A national convention on vocations to the Catholic priesthood kicks off Monday at a Hauppauge hotel where bishops, a representative from the Vatican and others will talk about getting more men to join the priesthood.
The weeklong convention is organized by the Huntington-based National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors. More than 250 priests are expected to attend, including vocation directors from dioceses across the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico.
Speakers include Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York; Archbishop Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong, secretary for seminaries for the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy; and Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, former archbishop of Baltimore.
Patrón Wong, scheduled to speak Tuesday, "will conduct an open dialogue with the members, as he is interested in hearing our thoughts, concerns, and ideas, regarding vocations and seminary formation," Rosemary Sullivan, executive director of the vocations group, wrote in an online letter welcoming attendees.
The convention at the Hyatt Regency is aimed partly at helping new vocation directors hone skills for attracting candidates to the priesthood, as well as discussing the overall situation of priests, officials said.
The number of Catholic priests in the United States peaked in the 1960s and has been declining for decades. The number of active diocesan priests -- those who belong to particular dioceses and usually work in parishes -- has dropped from a high of 31,350 in 1970 to 16,880 today, according to Mary Gautier, of Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
It will be the 51st annual convention organized by the vocations group. Workshops for new vocation directors began at the hotel this weekend, with the convention getting into full swing Monday.
Gautier said the convention, the only one of its type in the United States, typically includes topics such as best practices among vocation directors and success stories they've had. Planned workshops during the week include "Preparing Us to Be Pastors," "Immigration 101" and "Teaching Young Men to Pray."