At U.S. seminaries, a rise in millennials answering God’s call

NPR reports: “At U.S. seminaries, a rise in millennials answering God’s call.” It seems that seminarians are getting younger, as more men discern a possible vocation to ordained ministry at a younger age.

These comments on liturgy from Fr. Thomas Baima, vice rector at Mundelein Seminary outside Chicago, will interest Pray Tell readers:

Baima, the vice rector at Mundelein, also argues that other aspects of contemporary society — its pace, the use of technology, the emphasis on visuals — may also play a role in explaining the demographic shift underway.

“Perhaps a form of worship that stresses beauty and the majesty of God … is filling a contemporary need that we might not be recognizing,” he says. “Is the fact that it’s a more visual experience simply lining up with a generation with whom visual communication is far more important because of technology’s changes?

“Is it because more traditional worship provides more quiet and reflective experiences in an age when information just crashes over them like waves?” Baima asks. “These are only hypotheses, but it’s a question.”


  1. Fr. Baima’s comments are interesting, but the story is broader.

    I would also highlight this passage, in which Fr. Brown puts his finger on a key issue:

    “We see a lot of young people … who have experienced what they have perceived or experienced as chaos in the life around them and society around them,” he says. “Many of them have been looking for a more orderly or safe kind of life that they see that the tradition of the church represents.”

    That’s not inherently a bad thing, Brown says.

    “But to the extent that it might represent a kind of retrenchment and unwillingness to engage the world, rather to see yourself as against the world around you, that’s not a good thing,” he says. “That’s not what the Gospel is about, that’s not what the Christian faith is about, that’s not what the church is about.”

    1. @Rita Ferrone:

      I would like to engage Rita Ferrone’s second quotation of Fr. Philip Brown.

      I am much closer than yesterday to realizing why the reformed liturgy is vital for today. I have expressed on PTB my discomfort with EMHCs. I now realize that the laity, laymen and laywomen, must have some role in the liturgy beyond the reading of scripture. Many laypeople need to see themselves in the liturgy, whether as actual participants in the sanctuary or vicariously. Some people wish to have liturgical contact (such as the administration of communion) with a person of the same sex. I now realize that the desire for laypeople to “see themselves” in the liturgical participants is positive. The monosexuality of the clergy does not permit this. I apologize if my explanation is simplistic or even insulting. Yet, this realization requires a great deal of reflection for some people, certainly including me.

      A peril of traditionalism is the notion that the reformed liturgy must be “tridentinized”, or that the EF’s putative superiority places this liturgy at a higher priority than the Ordinary Form. If a commmunity is not only accustomed to the Ordinary Form but derives intense spiritual nourishment from its celebration, then a newly ordained priest who is traditionalist in orientation must necessarily celebrate Masses which nourish the assembly and not the self. Most people learn eventually that a commitment often requires personal sacrifice. Seminarians who demand that they will only say Mass in one way might not be suitable candidates.

      I am not a rector or spiritual director. I am convinced that seminarians should receive training in the Extraordinary Form if desired. Yet I would hope that a permission to learn the EF would be granted only to those seminarians who are willing to be flexible and sensitive to other’s spiritual requirements.

  2. As a follow up to this article – I would be interested in knowing how many of these young millennials who end up in seminary formation are products of LifeTeen. Without sounding harsh, I have found LifeTeen to be heavily problematic among young men in seminary who were products of that program.

    1. @Jason R. Lewis:

      I am curious about your statement. Why would a background in LifeTeen prove problematic for a seminarian? Does the problem pertain to the style of worship, the orthodoxy of the preaching and catechism, or another variable? I strongly suspect that LifeTeen programs vary by church and diocese.

      I never participated in LifeTeen as a child. However, I have attended several charismatic Masses. I did not hear anything which was theologically heterodox. Readers of PTB know well that a charismatic Mass is not my interest (infact, they make me a bit uncomfortable.) Even so, this discomfort is mine and not inherent to the style of Mass.

  3. “But to the extent that it might represent a kind of retrenchment and unwillingness to engage the world, rather to see yourself as against the world around you, that’s not a good thing,” he says. “That’s not what the Gospel is about…”

    This is a sort of statement that risks generating more heat than light because its terms are open to different interpretations arising from the different sorts of “baggage,” to employ a convenient shorthand, we bring to the discussion. Some individuals of a certain age may have experienced a Church that seemed to them reluctant to acknowledge any good outside of its visible communion and institutional life while also seemingly content to remain a sort of sequestered ethnic identity, uninterested in evangelistic expansion. Others of a different age may have experienced a Church that seemed to them much more interested in assimilation than integrity, rushing out to meet the rest of the world without first gathering up the goods from within to share once it had arrived. Either or both of those perceptions could be true or false, but I submit that their influence makes a difference in what we hear by “against the world” when it comes to “what the Gospel is about,” because we will want to correct whatever we perceive as current imbalances.

    The Gospel certainly sends us into the world and commands us to be a light within its darkness. But simultaneously it admonishes Christians that they are separate from the world, hated by it and, at war with its “powers.” Thus both accommodation (Paul’s all things to all) and confrontation (Stephen’s “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit”) are both legitimate possibilities for “engagement” in conformity with the Gospel. The young shouldn’t have to re-make all our mistakes; they are free to indict ours and then make their own.

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