I can remember from about the age of 16 wondering if the priesthood was for me. I was brought up a Catholic, alter-served from a young age and went on to be a Eucharistic Minister. Following this I became increasingly involved with the Church, from youth work to being on the parish council. Throughout all this becoming a priest was a thought that remained at the back of my mind, along with my entire career direction in general. I had no idea what I wanted to be until half way through my gap year. It was then that I decided to train as a paramedic; the job seemed to tick all the boxes that I wanted in life, working with all sorts of people and being out in the community.
But it was also around this time that I started seriously to question whether I was being called to the priesthood. I spoke to a priest who is a friend of mine and he suggested that I should stay at university while continuing to consider this calling. However I find it extremely difficult to imagine honestly living a celibate life while being truly happy in myself and able to serve my parish to the best of my ability. This makes it extremely difficult for me to properly discern my vocation.
A lot of my friends say “Why not just convert to C of E, and then you can marry?”, but I don’t feel that I can do that. I have looked at the Permanent Deaconate, but I don’t think for me it would be as fulfilling as the priesthood.
I’m not suggesting that celibacy is completely outdated or irrelevant, but I do believe the Church is losing out on many young people who find it very difficult to consider the priesthood with the celibacy rule in place.
That is why the establishment of the ordinariate feels is a slap in face for a young Catholic like me. This is because many former married Anglican priests have been ordained priests in the ordinariate.
I feel awful to admit this but I find myself getting frustrated when I go to a Mass that is being led by an ordinariate priest. This is not because I disagree with Protestant priests coming over to the Catholic Church, but because I feel that if obligatory celibacy is imposed on Catholic priests, then it should apply equally to priests who are joining from another part of the Christian family.
At the moment we have the situation where the Catholic Church is losing lifelong Catholic priests who have to leave their ministry because they want to get married, while former Anglican priests with wives and children are allowed to serve in the Catholic Church. In theory there is nothing to stop a former Anglican filling the shoes of a parish priest who left to marry!
I am still reflecting and praying about my own 0vocation, and I’m lucky to have supportive family and friends who encourage me, no matter what I decide. But I still find it really find it difficult not to be frustrated when I know that if I were ordained in the C of E and was wanting to convert to Catholicism, I could have a wife to support me in my ministry and be able to have a family to come home to. These are the two things I feel I need in life which I could not have if, in the future, I decided that I did want to apply to become a Catholic priest.
Edd Bartlett is student paramedic at Plymouth University