April 21, 2015 // Local

Creating a culture of discernment to the Priesthood

The Melchizadek Project is just one of the new ways the Office of Vocations is reaching out to young men to consider the Priesthood.

Every pastor needs to be the vocation director of his parish

By Tim Johnson

FORT WAYNE — Everyone — from moms and dads, to coaches, teachers and even peers — plays a vital role in helping young people discern their vocation.

This weekend the Church celebrates the 51st anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Many parishes will have Prayers of the Faithful asking God to give young men and women the gift of understanding to discern their service in the Church — the Priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.

In the diocese, the prayers of the faithful come through holy hours — such as the Little Flower Holy Hour offered monthly at the St. Mother Theodore Guérin Chapel in Fort Wayne — Masses and prayer groups for vocations.

But where does discernment really take place for men called to the Priesthood? Statistics show that if three different constituencies invite a young man to consider the Priesthood, he is five times more likely to apply.

This begins with the parish priest who should be number one. All parish priests are the vocation director at their particular parish.

Father Andrew Budzinski, new diocesan vocation director and parochial vicar at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, told Today’s Catholic, “The priests who call the men to Priesthood are the pastors of that man’s soul. So we are going to get a lot more guys influenced by the priests in their parishes.”

For any man who feels he is called to the diocesan Priesthood, Father Budzinski said, “My job is to help them discern and to guide them through that process.” There is a process of discernment as well as a process of application. Men may contact Father Budzinski when they are in high school or older if they want to discern the Priesthood. “They should also talk to their own priest, the pastor of their parish,” Father Budzinski said.

Father Budzinski said the prayer of the faithful is “infinite” in importance. “Prayer is absolutely necessary,” he noted. He prays for vocations every day as a priest and appreciates the prayers of the people as well.

Father Budzinski referred to the “Annas and Simeons in the Temple,” — “those faithful who go to daily Mass and pray every day in the church and walk up to a man and say, ‘You should think about being a priest,’” as important to the discernment process.

Teachers, coaches and mentors also need to be about the business of recruiting. Adults already living their vocations need to devote their hearts and energy to helping young people discern their vocation.

“It’s the most important decision they will ever make in their life,” emphasized Father Budzinski. “God has a definitive plan for every young person. It is not this, ‘whatever you do is perfectly okay with God’ — that’s not true. God has a specific vocation plan for you and we just don’t fall into it by accident — it has to be discerned.”

“Every young person needs to be about the discerning of ‘what is God’s specific and definitive plan for my life?’ and to discern that well and to follow it when He asks,” Father Budzinski said.

He recommends young people read, “Discerning the Will of God,” by Oblate Father Timothy Gallagher, whose book offers St. Ignatius of Loyola’s method of discernment. The book is a practical guide offering steps to take with one’s prayer life, and expresses the ways one can expect God to reveal the choice He wants one to make.

Family life plays a big role in the discernment process. “If a guy comes from a family that prays together, goes to Mass together and exposes the young man to the life of faith in the midst of the Church, that is a great foundation,” Father Budzinski said.

Another big role is that of the parish youth group — a group of peers who shares the young man’s faith and beliefs — where they can strengthen each other.

Peer group is very important as well. High school students, college students and young adults need to lovingly say to their brothers, “You know what; I can see you being ‘my’ priest,” Father Budzinski encouraged, “not just a priest, but ‘my’ priest.”

The Priesthood is a marriage, he said, and “so the laity can offer a divine proposal to the man — not just to be a priest, but my priest.” When young people propose marriage to each other, they don’t say, “you would make a good husband,” rather they say, “I would like you to be my husband.”

The reality, of course, is most people would most comfortably propose: “Have you ever thought of being a priest?” and that too is fine, noted Father Budzinski.

In his first year assigned as diocesan vocation director, Father Budzinski brings great energy to his role to help men discern a call to the Priesthood and to assist in the application process. Father Budzinski is assisting 34 men who are in the seminary. Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, provides the college education for the seminarians, while Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and Pontifical North American College in Rome provide theological training for the men.

Father Budzinski told Today’s Catholic there are nine men in various stages of the application process and could possibly be entering the seminary next fall.

Although his role as a diocesan vocation director channels his energies to the diocesan Priesthood, if a young woman is interested in religious life, he would encourage her to investigate, visit and talk to the vocation directors of the religious communities.

That would be similar for a man considering joining a religious community.

A diocesan priest is identified as “a priest who serves in a parish and is responsible for those people within his parish boundaries and is an assistant to the local bishop.” Father Budzinski described the diocesan priest as a “general practitioner,” he has to do a little bit of everything. He gives the people the sacraments. He gives everything for the people.

The religious priest or a brother is more of a “specialist,” because they live according to particular charisms. For example, the Dominicans’ charism is preaching.

“So does a man feel a call to being attached to a local bishop and serve in a parish giving the sacraments and pastoral ministry to the people of a parish; or does he feel called to live in a religious community according to a particular rule, living within a particular charism with obedience to his religious superior?” Father Budzinski asked.

It is not uncommon that some religious serve in parishes, “but their first responsibility is always to their community,” Father Budzinski noted.

There are some structures in place for discernment groups across the diocese, particularly the Melchizadek Project. Father Budzinski said, “Those are groups of young men who meet monthly, to talk about the Priesthood and discernment. We read a book called ‘To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood,’ by Father Brett Brannen. We get together and have a meal and then discuss a chapter of the book.”

Groups that meet monthly are at St. Pius X, Granger, and at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. Father Budzinski’s group meets twice a month at St. Vincent de Paul in Fort Wayne. Information about these groups and the times they meet are available at the vocations website, www.discernpriesthood.com.

Every young man can get two books on discernment. In addition to the Father Brennen book, there is also “Is Jesus Christ Calling You to be a Catholic Priest?” by Msgr. Thomas Richter.

In July, another discernment retreat is planned at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne. It is a three-day retreat with priests and seminarians giving talks, opportunities for small group discussion, time for prayer, recreation, Mass, Adoration and “great food.” Information about the retreat is available at www.discernpriesthood.com.












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