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Economy Sparks Vocation Boon

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer  The economic downturn, coupled with a slick marketing strategy, has sparked a boon in vocations for a New York City-based Franciscan community. More than 45 men have responded to subway ads recently posted by the order to consider giving their life to God.  The Holy Name Province Friars of New York City used to advertise the traditional way, through Catholic newspapers and parish bulletins. But thinning ranks in the 108 year old community prompted a need for more innovative marketing. The result was a subway ad campaign that poses the question:  "Day shift? Night shift? How about a life shift?" "Given what has happened with the economy, I think it has led to a lot of self-reflection among people about what is important in life," said Rev. Brian Smail, the Catholic community's vocation director, to the New York Post. "They realize there are limits to the system that everyone is playing into." To date, 45 men have responded to the ads. About of a third of them met the order's basic requirements and have been sent forms to fill out. They include a doctor and a public-school teacher. Two men who expressed interest were unemployed. One of those men was George Camacho, 29, who lost his job as an on-air promotions producer for PBS in June. "Getting laid off, it forced me to reflect," he said. "What do I really want to be doing with the rest of my life?" When he saw the Friar’s ad, "I thought it was speaking to me." Camacho has attended a retreat where he heard first-hand accounts of life as a brother and is now discerning his next step.  "I need to make the most of however many years I have left," he said. All ordained members take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, give away their possessions, and live together in a friary. The unusually high number of recruits this year is a blessing to the community which had 1,022 friars in 1965. Today, membership has dwindled to only 372 with an average age of 68. The Holy See recently released figures showing a similar trend of moderate growth in the number of priests worldwide which began in 2000. Thanks to large increases in Africa and Asia, the number of Catholic priests rose from 405,178 in 2000 to 408,024 in 2007. This upturn follows two decades of decline in the number of priestly vocations worldwide. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace. http://www.womenofgrace.com

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