By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator

Two seminarians are scheduled to be ordained priests to the Diocese of Baton Rouge on May 25, signaling what could be an uptick in the number of vocations.

For the next three years, two new priests are scheduled to be ordained per year, an encouraging sign for Director of Seminarians Father Matt Lorrain, who has also previously served as Director of Vocations.

Father Lorrain said there are currently 19 seminarians in varying stages of formation, with Deacon Tim Grimes and Deacon John Vu scheduled to be ordained this year at St. Joseph Cathedral, with Bishop Michael G. Duca presiding.

“You’re always worried that the (priest sexual abuse) scandal has turned people off,” Father Lorrain said. “We haven’t seen that in large numbers; it’s been modest if any.”

“People are able to distinguish between the holiness of the church and the humanness of priest and religious,” he added. “Of course they are accepting of normal mistakes but the ones that (involve) psychological illness and emotional illness are more difficult to make room for.

“Priests are not immune to any of the struggles people go through.”

Father Lorrain said he and Director of Vocations Father Andrew Merrick employ several approaches promoting vocations, including assigning seminarians to work in church parishes every summer.

He said having a seminarian live and work in a parish is particularly effective because it gives high school students and young adults who may be considering a vocational life the opportunity to speak with someone who is already in discernment.

“Sometimes a seminarian is more approachable and closer in age,” Father Lorrain said, adding that he attempts to assign at least one seminarian in each of the diocese’s six deaneries.

He explained that in addressing the priest shortage, retention of seminarians is just as important as recruitment.

“You want to be good in planting a lot of seeds so that young men can hear the call to consider serving God and the church,” he said. “Once you get them in the seminary, you want to offer encouragement and support so they don’t leave prematurely.

“You’re dealing with mystery, interpreting God’s will for your life, examining if you have all of the qualities to be happy, not only to make it to ordination but also if you’re going to be happy as a priest. If I can’t be joyful in this life, I’m not going to be a very good witness to others.”

Father Lorrain said it’s advantageous the seminarians are studying in close proximity to Baton Rouge, either at St. Joseph College in St. Benedict or Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He said that proximity allows himself, Father Merrick and assistant director of vocations Lisette Borne to support the seminarians either through phone calls or personal visits.

“It’s very important to be able stay in touch with the seminarians,” Father Lorrain said. “It is a long road and the support is important.”

A World Day of Prayer for Vocations is scheduled May 12. Father Lorrain said each pastor has a packet of information that includes ideas for a homily, bulletin announcements and prayers for the faithful.