Optatam Totius refers to this as an “urgent” task. Interesting considering the flush days of pre- and co-conciliar vocations, one might think. More likely is that astute Catholics knew that vocations had peaked in the forties, and had been in decline for two decades, more in some countries.
They put it on the laity from the start:
The duty of fostering vocations pertains to the whole Christian community, which should exercise it above all by a fully Christian life.
Families become a “kind of initial seminary,” and parishes “in whose rich life the young people take part.”
Third, “(t)eachers and all those who are in any way in charge of the training of boys and young men, especially Catholic associations, should carefully guide the young people entrusted to them so that these will recognize and freely accept a divine vocation.
All priests especially are to manifest an apostolic zeal in fostering vocations and are to attract the interest of youths to the priesthood by their own life lived in a humble and industrious manner and in a happy spirit as well as by mutual priestly charity and fraternal sharing of labor.
Check out that list of how to attract vocations: humility, industriousness, happiness, charity, brotherhood, shared labor. Why if not for the “fraternal” sexism, it could read as a liberal credo of sorts.
Bishops don’t get off easy; they have a specific task:
Bishops on the other hand are to encourage their flock to promote vocations and should be concerned with coordinating all forces in a united effort to this end. As fathers, moreover, they must assist without stint those whom they have judged to be called to the Lord’s work.
This next portion explains why a church-wide effort is needful:
The effective union of the whole people of God in fostering vocations is the proper response to the action of Divine Providence which confers the fitting gifts on those men divinely chosen to participate in the hierarchical priesthood of Christ and helps them by His grace. Moreover, this same Providence charges the legitimate ministers of the Church to call forward and to consecrate with the sign of the Holy Spirit to the worship of God and to the service of the Church those candidates whose fitness has been acknowledged and who have sought so great an office with the right intention and with full freedom.
Priest-only efforts are doomed to miss certain candidates and misinform others. If the laity are not involved, it is easy for the young to be misinformed about the priesthood as an elite brotherhood divorced from the ordinary concerns of lay people. What is needed is a collaborative and common effort: catechesis of the laity, planning from the bishop on out, the use of the social sciences, as OT 2 suggests:
The sacred synod commends first of all the traditional means of common effort, such as urgent prayer, Christian penance and a constantly more intensive training of the faithful by preaching, by catechetical instructions or by the many media of social communication that will show forth the need, the nature and the importance of the priestly vocation. The synod moreover orders that the entire pastoral activity of fostering vocations be methodically and coherently planned and, with equal prudence and zeal, fostered by those organizations for promoting vocations which, in accord with the appropriate pontifical documents, have already been or will be set up in the territory of individual dioceses, regions or countries. Also, no opportune aids are to be overlooked which modern Psychological and sociological research has brought to light.
While the family, the parish, the clergy, and the bishop have particular duties, the effort to nurture vocations goes beyond these:
The work of fostering vocations should, in a spirit of openness, transcend the limits of individual dioceses, countries, religious families and rites. Looking to the needs of the universal Church, it should provide aid particularly for those regions in which workers for the Lord’s vineyard are being requested more urgently.
Comments, especially from any priests in the readership?