The Church needs priests. Catholics today are experiencing ecclesial life with fewer priests than yesteryear, even as the number of trained lay people for roles of service in the Church has risen. In the future, projections point to more Catholics than current in the Archdiocese, served by even fewer priests. While dioceses study models of dealing with the emerging reality of a changing Church, the faithful should view this time as a spur toward prayer and action regarding vocations to priesthood and consecrated religious life.

Cardinal Justin Rigali has made an increase of vocations to the priesthood a “super priority” of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. As part of that commitment the Archdiocese joins dioceses across the country in commemorating National Vocations Awareness Week, Jan. 11-17, with special opportunities for prayer.

This principally means prayer for priestly vocations, specifically in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Monday, Jan. 12, at every parish, and afterward in the daily prayers of Catholics throughout the year.

Everyone can take part through silent prayer or aloud with the family, and by keeping our eyes open for opportunities to act. Since happy and holy priests are perhaps the best motivation for a young person considering a vocation, supporting them and speaking charitably about them to young people is important.

So, too, is talking about vocations to young people you admire for their kindness, joyous spirit or reverence at church. Take a risk by mentioning the possibility of a vocation to them. Many young people already hear the Lord’s call. They are seeking a way to make a difference in the world as a priest or consecrated religious. A word of encouragement can go a long way, even if initially they don’t want to respond.

The stakes are high. Without the sacramental life of the Church, specifically the presence of Christ among us in the Eucharist, the Church would be no more than a social service or educational enterprise, not what it really is: the body of Christ, the font of salvation and the visible sign of God’s presence in the world.

The priest represents Jesus in the sacraments he administers though the Church – offering comfort, counsel, forgiveness, consecration of the Eucharist and more. Priests and consecrated religious also represent Jesus as models of holiness lived in the ordinary circumstances of our time.

The Church and the world need faithful priests both for the things they do and the person – another Christ – they are called to be through ordination. The great adventure of priesthood and religious life awaits those who hear and heed the call of the Lord.