My dear Brothers and Sisters,
Next week, on November 6, our nation will elect a president, members of Congress and the State Legislature. However, in our Diocese, another important election will be taking place in November: the election or the nomination of single men between the ages of 16 and 55 whom our parishioners consider to be suitable candidates for the priesthood in our Church.

During two weekends in November, our priests will reflect upon their own sacerdotal ministry and laypeople will give talks about how priests have influenced their lives. This is part of an initiative titled "Called By Name," in which we are encouraging our Catholic faithful to pray for vocations to the ordained priesthood and submit the names of those men whom they believe have the qualities to serve as priestly leaders in our faith community. Eventually, we will be conducting similar promotions for vocations to the diaconate, religious life and ecclesial lay ministry.

We have begun with a focus on the ordained priesthood because of the critical need we have for this ministry. When I was ordained to the priesthood in 1963, there were more than 400 active diocesan priests serving in the Albany Diocese. When I was installed as your bishop, we had more than 300. Today, the number of active diocesan priests is a little over 100, and it is projected that there will be four or five priests retiring for each priest ordained over the next five years. Without priests, we cannot have the Eucharist; and without the Eucharist, we cannot have the Church as we know it.

I ask each of our parishioners, then, to reflect upon this looming crisis, to pray for vocations to the ordained priesthood, to nominate potential candidates whom you believe possess the qualities needed in the contemporary priesthood and to encourage or affirm such persons to consider this calling which is so essential to the life of our Church.

I look forward to receiving your elections or nominations and plan to invite each proposed candidate to attend a retreat in January to further discuss whether God is calling him to exercise this vital and desperately-needed ministry in our Church.

I am aware of all the reasons contributing to the decline of priestly vocations, because there is no Church issue that has been more researched than this one. However, based upon 49 years of priestly ministry, I can assure you that the priesthood is a very rewarding, fulfilling and happy life. Further, I am confident as well that God has planted the seeds of responding to this call to priesthood in the hearts of many, and I hope that the Called By Name initiative will help these seeds to take root.

In anticipation of your prayerful and thoughtful response to this urgent undertaking, I thank you profusely and pray for God's choicest blessings upon you. Again, I am grateful for your continual generosity.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany