During the first part of November we celebrated National Vocations Awareness Week, a celebration to promote vocations to the priesthood,
diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education. In our diocesan priority plan, under the foundational ministries of Vocations and Evangelization, Bishop Robert Gruss speaks about dioceses in the United States where vocations are flourishing.
In these places, he says, “There resides a culture that has created an environment for young men and women to view the priesthood and religious life as a viable way of life and to view sacramental marriage as a vocation centered in Christ. Such an environment has, in some way, awakened the hearts of these young people. (Through Him, With Him and In Him, p. 121).
One of the goals in the pastoral priority plan, under Vocations and Evangelization, is that each parish or parish grouping will form a vocation committee to encourage and promote a culture of vocations. It is within this environment young men and women will be emboldened to pray and to discern God’s plan and desire for them in more intentional ways, and it will be an environment in which parish communities will take it upon themselves to fervently pray for a vocation boom — not only in their own parishes, but in the entire Diocese of Rapid City as well.
Jesus said to his disciples “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; beg the master of the harvest to send out laborers to gather his harvest” (Mt 9:36-38). We should pray fervently, pleading to Jesus constantly and relentlessly, to send more priestly and religious vocations to our diocese.
I am not sure how well we do this in our parishes and in the diocese as a whole. Every weekend at parish Masses throughout the diocese we pray the vocation prayer, but has it become too rote for us? Do we just say the prayer instead of truly praying the prayer? Do we pray the vocation prayer and leave it at that?
There is an amazing story of a village in northern Italy called Lu. From this village, with a population of about 1,800, has come 323 vocations: 152 priests and male religious and 171 nuns belonging to 41 different congregations. In 1881, the mothers of Lu made a decision that literally changed the face of this village community and its families forever.
The mothers of Lu had a deep desire that one of their sons would become a priest and one of their daughters would
become a religious sister, placing their lives completely in God’s service. The mothers of Lu, under the direction of their parish priest, Msgr. Alessandro Canora, would gather every Tuesday for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament asking the Lord for vocations.
The mothers of Lu received holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month with the same intention. After Mass, all the mothers prayed a particular prayer together imploring vocations to the priesthood: “O God grant that one of my sons may become a priest! I myself want to live as a good Christian and want to guide my children
always to do what is right, so that I may receive the grace, O God, to be allowed to give you a holy priest! Amen.”
Through their trusting and confident prayers, the mothers of Lu inspired other parents to pray for the same desire for their children. Together they created an atmosphere, an environment, a culture of vocations and of deep joy, which made it much easier for their children to pray, discern and recognize their own vocations. This environment inspired them to lay down their own lives at the service of God’s plan.
Msgr. Thomas Richter, rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, shared with me recently a similar experience in his parish. The Bismarck cathedral has not yet seen the fruit that is born by the fervent desires and prayers of the mothers of Lu, but nonetheless is seeing abundant fruit from the seeds planted in fervent prayer,
desire and petition for vocations to priesthood and religious life.
Right now, the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit has eight seminarians studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Bismarck alone. Msgr. Richter said that there has been a group of parishioners that has been meeting every Tuesday for the last 20 years for adoration and rosary, praying fervently for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
As Msgr. Richter reflects on this phenomenon of having eight seminarians from one parish, he says it has to do with an environment, a culture where vibrant faith is experienced and lived out on a daily basis. He shared that they have 150 to 200 people who attend daily Mass. The priests in the parish offer over nine hours of confession weekly, plus 55 hours of adoration. These things are setting this parish on fire — a fire that is contagious to those who experience such a vibrant faith.
Bishop Gruss, reflecting on the core value of prayer in the diocesan priority plan, says, “Prayer is the encounter of God’s desire for us united with our desire for God.”
This desire seems to be at the heart of the mothers of Lu and the group of parishioners who have been praying for some 20 years at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, fervently, consistently, begging and pleading that the Lord be faithful to his promise we hear in the Gospels: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; beg the master of the harvest to send out laborers to gather his harvest.”
As we put our diocesan priority plan into action, perhaps in our parishes across the diocese there will be mothers, fathers, families and parishioners inspired to gather in front of the Blessed Sacrament with the firm desire — a firm intention — to pray for vocations to priesthood and religious life. May the Lord lead them with wisdom into creating a strong culture of vocations in their homes and parishes, and may our diocese be the next diocese where vocations to priesthood and religious life are flourishing and booming.