And that will eventually be good news for Canada.
The former provincial of the Scalabrinian Missionaries for the East Coast of Canada and the U.S.A., Fugolo says there are only eight Scalabrinian priests in Montreal and two in the rest of Canada, but the order has seen a surge in vocations in South America, Vietnam, Indonesia and Haiti, where there are hundreds of seminarians.
Fugolo is expecting an influx of new priests into North America in about three to four years when the seminarians in other countries graduate.
“Vocations to religious life are occurring where immigrants come from,” said Fugolo, pastor of Madre dei Cristiani Mission in Montreal, where he ministers to immigrants from Italian, Latino and Filipino communities, as well as Anglophones and Francophones.
“There are different factors. In Canada, the U.S.A. and Europe, people no longer have big families. There is also more of a religious spirit in small rural communities.”
A principal aim of the Second Vatican Council was to foster environments for priests, religious and lay people to work collaboratively. Perhaps nowhere is this sense of shared mission through different vocations more in evidence than in the Scalabrinian movement. Since the 1960s the Scalabrinian mission has grown to include social support to migrants, refugees and displaced persons, regardless of cultural background or religion.
Fugolo says that, in spite of the fact that Catholics born and raised in Canada don’t gravitate towards religious vocations, the children of immigrants are still motivated to help other immigrants because they know what their parents experienced and can empathize with the struggles of marginalized groups.
“These are all professional people who want the possibility of some missionary experience,” he said.
The Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, or Scalabrinian Missionaries, were founded by Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, bishop of Piacenza, Italy, in 1887. Their mission was to maintain Catholic faith and practice among Italian emigrants.
(Rankin is a writer in Montreal.)