Vocations to diaconate and priesthood are very much on my mind this weekend. On Saturday, we will have the joy of ordaining six men for service as deacons in our local church. Murray Henry, Frank Pettrone, Mark Robbins and Paul Virgilio will join the ranks of our permanent deacons. Hoan Dinh and Jeff Tunnicliff will be ordained to the diaconate in anticipation of their ordination to the ministerial priesthood next year.
These are gifted, generous men, and I have been anticipating their ordination with great joy. I have no doubt that their good gifts and dedication to service in the name of Christ will be great blessings to all of us in the Diocese of Rochester.
I thank them, their spouses, families, friends, loved ones and all who have encouraged or helped them in any way to arrive at this day. These men would be the first to tell you that they could not have done it alone. To put it another way, all of them would be able to name many people who have been a constructive part of their journey.
They speak about those who invited them to think about such a venture, those who suggested a possibility for them that they might never otherwise have considered. They tell of mentors and teachers at all levels who helped deepen their knowledge and appreciation of the church’s rich and beautiful heritage and about how often that aspect of the program opened new vistas of experience and understanding for them. And, inevitably, they delight in speaking of how often those whom they serve and among whom they serve show them the face of Christ.
It might interest you to know that next year’s permanent diaconate class will be our 25th. In those years we have ordained 161 men to that order. Over that quarter of a century, we also have suffered losses in our numbers through death, departure and retirement. Currently, we have 101 permanent deacons on active assignment within our diocese.
While we anticipate with joy ordaining Jeff and Hoan to the priesthood next year, we know the pain this year of ordaining no new priests.
The truth is that we have a great need for more permanent deacons and more priests for the service of the community. One of my hopes this week is that Saturday’s ordination will stimulate conversation in the community about these ministries. Also, folded into my daily prayer is the hope we will all take an interest in the vocation issue. For example, anyone can invite a man in whom he or she sees qualities suited for priesthood or the permanent diaconate to think about that possibility.
I spoke to our priests recently and asked them to be willing on all appropriate occasions to share the experience of their own vocational calls. What prompted them first to think about the possibility? Who invited them to think about it? What are the joys in the life of a priest? What are the tough parts of it? How has the experience of ministry among the people formed them through the years? How has the experience drawn them more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s love for us?
Research indicates that among the prime motivating factors in the choice for priesthood is the example of effective, happy priests. I know that we have such men in considerable number. I have been working with them for years. I also know that we have many generous, gifted young men who wish to serve others. We need to find ways to link the two.
Because of the ordination on Saturday, I have written about priesthood and permanent diaconate in this Along the Way. In past entries, I have written about vowed religious life and ecclesial lay ministry. I will do so again in the future.
In the meantime, I invite you if you want to know more about any of our vocation efforts or if you yourself feel called to one of the vocations I have mentioned to check our diocesan website at www.dor.org or to contact Carol Dady or Father Tim Horan in the Office of Priesthood Vocation Awareness at 585-461-2890, or Deacon David Palma, director of Deacon Personnel at 585-328-3210.
Thank you for your kind attention. Please pray for vocations.
Peace to all.