VATICAN - World Day of Prayer for Vocations: increases in Africa and Asia
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - The "World Day of Prayer for Vocations" is celebrated on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, this year on April 25, which is known as "the Sunday of the Good Shepherd", as in the Eucharistic liturgy the passage from the Gospel of John is proclaimed in which Jesus presents himself as "the Good Shepherd".
Pope Francis, in his message for the 58th Vocations Day of 25 April 2021, refers to the figure of the Bridegroom of Mary, in the year dedicated to the Patron of the Catholic Church, and to his dreams: Joseph decided to entrust himself to God and his life became a "masterpiece", so he can be considered the model of every vocation. "God looks on the heart and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines. Vocations have this same goal: to beget and renew lives every day. The Lord desires to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers: hearts that are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties and steadfast in strengthening hopes. The priesthood and the consecrated life greatly need these qualities nowadays, in times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic, which has spawned uncertainties and fears about the future and the very meaning of life. Saint Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way, as one of “the saints next door”. At the same time, his strong witness can guide us on the journey".
The World Day of Prayer for Vocations therefore offers the opportunity to pray, reflect and deepen the gift and mystery of Christ's call to follow him, and the responsibility of every baptized person to support the journey of those, in every corner of the earth, who become missionaries of the Gospel. Looking at the recent statistics, it is evident that vocations are growing in the territories defined as "mission", in Africa and Asia, while they are constantly decreasing in Europe, alternating between slight decreases and increases, in America and Oceania. Taking into consideration 5 years, from 31 December 2014 to 31 December 2018, according to data from the Statistical Yearbook of the Church prepared by Fides, some observations can be made. The number of diocesan and religious priests in the world has gone from 415,792 (in 2014) to 414,065 (in 2018). Continents: Africa from 42,915 to 47,812; America from 122,989 to 122,383; Asia from 63,610 to 68,265; Europe from 181,642 to 170,036; Oceania from 4,636 to 4,669. Non-religious priest in the world were 54,559 in 2014 and 50,941 in 2018. Africa from 8,758 to 8,996; America from 15,636 to 14,125; Asia from 11,921 to 12,280; Europe from 16,788 to 14,274; Oceania from 1,456 to 1,266. Women religious in the world went from 682,729 (in 2014) to 641,661 (in 2018). Africa from 70,608 to 76,219; America from 177,605 to 160,032; Asia from 170,366 to 174,165; Europe from 256,137 to 224,246; Oceania from 8,013 to 6,999. Major seminarians, diocesan and religious, in the world increased from 116,939 (in 2014) to 115,880 (in 2018). Africa from 28,528 to 32,212; America from 33,985 to 31,414; Asia from 34,469 to 34,719; Europe from 18,945 to 16,518; Oceania from 1,012 to 1,017. Minor seminarians, dioceses and religious, in the world increased from 102,942 (in 2014) to 100,164 (in 2018). Africa from 53,339 to 53,555; America from 14.008 to 12.106; Asia from 25,646 to 25,406; Europe from 9,747 to 8,920; Oceania from 202 to 177. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 24/4/2021)