Team raises awareness of vocations - Catholic Courier

Team raises awareness of vocations

In early January, Mass-goers at St. Mary Parish in Auburn may have noticed a bright-blue bulletin insert with information about vocations and individuals’ reflections on their own personal vocations. The parish inserted the page into the bulletin in honor of National Vocations Week Jan. 8-12, but vocations are a year-round priority at the parish.

The bulletin insert was produced by the parish’s Vocation Awareness Ministry, said Joyce Cavanaugh, the ministry’s president. The ministry was formed in early 2002, while then-seminarian William Coffas was serving his pastoral year at St. Mary. Although Father Coffas left the parish in May 2002 and was ordained in June 2004, he has kept in contact with the group, which has about 10 members and is still going strong, Cavanaugh said.

St. Mary is one of the few parishes in the diocese that has a special committee just for vocations awareness, Cavanaugh said, but the topic is so important that she feels every parish should have one. Cavanaugh said she hopes that St. Mary’s ministry might provide ideas or an example for other parishes.

Upon hearing the ministry’s name, many people think the ministry-team members are committed solely to encouraging men to become priests. While Cavanaugh does think the diocese and the country as a whole desperately need more priests, attracting them is not the group’s singular focus, she said.

“Vocation doesn’t just take in the priesthood and religious life. It takes in married life, single life, everything,” Cavanaugh said. “We’re not just zeroing in on the priesthood, although that is a priority. That isn’t the only kind of vocation.”

Being married or being single also can be a vocation, the way being a doctor, nurse, teacher or photographer also can be a vocation, she said.

“They’re all callings, every one of them,” she added.

Cavanaugh herself didn’t fully understand the broad nature of vocations until she became involved with the Vocation Awareness Ministry.

“The more work I did in vocations, the more I thought, ‘All of us are called to something, and we all have talents. Each one is called to use whatever talent God gave us and to use it in the best way we can,” Cavanaugh said.

Christian living is essentially a vocation, noted Edison Tayag, a seminarian currently serving his pastoral year at St. Mary. By virtue of their baptism Christians are called to live a holy life and to use their God-given gifts and talents to serve others, said Tayag, who joined the ministry team shortly after he arrived at the parish in July.

A calling to a particular vocation can only come from God, noted Cavanaugh, who said people often ask her how many times the ministry team has convinced men to become priests. Cavanaugh tells these people that convincing a man to become a priest — or to pursue any vocation for that matter — is not the ministry team’s job. Instead, their job is to help people understand and become aware of vocations.

“I tell them God does the calling. All we do is make people aware,” she said.

Although God is the only one who can call someone to a vocation, he often speaks through other people, she added. People should never be afraid to tell a person about the gifts they see in that person or to encourage that person to think about how to best use those gifts, she said.

Sometimes the first seeds of a priestly vocation can be planted simply by asking a man if he’s ever considered the priesthood. Such was the case with Tayag, who grew up in the Philippines.

Tayag was raised around priests and nuns because his parents were very active in social ministry, but as a child he never seriously considered the priesthood. After completing his schooling, Tayag worked as a physical therapist in the Philippines for two years before moving to the United States in 1996.

He continued his physical-therapy work in the U.S. for a few years and didn’t really think about the priesthood until a few patients told him he should consider that vocation. He took part in a diocesan discernment program at Beckett Hall, and in 2003 he entered the seminary program at the North American College in Rome, he said.

The recent vocations-themed bulletin insert explained what a vocation is and how one usually discerns a calling toward a particular one. It also contained short reflections from 10 individuals, including a photographer; a grandmother; a music teacher and choir director; a mother and elementary-school teacher; and a high-school student. These individuals wrote about the ways they live their lives so as to be like Jesus Christ to others.

In 2006 the ministry team put together and distributed prayer booklets for families to use when praying for vocations. One version of the booklet is for young children and another is for teens and adults, but both booklets follow the format of the Liturgy of the Hours, Tayag said.

Several families have told Tayag that the booklet has helped them regularly pray together as a family, something they hadn’t found much time to do before. Family prayer time is important, he said, although it sometimes falls by the wayside in today’s fast-paced world.

“It’s something the parents promise when they have the child baptized, that they’re going to lead them to grow in faith,” Tayag said.

The vocations team also is hoping to hold a special Mass for vocations and a vocations fair for teenagers in April, Cavanaugh added.

In October, Meghan Wayne, a member of Auburn’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish, started a bimonthly holy hour for vocations at St. Mary. Participants meet between 5:30 and 6:30 on the first and third Tuesdays of each month for silent prayer and adoration, the Liturgy of the Hours and Benediction, Wayne said.

“What better way to have vocations than to pray for them?” she asked.

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