men and women who wreaked havoc on our young, the majority have tried to be faithful. I have personally met many wonderful priests and nuns who have dedicated themselves to Christ and His service. Priesthood is a noble vocation that young men should aspire for. Looking back on my 39 years as a priest, I can sincerely declare that this has been an amazing ride. I feel so content and fulfilled as the Lord has filled me with numerous blessings.

Third, we need to encourage young people to consider vocations to the priesthood, religious life and to lay ministries as a wonderful life path. When I was growing up, both my father and mother encouraged us to consider those vocations. In fact, my dad would often repeat to me and my brother: “The best thing a smart boy can do is to become a priest.” He never pressured or compelled us. In response to his encouragement, both my brother and I entered the junior seminary. My sister became a Franciscan nun. If children do not hear such words of encouragement, the call of God gets stifled by the alluring noises of the world. Don Bosco, a great saint of the Church, used to say that one out of every three boys has a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Parents and grandparents should talk about the joy of serving the Lord in the Church. I wish that more young people from our parish will become priests, nuns, and lay ministers. That is a blessing I keep praying for.

Finally, we must become the laborers who enter God’s vineyard with our sleeves rolled up. By our baptism, we have been given a mission to establish God’s Kingdom wherever we are. Our parish has many opportunities to get involved. In our liturgical or music ministries, in our social services or in various groups such as the Apostolate of Women or the Men’s Club, in senior groups or bereavement ministry, we can find an avenue to imitate the Master Who came not to be served but to serve. God’s work is never done and in small or big ways, all of us can contribute to build up His Kingdom here in Park Ridge. I encourage everyone to join God’s labor force.

I am earnest in saying that religious and priestly vocations must come from our own families. After all, the priests and sisters who serve today came from families like ours. Please keep praying for this intention in your personal as well as in your family prayer.

Who is Fr. Britto?

Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.

After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...

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St. Paul of the Cross

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Park Ridge, IL 60068

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