Let’s build a culture of vocations together

It is an exciting time in the Diocese of Rapid City — a time filled with renewed hope and energy as we embrace the Priority Plan of the Diocese of Rapid City together.

Bishop Robert Gruss says this plan “offers a message of hope and an opportunity that draws the people of God to something greater than themselves and inspires them to action. The power of the Holy Spirit will lead us to accomplish more that we can possibly ever imagine.”

In the foundational ministries section of the Priority Plan, under vocation and evangelization, one of the goals is that by Jan. 17, 2017, each parish or parish grouping will form a vocations committee to encourage and promote a culture of vocations.

To help jump start building a culture of vocations in every parish in our diocese, we brought Rhonda Gruenewald to our diocese in April for two workshops. We had 75 people who attended the “Hundredfold” workshops; 32 went to St. John the Evangelist, Ft. Pierre, and 43 attended at Our Lady of the Black Hills, Piedmont. They represented 26 parishes from across the diocese. This is not a bad start to forming vocation ministry committees in every parish in the diocese.

Gruenewald, a convert to the Catholic Church and the author of the book “Hundredfold: A Guide to Vocation Ministry,” did not know what the word vocation meant four years ago. She and her husband, David, were invited to a meeting at her parish, St. Cecilia in Houston, Texas. Her parish priest, Fr. Victor Perez, personally called her and asked if the couple would attend a meeting about “priests and such.”

They accepted the invitation and her life has never been the same. I pray what happened to Rhonda and David will happen to each one of us as we embrace Bishop Gruss’ call and invitation to build a culture of vocation in our parishes and diocese.

The heart of building a culture of vocations in our parish families begins and ends with prayer. Blessed Hannibal di Francia wrote: “Jesus wanted to teach us that vocations in the church do not come by chance, either by themselves, nor can we make them out of human efforts only. They come to us from the mercy of God. If we do not pray to obtain them they will not be given us.”

St. Paul urges the faithful to “pray constantly” (1 Thes 5:17).  If we truly want to work for vocations, our petitions to God must be unending.

Forming an environment in our parish where vocations to priesthood, religious life and sacramental marriage are discerned, nurtured and affirmed has a ripple effect on the entire community. Gruenewald says a single parish vocation ministry committee could be more like a tsunami revitalizing and energizing the parish at many levels. We have to “invite” our young people to actually pray to know their true vocation and to discern God’s call in their lives.

God does indeed have a particular plan — a vocation for each and every one of our young people, whether it would be a call to priesthood, religious life, sacramental marriage, or the single life. Parish vocation committees help families create the space and environment they need to help children and young people hear the voice of Jesus calling their name.

In “Hundredfold,” Gruenewald describes four phases to creating a vocation ministry in parishes:
Phase I: Laying the Ground Work
Phase II: Establishing a Presence
Phase III: Spreading the Word
Phase IV Expanding the Ministry.

The point of the phases is to implement different activities such as prayer, awareness and education, and youth activities that affirm and foster a culture of vocations in an intentional but incremental and sustainable way. She notes there are over 50 activities, from simple to complex, that help a parish develop this culture.

Let’s get started. Read “Hundredfold: Building a Parish Vocation Ministry.” It’s available through the Vocation and Stewardship Office for only $13 – a savings of $7.

In addition, Gruenewald was recently featured on EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa.  In the interview, she shares many of the same stories and experiences she offered during the workshops.  This episode can be accessed at:  http://www.ewtn.com/tv/ live/ewtnlive.asp. It is the second thumbnail under the currently featured video and is the April 13 episode.

If you would like to purchase a book or two, please contact our office at 605-716-5214 ext. 233 or at shanson@diorc.org. You will find it helpful in laying the foundation for creating and building a culture of vocations in your parish.

I look forward to working with you and your parish in creating a culture of vocations in which we nurture, within the hearts of children and our young people, a desire and an openness to follow God’s plan in their lives.