“Without priests, there is no Eucharist, no Mass, no Confession.”
Exhausted by the nearly three-hour drive across our sprawling diocese in upstate New York, I settled into my seat at the Cathedral. It was a warm summer evening and I looked forward to the first time I would spend with Our Lord in Adoration united with other mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts for a single purpose — to pray for vocations.
We call ourselves “the Mothers of Lu” and we meet for a Holy Hour every month to pray for more priests and religious for our diocese from within our own families and communities.
There is a vocations crisis in the Catholic Church. Between 1970 and 2020, the number of diocesan priests in the United States has gone from approximately 37,000 to 25,000. The number of priestly ordinations was nearly halved, from 805 in 1970 to 495 in 2020. Our diocese is no exception to this trend. As many priests reach the age of retirement in the next few years, the influx of new priests is at a trickle.
One of our diocesan vocations directors, Fr. Peter VanLieshout, concerned about the declining number of priests, had read about the Italian Mothers of Lu on a Catholic blog, and shared the story with some of the women in our diocese.
The families of the tiny village of Lu, Italy, recognized a crisis in vocations to the priesthood way back in 1881. They were tired of not having enough priests in their region to meet the spiritual and sacramental needs of their families. Under the guidance of a local priest, Monsignor Canora, the Mothers of Lu began to pray.
These mothers committed to weekly Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to ask Our Lord to bring about vocations from within their own families. They also regularly received Holy Communion for this intention.
The Lord blessed their endeavor abundantly. Over the following 65 years, there came from tiny Lu 323 vocations — 152 priests and 171 nuns.
Inspired by this story, several women sought to establish a similar group in our diocese with the same intention. Supported by both Fr. VanLieshout and another priest named Fr. White, the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters of Rochester have met faithfully each month to pray for vocations. Despite the busyness of family life, school or homeschooling, jobs, and the myriad of everyday distractions, they are faithful to their commitment.
During their Holy Hour, the women pray a Rosary for vocations and the Mothers of Lu prayer, listen to a reflection read by a local priest, pray in silence, and have Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
In addition to their monthly Adoration, these modern-day Mothers of Lu offer a weekly Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament and receive Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month, imploring Our Lord to bring about vocations from within their own families.
Spending time with these faithful mothers on that first pleasant summer evening was both inspiring and intimidating. I was inspired at the number of women who gathered, their devotion to this cause, and the warm welcome they gave me. I was also intimidated as I wondered how our parish on the other side of the diocese could replicate what I saw. This was an urban area with many women who lived reasonably close to the church, while I lived in the country. Our rural Catholic homeschool group, while robust, had members spread far and wide across two counties. Even our parish worship sites covered a whole county that is 523 square miles.
But with the support of our pastor, and despite our geographical challenges, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters have begun to gather every month in our tiny country church for Adoration and fellowship. Some of the women drive nearly an hour to be here. There are months when we have a dozen women, while other months we may only have five or six. But all who come recognize the importance of spending time in Adoration imploring the Lord for vocations.
The Mothers of Lu can be replicated anywhere. Surely the Lord wants vocations to the priesthood and religious life more than we do, and He hears our prayers!
Without priests we will have no Eucharist, no Mass, no Confession. But the faithful women of the Rochester diocese are inspiring others who are ready to be a part of the solution — a solution that can only come from families.