January 4, 2011 // Uncategorized

Encouraging signs of vocations in the diocese

The Vocation Office of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend can only feel encouraged by the 21 seminarians studying for the priesthood. Msgr. Bernard Galic, along with associate Father Jacob Runyon and Mary Szymczak, coordinate the busy office as more inquiries about seminary increase.

Msgr. Bernard Galic

Msgr. Galic, who is the pastor of St. Aloysius, Yoder, has served as director of the Vocation Office for almost 18 years. He is excited about the eight new applicants for next year.

He credits last year’s Year for Priests for the increased interest. “I think it stirred up an interest in the priesthood, a concern about the need of priests,” Msgr. Galic said. “I think it sensitized a lot of young men to the fact that they ought to be listening closer to the Holy Spirit.”

Father Jacob Runyon

Listening is the key. Father Runyon, who is associate director of the Vocation Office and parochial vicar at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, said that in a world of distraction with Twitter, e-mail, text messages, etc., “it is hard for us to spend quiet time listening to the call of God.”

He encouraged families and parishes to create a culture of vocations. He encouraged parents to pray that their children will know their vocation. His mother said a daily prayer: “God grant that one of my sons becomes a priest.”

Father Runyon suggested that at a young age, parents begin planting a seed and mention to a son, “God may be calling you to be a priest,” or to a daughter, “God may be calling you to be a sister.”

But he added, “Pray that God would guide their children into whatever vocation He has for them.”

Both Msgr. Galic and Father Runyon said God is the One who sends vocations.

Pray for vocations, seminarians
When asked what readers of Today’s Catholic can do to encourage vocations, Msgr. Galic said, “Pray. And talk to young people who they think would make good priests or to tell them that.”

He said, “I think people have a far greater potential for influencing vocations than they are aware of.”

He also encouraged individuals to “pray for vocations and pray for the seminarians who are in formation. They are in a challenging program and the support of the people’s prayers would mean a lot to them.”

Msgr. Galic said, “and to be encouraging to young people. I think we are seeing in the Church a generation of young adults who are taking ownership of the faith in a way perhaps we haven’t seen for a couple of generations. I believe that is going to result in more young people being raised in homes with solid spiritual values. I think in another generation or so we’re going to see a rather dramatic increase in the number of vocations.”

Msgr. Galic, when speaking of the quality of the diocesan seminarians, said, “My impression of the men who apply for the seminary is they have a genuine love for the Church — that’s part of what’s moving them toward wanting to be priests. They have a solid spiritual sense of values. Secondly, the quality of the education they are getting in the seminary is outstanding.”

Father Runyon added that those he speaks with have a devotion to the Eucharist.

“The guys I’ve been seeing are just real solid people,” Father Runyon said. “The way that God is moving in their hearts is different for every guy, but there is this sort of central theme, which is — God is calling them. It’s good to see some of the enthusiasm.”

Parishes are encouraged to pray for vocations in their weekly petitions and to pray the rosary for vocations. Some parishes adopt seminarians and include prayer and care-packages.

At St. Matthew Cathedral, Father Runyon said he and rector Msgr. Michael Heintz encourage the Mass servers — already interested in serving the Church — to think also of religious life.

The Vocation Office visits the four Catholic high schools every year with a team of priests, sisters and brothers. “There we talk about vocations to Church ministry,” Msgr. Galic said. They are joined by priests, brothers and sisters of religious communities that serve in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. They visit the classrooms of the freshmen and juniors, talk about their vocation journeys and open the floor to questions.
In the beginning of the visitation, 16 or 17 years ago, “getting questions was like pulling teeth,” Msgr. Galic commented. “Now we don’t have enough time to answer all the questions. The interest is there.”

The Vocation Office also visits the grade schools and speaks to the fifth- and eighth-grade students. “We send a priest and a sister to every school who will invite us,” Msgr. Galic said.

The Vocation Office also sponsors Andrew Dinners, where the bishop hosts dinner and talks about the priesthood. Pastors are invited to bring young men who they think would make good seminarian candidates to the dinner. They have dinner with the priests, seminarians and the bishop. After some talks by the bishop and seminarians, questions are taken from those attending the dinner.

The Vocation Office also coordinates a retreat for college-age men and is planning a retreat for high school-age young men.

Interest in priesthood
If a man has an interest in the priesthood, Msgr. Galic suggested that they first contact their parish priest who will put them in contact with the Vocation Office. Many men contact the Vocation Office directly.

If a man looks like a good candidate after speaking with Msgr. Galic or Father Runyon, an application process begins. He completes the application form and provides the office with references of people who know him well and will make a good recommendation including priests and religious. Then a battery of psychological tests and interviews are done. A psychologist assists in the screening of candidates.

Msgr. Galic said, “And then if everything looks good, he will sit through an interview with the bishop. If the bishop believes he is a good candidate, he’ll accept him as a student through the sponsorship of our diocese.” The candidate next applies to the institution where they will be studying and does so through the Vocation Office.

This year, nine of the diocesan seminarians began their studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., the second oldest seminary in the nation and the largest seminary — as far as numbers of seminarians go — in the country. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was on the faculty at Mount St. Mary’s and served as its rector from 1997-2004.

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