Help spot vocations in your parish

This past year, the priests of our diocese gathered in their deaneries to pray, to share their vocational stories and to reflect together on a booklet by Msgr. Thomas Richter titled, “Lend Your Own Voice to Christ: A Helpful Guide for Priests to Call Forth Men to the Priesthood.” Our priests had spirited conversations as they shared with one another what it meant for them to lend their own voice to Christ in calling forth men to discern a call to priesthood.

In this booklet, Msgr. Richter’s concluding words are: “Like a natural father, there is great joy for a priest when he brings to life, with God, another self: a priest of Jesus Christ. How much joy there must have been in Jesus when he called forth his first priests! Jesus wants all his priests to experience this joy within his fatherhood. It is a joy and a privilege to call forth to life the mystery of a priestly vocation planted in the soul of the man. May this joy of Christ be ours! If we do not allow fear or discouragement to keep us from lending our own voice to Christ, his promise will come true in us: ‘I will make you fishers of men…’”

I am excited that our priests have said yes to continue this conversation in 2022. Their generous response gives me hope and I look forward to seeing how they move their prayer and conversations forward and experience the joy of calling “forth to life the mystery of priestly vocation planted in the soul of the man.”

To continue to support priests in their role as “fishers of men,” the vocation office is providing two resources for them: “Priests for the Third Millennium” by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and “Five Conversations About the Priesthood: A Simple Way Busy Priests Can Help Young Men Discern” by Father Michael Pratt. Cardinal Dolan’s book lays the foundations for the five conversations suggested in the second book which are centered around priestly identity, the Eucharist in the priest’s life, the sacrament of penance, preaching and parish priesthood. When I first came across Father Pratt’s book at the beginning of December, I saw it as a sign of the Holy Spirit. On the opening page of his book, he has this quote from Msgr. Richter’s book, “To whom did Jesus give his greatest authority, power, influence, the responsibility to call men to the priesthood? The priest who has been appointed as a Pastor of his soul!”

To follow up our reflections on Msgr. Richter’s booklet with Father Pratt’s book seems providential and well-timed.

Father Pratt’s book is amazingly simple and practical. The first part describes how to spot potential vocations in your parish. He says, “Think of the priests in your own diocese. It’s probably an incredibly (even humorously) varied bunch. God’s creativity is spectacular.”

Father Pratt says that spotting potential vocations is surprisingly easy. Here is the standard: “Be on the lookout for unmarried men in your parish who are between the ages of 16 and 30 and do one or more of the following: regularly attend Sunday Mass (especially going to daily Mass), come to confession, pray in the church and volunteer in the parish.”

Father Pratt says that “this standard may seem laughingly low. These ‘signs’ may mean they are simply practicing Catholics. But at a time when most people their age have left the church, these young men are pursuing the Eucharist, progressing in the spiritual life, and are willing to help others with their faith. Talk about priestly! Therefore I encourage you to take a moment to think about those in your parish who meet this standard.”

Actually, this is something that we can all do! All of us can help pastors “to be fishers of men,” by praying for vocations and also by pointing out the men in our parishes who fit this standard. Be on the lookout for men in your parish, 16 to 30 years old, who fit this simple standard. Father Pratt says, “If anyone does one or more those things, it’s time to reach out.”

Let’s be courageous in this new year and visit with our pastors about who in our parishes fit the standard outlined by Father Pratt. Encourage them to reach out to these men as true fishers of men and watch them exude with joy.

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First Sunday of Advent