Priestly vocations surge in Columbus, driven by bishop

priestly vocations

In Columbus, Ohio, the diligent efforts of the local bishop have led to a significant rise in priestly vocations in recent years.

Bishop Earl K Fernandes is spearheading efforts to cultivate a thriving culture of vocations within his diocese.

Since his ordination as bishop in 2022, Bishop Fernandes has witnessed a remarkable turnaround. In the past two years, the number of vocations to the priesthood has doubled in the Diocese of Columbus.

Contrastingly, there were no priestly ordinations and only 17 seminarians during his ordination year.

However, the recent surge in vocations is evident. Sixteen men entered the seminary this past year and 12 are in the application process for the following year.

The diocese currently boasts 37 seminarians and has celebrated five ordinations of priests this year. Three men were ordained to the transitional diaconate.

Vibrant culture of vocations

Central to Bishop Fernandes’ approach is cultivating a vibrant culture of vocations. This is evidenced by the joyful witness of priests across all age groups within the diocese.

He cited the example of 87-year-old Msgr James Walter whose unwavering dedication and infectious joy have attracted young men to consider a life in the priesthood.

Moreover, Bishop Fernandes emphasised the importance of priests and religious engaging directly with young people. This fosters trust and builds meaningful relationships.

The bishop has implemented various initiatives within the diocese to further nurture priestly vocations. These include the reinstatement of the Andrew Dinner which provides opportunities for young men to engage with him and seminarians, and the Marian Dinner which offers a similar platform for young women discerning religious orders.

Additionally, the diocese launched the Melchizedek Project, facilitating monthly meetings between young priests and those considering a vocation.

Day-to-day contact

The diocese has priests and religious teaching in diocesan high schools because Bishop Fernandes believes in “day-to-day contact with young people”.

Despite challenges such as the fallout from past scandals and societal pressures, Fernandes remains optimistic. He urges young people to prayer, frequent Mass attendance and time with the Lord in adoration.

He encouraged them to embrace their unique identities and heed the words of St Francis de Sales – “Be who you are and be that well. So that you may bring honour to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork you are”.

“We’re called to be comfortable in our own skin” Fernandes said. “God has given us this mind, this body, this heart by which we can love him and serve him and know him. And it’s important for us, for our own humanity, to encounter the Lord and to see how he’s calling us.”


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