The Liturgical Christmas season has ended with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord yesterday. In the gospel Jesus is affirmed and empowered by the Father for his public mission. In my homily, I reflected on the beautiful first reading from Isaiah 55, the last chapter of the Book of Consolation. “Come to the water all you who thirst”. At this time of pandemic we need consolation and a reminder to continue to trust in the Lord who loves us with an overwhelming love. Apart from Covid-19, this is a challenging time for us in the Church in many ways.
In October, last year, it was announced that St John’s Seminary, where young men have been prepared for the priesthood for 130 years is to close this summer. There were no new students admitted at the beginning of the last academic year. I trained there from 1969 to 1975 when there were over 70 students in the house. Today there are only seventeen students in residence, six of whom are due to complete their studies in July 2021 and it is planned that the other eleven will be transferred to Allen Hall Seminary in London. While we cannot ignore this crisis in which young men are not answering the call to ministerial priesthood, I think it is also important that we need to foster the activity role of the laity in the Churches mission.
This call is rooted in our baptism and confirmation. “The apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the saving mission of the Church. Through Baptism and Confirmation all the baptised are appointed to this apostolate by the Lord himself” The Sacrament of Baptism frees us from original sin but it is also a sacrament of belonging to the family and mission of the church. All who are baptised are called to participate actively in the church’s mission of carrying on the work of Christ’s kingdom. One writer has said that the vocations crisis of today is principally about our failure to nurture the vocation of all the baptised to active mission. The challenge is for us to understand the implications for us in 2021.