Priestly vocation, life examined - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Priestly vocation, life examined

I continue this week some Easter season reflections on new life and freshness of spirit as I have been privileged to experience and share it during this Holy Season.

We just finished our annual convocation of priests and pastoral administrators who serve among you in every corner of our diocese.
Our theme this year was “The Vocation of Ordained Priesthood.” And we came at it from two different but related perspectives. The first had to do with our own day-to-day, year-by-year experience of priesthood: What does our vocation mean to us? If I had it to do all over again, would I choose priesthood? What are the greatest sources of new energy, joy and peace in my vocation? What are the obstacles I face as I live it out?

The questions spurred a lively and healthy discussion among the participants — both formal session and in the between times. The discussion was greatly enhanced by the input of Father Steve Rossetti from our neighboring Diocese of Syracuse. Steve is a psychologist who is well in touch with research done on the morale of priests, and he has done research himself on this important issue.

In summary, he reported that such research — done before, during and after the height of the scandal of sex abuse — indicates a very high level of morale among the priests of this nation.

Given all that we have experienced in media coverage of priesthood in recent years, it is quite understandable that one could have the impression that priests are depressed, discouraged and about to give up hope. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

That is not to say that we priests do no have suffering or struggle or pain in our lives. Of course we do. But who of us in our respective vocations does not feel overwhelmed, or lonely, or unappreciated from time to time? The reality is, given the demands of the day, that some of our priests are discouraged. Some are tired. Some are concerned about a future more uncertain than they would like it to be. The brighter side is that even those who struggle — and we all do from time to time — do so with deep faith in the Lord’s abiding presence and with strong courage. And we have many resources in place to offer support, and more are on the way.

The other theme we explored in the convocation was how best can we encourage, support and inspire young men whom God may be calling to life in the ministerial priesthood.

We dealt with these questions: Have I encouraged potential candidates to priesthood in the past, and do I still do it? What are helpful approaches to the issue? What makes it difficult?

Once again, Father Steve’s knowledge of the research lent good focus and direction to the discussions, which were quite lively and a source of nourishment to those who participated.

A wonderful component to the session was a presentation by our Priesthood Vocation Awareness Team. They presented to the assembly their purpose, the resources they will bring to the vocations effort and what they ask for from our priests and pastoral administrators.

Within a few days, you will receive May’s Catholic Courier Monthly, whose main theme will be vocations.

I ask you to spend some time with that issue. In the meantime, I invite you to pray and think about questions such as the following: Whatever my vocation, do I have a sense of God’s call to holiness and service in my life? Do we talk about the notion of call in our family? If we do not, are there particular times or circumstances in the context of family life in which I could easily invite such a conversation? What are the deepest values I pursue in life? How does God call me to pursue them?

Happy Easter.

Peace to all.

Tags: Bishop Matthew H. Clark
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