Bishop DiMarzio Hosts Retreat For Men Considering Priesthood
WINDSOR TERRACE — Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who has put a lot of time and effort into increasing vocations during his time as the leader of the Diocese of Brooklyn, spent three days planting seeds for a large crop of possible new priests for the future.
The bishop hosted a vocations retreat at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington on April 16-18, where 42 high school and college-age men prayed, listened to talks, took walks in nature, played a little basketball, and learned how to detect God calling them.
The retreat takes place every year, but the 2021 version was particularly special, the bishop said.
“This is the largest group we’ve ever had in my 17 years and we’ve done this every year,” he told Currents News. “Forty-two is a lot. Usually, we have 25, 30 maybe.”
The number is impressive considering the ongoing pandemic, said Father Christopher Bethge, the organizer of the retreat and director of vocations for the diocese. The seminary is set on a large campus that made social distancing easier, he said.
The Catholic Church in the U.S. has seen a steady decline in the number of priests over the past 50 years, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a group affiliated with Georgetown University. There were 54,192 priests in 1970. By 2019, that number had dropped to 35,929. However, the Diocese of Brooklyn is working to buck the trend.
While the retreat centered on prayer and reflection, the attendees found other good things, too.
“It’s about prayer, but it’s also about community. And it’s about fun,” Father Bethge said.
After thinking about his life, Mauricio Mayen said he believes he is on the journey to priesthood. He was born prematurely, before the seventh month, but survived despite the odds. He believes he survived because God has a plan for his life — a plan that includes becoming a priest.
Mayen enjoyed the weekend, not just because he was able to pray, but because of the camaraderie, he found.
“You get to pray quietly. You get to adore Christ more. You also get to listen and understand other people’s stories,” Mayen told Currents News.
Joshua Lall, a junior at Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary, Elmhurst, said he was glad to attend the retreat.
“It’s nice to get away, get away from the world and to come and spend time with my friends. There are times we have to quiet down and spend time in prayer. It’s important to do that,” he said.
Lall has not made up his mind about becoming a priest: “I’ll just leave that up to God and see what happens.”
The Catholic Church in the U.S. has seen a steady decline in the number of priests over the past 50 years, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a group affiliated with Georgetown University. There were 54,192 priests in 1970. By 2019, that number had dropped to 35,929.
However, the Diocese of Brooklyn is working to buck the trend.
In addition to the annual vocational retreat, the diocese offers the Jeremiah Project, a program for high school students interested in the priesthood.
The retreat participants included several young men who came through the Jeremiah Project, Father Bethge said.
“We have a lot of great programs in the diocese that are now beginning to bear fruit,” he said.