On the evening of June 9, some 50 young men gathered at St. Patrick’s Parish Center in Victor to reflect on the possibility of a vocation to priesthood.
They had the chance to meet one another; to hear a talk by Father Pat Van Durme, a priest of our diocese serving as a chaplain in the United States Army; and to enjoy a dinner underwritten, prepared and served by the Knights of Columbus. I looked forward to being with them and speaking with them at the end of the evening’s program.
Our Office of Priesthood Vocation Awareness, led by Father Tim Horan and Carol Dady and assisted by a team of priests who work with them, have done much planning for the event. And they have been assisted by our priests and other pastoral leaders who invited and will accompany all of the young men who will attend the event.
Such initiatives are very helpful in our efforts to promote vocations. Studies indicate that a personal invitation to a potential candidate for priesthood is a key element in his vocational journey. In addition, activities such as the June 9 dinner make it evident to those who attend that they are by no means alone in considering the possibility of priesthood for themselves. Lastly, such events allow the participants to socialize with a group of priests who live and love their vocation.
My prayer is that the event will stimulate some of those who attend to start thinking and praying about a vocation to priesthood. And I hope that it might encourage those who have already begun the journey to take it to a deeper level.
We have experienced a most encouraging increase in our number of seminarians. Three years ago, we had five students in theological studies. This year we will have 15. Four of those are young men from Columbia whom we have recruited to do their seminary work here and to be ordained eventually as priests of the Diocese of Rochester. In the short run, they will strengthen ministry in our growing Hispanic community. In the long run, my hope is that they will inspire young Hispanic men to become priests. In the history of our diocese, we have never ordained a Hispanic candidate to priesthood.
For those who express interest in further considering a vocation to priesthood, we have programs appropriate to their age and stage of development to help in their discernment.
Our standard practice is to accept candidates when they have completed their undergraduate education. We ask them to spend a year at Becket Hall, located on the campus of St. Thomas More Parish, Brighton. During that year, they learn about our diocese, take courses that may be required for admission into the seminary, receive instruction and formation in prayer and the spiritual life, and generally become familiar with all that the church asks of candidates for the priesthood.
Following that year at Becket Hall, a candidate is assigned to a seminary where he does four years of theological studies and where his human and spiritual formation continues. It has been the practice of our diocese for some years to require a year of service — usually after two years of theological studies — in one of our parishes. This year of pastoral service has proved to be a benefit both to the student and to the diocese.
Starting in September, we will have students at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.; North American College in Rome; St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore; and Pope John XXIII Seminary in Boston.
You can see from that brief description that the road is a long one — usually six years after college. The years are full and challenging. They also are rich in growth and serve very well in the formation of well-educated priests who understand our tradition and are well-prepared to live the life.
I close by asking you:
- to pray for vocations to priesthood for our diocese;
- to pray for our seminarians in their journey to priesthood;
- to pray that all of us who are priests will continue to grow in our vocation; and to encourage to think about priesthood any young men you know in whom you find qualities, interests and patterns of life that might suit him for that vocation.
Peace to all.