January 8, 2013 // Uncategorized

Vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life

This coming week, January 13-19, the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates National Vocation Awareness Week. This annual observance is a special time in which dioceses and parishes across our country focus on promotion of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life through prayer and education.

We rejoice in our diocese that more young people are considering the possibility that God may be calling them to the priesthood or the consecrated life. When I ask many of our teenagers and young adults if they have ever considered such a vocation, most respond “yes.” This is good news that mirrors recent findings in a research study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate based at Georgetown University. The study found that over 600,000 Catholic youth and young adults in the United States have seriously considered a religious vocation.

We all share in the responsibility of supporting vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, so necessary for the Church’s mission. I ask that you please remember this intention in your prayers. Ultimately, vocations are gifts of God’s grace, so it is important that we follow the counsel of Jesus to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into His vineyard.”

Though the number of seminarians in our diocese continues to increase, we still have challenges with a priest shortage. I will only be ordaining one man to the priesthood this year and one man next year. Staffing of our parishes, at least in the short-term, continues to be a challenge. Please pray for me and our Priest Personnel Board as we meet in the coming months to address this challenge.

We also face the challenge of paying for the education of our seminarians. The monies raised in the Annual Bishop’s Appeal supports some of this cost. But this annual expenditure has grown significantly due to the increase in the number of our seminarians. That is why I instituted the annual Pentecost collection to support the education of our seminarians. We have also begun to address this need long-term by establishing the Blessed John Paul II Endowment Fund for Seminary Education. Please consider this Fund in your estate planning or in other financial plans. I truly appreciate your generosity.

Besides your prayers and financial support, I also ask for your support of promotion of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. I especially encourage parents to propose to their children the possibility that God may be calling them to service as priests, sisters, or brothers. It is important that all of us teach our young people how beautiful it is to serve God and the Church and not to be afraid to say “yes” if this is their calling.

We are celebrating this Year of Faith 50 years since the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. At that time, Pope Paul VI spoke of how vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are a “precise and inescapable indicator of the vitality of faith and love of individual parish and diocesan communities, and the evidence of the moral health of Christian families. Wherever numerous vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are to be found, that is where people are living the Gospel with generosity.”

I think that Venerable Pope Paul VI was right on target in connecting vocations to the vitality of faith in families, parishes, and dioceses. Pope Benedict XVI has made a similar connection. He wrote: “Vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life are born out of the experience of a personal encounter with Christ, out of sincere and confident dialogue with him, so as to enter into his will. It is necessary, therefore, to grow in the experience of faith, understood as a profound relationship with Jesus, as inner attentiveness to his voice which is heard deep within us. This process, which enables us to respond positively to God’s call, is possible in Christian communities where the faith is lived intensely, where generous witness is given of adherence to the Gospel, where there is a strong sense of mission which leads people to make the total gift of self for the Kingdom of God. …”

The stronger the faith of the Christian community, and this includes the family, the “domestic Church,” the more we see a flourishing of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. I also must mention the holy vocation of marriage. The stronger the faith of the Christian community, the more we also see a flourishing of the sacrament of marriage.

Young people today are presented with many options as they consider their future. We must make sure that they discern the Lord’s will in considering these options, that they recognize that God has a loving plan for each of them. I think we must help our young people, in this busy and often noisy culture, to make space for silence and prayer in their lives. It is through personal contact with God, listening to the voice of God in prayer, that one discovers His will. I know that many of our seminarians heard the call to the priesthood through prayer, particularly during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The more our parishes and families are “schools of prayer,” the more we see young people moved to that personal encounter with Christ from which vocations are born.

As we continue this Year of Faith together, I hope and pray that our relationship with the Lord Jesus will grow increasingly firm as we also grow in our appreciation of the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith. As the Holy Father reminds us, where the faith is lived intensely, there is also present the fertile soil for the growth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church, intercede for us and for our young people, helping them to hear and answer the call of her Divine Son!

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