Worries deter would-be priests

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 April, 2007, 12:00am

The reason fewer young people wish to take up the priesthood today is because people's minds have become more complicated and they have more worries, Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming said.

But for Father Chan, vicar-general of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, being a church administrator is the same as being pastor of a small parish - as long as one approaches the task with people's wellbeing in mind.

'When I entered the seminary in 1966, I only had one concept in mind - I wanted to become a priest. But people's minds have become more complicated now, and they have more worries. The more you think about it, the more difficult it is for you to take the first step. It is all a matter of commitment.'

Father Chan, 54, was born into a Catholic family originating from a small village in Sai Kung - one of the earliest indigenous Catholic communities founded by foreign missionaries in the early 19th century.

He said on top of the difficulties facing young people in deciding whether to take up the priesthood, many priests in Hong Kong faced immense psychological pressure because they were 'perfectionists' trying to solve every problem faced by the faithful.

'The faithful come to you expecting you to solve all sorts of problems in their marriages or personal issues. We are not expected only to say Mass,' he said.

The latest Catholic social teachings which encouraged the church to play a greater part in social affairs also added pressure for the clergy, as they were expected to have more understanding of current political and social issues.

But Father Chan said he found no difficulty in doing his two jobs as the diocese's chief administrator in his position as vicar-general, and as the parish priest of the Catholic Cathedral.

'As long as one takes the administration issues with the pastoral approach, one will find there is actually little difference in the two.'

Father Chan, who is tipped as a candidate along with Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon to succeed Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, said he would obediently carry out whatever task the church asked him to perform in the future.