The new wave of Catholic Priests are no longer rigid and dogmatic, but open and accepting.
TIME magazine recently published a report on the new generation of Catholic priests that will carry the Church forward. Under the dynamic and somewhat unorthodox leadership of Pope Francis, this new wave of clerics is far from the traditional ideas of what priesthood in the Catholic church meant. This new group of priests is more about service and less about dogma, more into having fun when evangelizing, rather than about condemning people and instilling a fear of hell in Catholics.
Pope Francis’ call for a new generation of priests, one that leaves behind the traditional habits and cassocks, donning instead jeans and t-shirts have not fallen on deaf ears. Although the overall number of Catholics and Catholic priests in the U.S. have fallen when compared to the days after the World War II, it has definitely risen when compared to the past few years. Not only has the number of new entrants into the priesthood increased, but the average age of priests has fallen from 37 to 34, showing a huge demographic shift.
This generation of millennial priests is not shy to discuss their faith or to show that they are Catholics. However, this is the generation of priests that will not shy away from playing sports, going to a pub, or hanging out with their friends, for fear of “sinning.” For this generation of Catholic clerics, every place is an opportunity to evangelize, and pastoral work need not be limited to the walls of a church or a friary. The focus now is on going out to the flock rather than on expecting the flock to come to the pastors.
Pope Francis’ reformative moves could not have one at a more ripe time. Although Pope Benedict, his predecessor, was a knowledgeable scholar, it is the dynamism of Pope Francis that can provide the right kind of inspiration and leadership for a generation that needs to be inspired if it has to feel the need to work hard.
Now there is also a shift in the way that the way the Church approaches non-Catholics. Father Matt O’Donnell of St. Columbanus Church says that in his role he feels responsible not only for his Catholic congregation but for all the people around. Under the mantle of this new wave of leaders, the Church is moving towards becoming a more accepting, open institution than it has traditionally been.