This month, we celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week, Jan. 10-16. I thought that this would be a good time to update you on our own vocations efforts, particularly in the area of priestly ministry, and to once again ask for your help.
I am happy to report that in our own diocese, we have been blessed in recent times with an increase in the number of men entering seminary with the goal of priestly ordination, as well as with another group of men discerning a call.
We currently have five men studying at seminaries here in the U.S. and Europe, as well as five more discerning for a year at Becket Hall, which recently moved to the campus of St. Thomas More, Brighton. You can learn more about these men by visiting our vocations Web site at www.dor.org/vocations. Meanwhile, we have more than 30 men in preparation for ordination to the diaconate, as well as some very energetic vocations efforts by the orders of women religious in our region. And we have been blessed with scores of well-trained, dedicated lay ecclesial ministers.
As far as priestly ministry is concerned, we can look on the bright side and be grateful that our numbers, though still small, are growing, and providing us with wonderfully talented men who I pray one day will make fine priests to serve in this unique sacramental role in our faith. But, at the same time, the road to the priesthood is a process that takes several years. We will not have another ordination until 2013, even as the number of current priests is expected to decline.
That is why our efforts to increase awareness of priestly ministry are so important and must continue. I thank the energy of our Vocations Awareness Team, led by Father Tim Horan and Carol Dady, for their commitment to this cause.
Our goal in all these efforts is to create in our diocese an environment in which young people who may be thinking about a vocation to religious life feel they are supported, have access to needed information and can get answers to the many questions they are sure to have.
In all that we do, we must encourage and promote service to the church among those who may feel called to such service. We have learned over the years that such encouragement, especially from one’s family, friends and faith community, can make all the difference, just as a dismissive word without careful thought can quickly extinguish the fire for the Lord a young man or woman may have for religious life or the priesthood.
By way of illustration, I have marveled at the generous way our own priests throughout the diocese have opened up their lives to help men discerning priestly ministry understand this remarkable life, its rewards and joys, and its considerable personal and professional demands.
I have been very grateful to have such opportunities myself to offer my own vocations story, and have felt renewed, in turn, by the young people’s enthusiasm and spirit. Many of our priests have taken part in special "Fishers Dinners," in which they can relate their stories and answer questions with discerners in a relaxed, conversation-rich setting. And many have spoken lovingly of their lives as priests from the pulpit, in the media, on DVDs or in articles for their parish bulletins.
Meanwhile, we are trying to spread the Good News about priestly life — and vocations in general — using every communication tool we can, old and new, trying to be where young men might hear our messages. For example, you may have seen bulletin announcements, flyers and posters featuring our priests in our parishes or know a young person who attended one of our special retreats. As well, besides our own Web site and a special vocations Web site within it, we are employing the relative new, very popular Internet vehicles such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the latter containing some compelling videos on the life of a priest.
You can help, as well. Just as all of us want to see more vocations, all of us must encourage service to the church and be a voice of affirmation.
Let us never discount the power of prayer. I ask you to pray for religious vocations regularly, for the priesthood, for women religious, for the diaconate, perhaps in the words of this lovely prayer of Pope John Paul II:
Lord Jesus, as you once called the first disciples
to make them fishers of men,
let your sweet invitation continue to resound:
Come, follow me!
Give young men and women the grace
of responding quickly to your voice.
Support your bishops, priests and consecrated people
in their apostolic labor.
Grant perseverance to our seminarians
and to all those who are carrying out the ideal of a life
totally consecrated to your service.
Awaken in our community a missionary eagerness.
Lord, send workers to your harvest,
and do not allow humanity to be lost for the lack of pastors,
missionaries and people dedicated to the cause of the Gospel.
Mary, Mother of the Church, the model of every vocation,
help us to say "Yes" to the Lord who calls us to cooperate
in the divine plan of salvation.
We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Peace to all.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about vocations, contact Carol Dady at email@example.com, call 585-328-3228, ext. 1374, or visit www.dor.org.