Sunday, May 29, 2005

Beer mat ads to recruit priests.

BBC News reports that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster is planning a new vocation promotion campaign "that will use beermats in pubs and posters on the London Underground to promote the priesthood." Nothing occurs in isolation, and it's important to note that the Westminster Diocese's new vocation push comes amid an intensive process of pastoral planning meant to help one of Britain's largest dioceses better plan for a future that, like it or not, includes fewer priests. The first major report to emerge from the process in Westminster is available here for readers wanting a fuller account of things.

The media, as one might expect, is much more interested in the particulars of the new vocation campaign than in the details of the pastoral planning process. Reactions from parishioners and outside observers are likely to be mixed, as this BBC report collecting views from one parish appears to suggest. For my own part, I'll admit that the beermat idea strikes me as a bit gimmicky (the Tube ads aren't gimmicky at all - American dioceses have already done similar things). However, as gimmicky as the beermat ads may be, they may also be a good idea. I'm sure there's a reader out there dying to tell me that pubs are the wrong place to look for prospective priests; the same reader might also want to tell me that if all dioceses were like his or her favorite diocese they'd all be flush with vocations, but I think we both know that isn't likely to happen. I suggest that the beermat ads may be a good idea for a couple reasons. Firstly, the Church needs priests that average Catholics - including Catholics who go to pubs - can relate to. Lest anyone raise some kind of reductio ad absurdum objection to this point, I should say that I wouldn't carry this line of reasoning on indefinitely; I'll simply say that by my lights, going to a bar or a pub is not per se objectionable activity for a prospective seminarian to engage in. (And after all, the Church has already made a very successful foray into the world of bars and pubs with Theology on Tap programs reaching out to young adults.) Secondly, in an increasingly secular culture the Church must take every positive opportunity to boost its public profile. As goofy as the idea might sound on its face, beermats promoting vocations to the priesthood represent just such an opportunity. The ads being contemplated by the Diocese of Westminster will likely provoke a range of reactions among pub patrons, from mockery to approval to indifference. However, if they lead even a handful of men to give greater consideration to a priestly vocation, I'd say the beermat ads will have done their job. God finds us where we are - sometimes even in places where we wouldn't expect to find God. AMDG.


At May 30, 2005 10:43 AM, Blogger Susan Rose Francois, CSJP said...

Great story - thanks for sharing! I agree with your analysis. Who knows what will happen?

I'm a lurker here, read but usually don't comment. I've enjoyed following your journey.

And happy belated birthday!!!

At May 31, 2005 8:36 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Susan -

Thanks for the comments and good wishes and for introducing yourself. I've only just discovered your blog, but I expect I'll now start reading it regularly. Please know of my prayers and best wishes for your own discernment.


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