Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Simple Program

In the comments of this post at Roman Catholic Vocations; 'A Simple Sinner' makes the following suggestion:

Very simply, the diocesan vocations director should contact each pastor of each parish and ask for a 3-5 name "short list" of young men. Several times a year using the contact info they should be invited to the Cathedral for Mass, and dinner at the Episcopal residence or in some restaraunt that has a private dining room where the bishop himself can say "I invite you to pray and consider this". 14ish years ago I was 18 and working with a buddy of mine on a volunteer project on a Saturday afternoon at an inner city parish. We were doing some landscaping on a really beautiful day when we could have been playing some softball or drinking some beers one of our older brothers scored for us... but there we were.For about 5 min the pastor made small talk with us after he saw us working... Just enough small talk to know we were Catholics, we were active members in our Catholic parishes, we went to Catholic school and well - by observation! - we cared enough to do some volunteer work at a Catholic parish on a day we could have found "funner" (as my kid sister would say) things to do.A month or two later we would come to find out that he was the vocations director for the diocese. And what he NEVER said "boo" about - not even close was "You guys ever think about the priesthood?"That just MIGHT explain why the diocese I grew up in had no more than 2-3 seminarians at a time for two decades and why - with a changing of the guard - the same diocese has 25+ every year now.Moral of the story that you already well know? Find the men, ask them, pray with them, pray for them... and 4-8 years later you will be ordaining some of them.

While I certainly agree that this should be something that us poor vocation directors should do, it is also the responsibility of all the faithful to encourage and support!


adoro said...

Hmmm....I like the "short list" idea. If you don't have time to call all the parishes, I bet you could get a volunteer to do it, or get ahold of the Vocations committees, etc. And then send out personal invites, or contact them, or something. There's a lot you could do with that idea.

And being that I'm me and need to add this...don't forget about the importance of inviting women! :-)

(You're not going to call my Pastor, are you?)

michael said...

I understand the goal of singling out a handful of prospects in each parish. If you get a handful from each parish, the pool of possible candidates will go up. I guess I would try to be even more optimistic, and shoot to increase the pool exponentially. Take small groups of kids out of their familiar environs, put them together with kids from other parishes, and send them to a vocations day seminar. Do kids ever realize that everyone - each one of them - has a real vocation, and what does that mean? Have some diocesan priests, religious nuns, and brothers make presentations on different aspects of vocation to the religious life, and let the kids see the possibilities. And, have an adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Let one of the presenters explain how it is the Source and Summit of our life. Also, plea with the individual parishes to have regular adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and ask that they have some kind of program which explains it.

I would try to cycle every youngster through such a program, and not overlook anyone. The Church seems to place too much emphasis on "leadership qualities" in young people, in my opinion, and it's often a mistake. Lots of kids, who are more introverted by nature, grow up with scarce attention paid to their talents. They wander right out of the Church. The Church needs everyone, including intellectually gifted young people who might pursue higher theological study, and others who are introverted, and who might have a natural affinity for prayer. I can think of no better example than of our Holy Father B16. He was, and is, a shy introvert. (ditto Paul VI) Who would have guessed that he might turn out to be a great pastor in the Church? Thank God that some are able to pursue religious life, in spite of less encouragement (or in spite of actual discouragement) than some contemporaries, who are thought of as the leaders. (Also, thank the Holy Spirit who reveals them in the papal conclave!)

I'm sure that most of us have known priests and religious, who are gifted with leadership skills, and probably could have found a place just about anywhere....in the corporate world, or on the stage. I also frequently wonder how many vocations have been lost because a young person doesn't fit into the mold that is fixed. I always wonder about the people who are setting the molds, doing the singling out, and what the agenda is. Obviously the Church has a problem, when some priests and religious don't seem to want to encourage young people to pursue the same thing that they did; as if they are admitting that they would never repeat their own life choice of the consecrated life, and that is sad. Vocation direction is an awesome responsibility, and you, Father, have my respect and prayers.

Anonymous said...

That is a great little blurb, Father! It isn't about doing it just exactly this way, it's about having a heart for vocations! I think the operative point here, is ASK!

A priest I know was raised Baptist. As a kid he would accompany a Catholic friend to Mass on occasion, and each time he shook hands with the priest as he left Mass, the priest would say, "You're going to make a great priest someday!" The planting of that thought and invitation moved in his life! I am sure that there are many stories like this. The important thing is setting an example that attracts and ASK!

Adoro te Devote said...

Where I work, the school kids go to the seminary for the day. the Youth Minister didn't bother to mention this to me until a month ago...when it happened. Because apparently it was my job to organize this for my group, but I didn't even know it was something they did or was a possiblilty!

They used to take the girls also to a convent (but I refuse to send the girls to the monastery where they normally went). I'm hoping with my more recent contacts now involving sisters in habits who are FAITHFUL and not New Age that maybe next year I can make those arrangements to have the girls visit.

Baby-boomer women who live in a house or large building together and who dress like their mothers and grandmothers do NOT make an impression on girls. Women who dress in habits and live prayerful, joy-filled lives MAKE A HUGE IMPRESSION.

* sigh *

And I had such big plans for the year...I just wish the YM had clued me into some of these things when I started as opposed to waiting until the week OF and telling me what my predecessor did.

I'll be she never dressed like St. Catherine of Siena, though. I might be doing so tomorrow (a day late, but tomorrow is class for them!)

Padre Steve said...

I am sure that dinner with the Bishop and a direct challenge from him is a great idea! I also think that vocations begin in good Catholic families. Parents cannot be afraid to suggest the priesthood or religious life to their sons and daughters. Also, there is nothing like a good, holy, happy local pastor to make the day to day invitation to the young. God is good, and generous and will send us vocations if we are ready to receive them! God bless! Padre Steve, SDB

Anonymous said...

I second this story! As an adolescent in a Catholic school that still had a few sisters, no one ever asked. I was a good student, no trouble, stable family, very regular at Mass. I volunteered to work as a gofer at a conference at the parish and a visiting sister who chatted with me asked--and when I said yes, I'd thought about it, she knew what to say: I did months of discernment with her order in another city. And while I discerned that I didn't belong with them, I always think about the total stranger who asked, while the sisters who taught me never did.