Here's an excerpt from the annual survey of newly ordained priests across the United States:
Regarding participation in parish ministries before entering the seminary, nearly three fourths of responding ordinands (74 percent) served as altar servers before entering the seminary. Nearly three in five (57 percent) served as lectors. Around half served as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (46 percent). One in three served as catechists (38 percent), in campus ministry or youth ministry (35 percent), or as confirmation sponsors/godfathers (31 percent).
In regard to participation in vocation programs before entering the seminary, half of responding ordinands (46 percent) reported participating in "Come and See" weekends at the seminary or the religious institute/society.
Nearly nine in ten responding ordinands (86 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life (most frequently, a parish priest, friend, or another parishioner). Responding ordinands indicate that, on average, four individuals encouraged their vocation.
One-half of responding ordinands (51 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one or more persons. Most often, this person was a friend/classmate or a family member (other than parents).
Realistic encouragement of a vocation can truly help, since at least half of the future priests report being discouraged by someone!
We had some fun after the masses this Sunday imagining priesthood and religious life. Thanks to all who shared their pictures!
Two good books from among many to stimulate discussion and prayer about the priesthood:
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI homilies about priesthood over the sixty years of his own priesthood, Teaching And Learning The Love Of God, highlight the important spiritual aspects of priesthood. Though the priests about whom the pope preached will likely be unknown to us, the message about priesthood is a universal one and gives insight into the thinking of the pope.
Written by a diocesan priest who served in a parish, then as Vocation Director and at the time of writing Vice Rector of a Catholic major seminary, To Save A Thousand Souls is a very practical look at the questions, fears and thoughts a man has who is discerning whether God might be calling him to diocesan priesthood.
The anecdotes describing what a priest does are particularly helpful in stimulating prayer and discussion about priesthood and the book gives insight into the process of application and training of a priest even if these particular steps might be a bit ahead of the man's discernment.
Fr. Manning will be with cutouts of a priest and nun after the Sunday masses so disciples who might answer the call of Jesus can take a very first step toward praying the answer to their life vocation.
The figures are about 5 feet tall. We will have a step stool so our younger parishioners can reach the cutout.
Last year we invited the third graders in our school to have their pictures taken and it was a lot of fun.
Step up and see!
Well, at least for a few minutes! It was fun standing behind giant cutouts of priests and sisters to get an idea of how people would see us a priest or a nun.
We had some good fun and the children welcomed the opportunity to ask many questions about religious vocations.
Fr. Jerome Guld, a newly ordained priest for the Diocese of Trenton, will visit and celebrate tomorrow morning's regular 9 AM mass. Father had visited our school many times as a diocesan seminarian and after mass will visit with as many classes as his schedule permits. He will be accompanied by another familiar face to our school students, Seminarian Richard Osborn, who will also visit with our students.
Well, I had never seen an interactive vocation poster before until now. You step behind this 5 foot tall poster and substitute your face for the priest's face. Spiritual imagination plays an important role in the development of morals, leadership and spiritual maturity. In order to think about priesthood, a young man must imagine himself as a priest and this is meant to help stimulate young imaginations for vocations.
Someone must take a screenshot or photo of the poster so the "priest" can see himself.
I haven't road tested the poster yet...stay tuned!
WITNESS TO THE TRUTH: COME FOLLOW ME
We read these words in the Gospel of St. John: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. I have appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you (John 15:16).” That is a profound thought for anyone considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life in the Catholic Church today. It is God who chooses us for his purposes. As a seminarian many years ago I remember reading in Thomas Merton’s great book No Man is an Island, that “for each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God's will: to be what God wants us to be.” He wrote: “Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once wrote: “Each of you has a personal vocation which God has given you for your own joy and sanctity. When a person is conquered by the fire of His gaze, no sacrifice seems too great to follow Him and give Him the best of ourselves. This is what the saints have always done, spreading the light of the Lord ... and transforming the world into a welcoming home for everyone.”
On Sunday, May 11, the Catholic Church will celebrate the annual “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” Pope Francis reminds us: “No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love.” The theme of this year’s celebration is “Vocations: Witness to the Truth.” That “witness” is the responsibility of every Catholic, every Christian responding to the Lord Jesus Christ who proclaims “I am the Truth” but it is a special obligation for those who are considering Christ’s call to “produce fruit that will last” in the priesthood or religious life.
Here in the Diocese of Trenton, I promote religious vocations every chance I get and everywhere I go. There has not been one parish I have visited in four years where some young man has not said, “I have thought about or am thinking about the priesthood.” Young women are not as enthusiastic about religious life as religious sisters but I think that is only because they have not had the benefit so many of us have had growing up with religious sisters so visible all around us. Potential vocations to both the priesthood and religious life ARE THERE but, as so many young people have said to me, “No one ever asked me before.” Well, the time has come for all of us --- priests, sisters, brothers, moms and dads, teachers, peers --- to be “vocation directors” and to ask our young people about devoting their lives to God through vocations in the Church. The challenges are many, no doubt, but, in the end, the benefits are “out of this world!”
As a Diocese, then, please join me in praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life on May 11, “Mother’s Day.” Perhaps, we could place this intention in the hands of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, Queen of the Assumption, patron of our Diocese, that like her, young people might respond to God’s call to “produce fruit that will last.”
Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M.
Bishop of Trenton
(Please share this message with anyone you think might be discerning a vocation.)
St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore (woo hoo!).
He will visit several classes in our school to explain just what exactly a seminarian does (I'm waiting to hear that too!) and answer any questions they may have about priesthood.
I can predict two of them: 1) Can priests be married or why not? 2) Can women be priests and why not? I am sure there will be many others...I encouraged the second graders to ask hard questions!
Pray for Nicholas and all our seminarians that they be fortified by the Holy Spirit and encouraged by family, friends and the faithful of the Diocese of Trenton to follow the path to priesthood if God calls them there with courage, persistence and prayer.
Today's Scripture reading warning that "gold and silver corrodes" reminds us that sometimes what we strive after most, is not what we really need and it will not really give peace. It struck me especially because I had once again seen the story of Grant Desme, a promising young minor leaguer for the Oakland A's who hung up his cleats to enter the Norbertine Monastery in California. One thing in particular he said: I had everything I wanted and it wasn't enough. His search led to a journey to test whether he had a priestly vocation with the Norbertine Fathers. Still almost 8 years away from ordination (as far as I could tell), his journey continues with constant prayer, study and work.
Video Produced by the Norbertines
The Norbertine Fathers, Brothers and Sisters are a very traditional order - the kind of religious life which seems to be entering a new Springtime in the United States. The abbey is moving, both to leave a volcanic fault line, and to accomodate new students and the growth of their community.
Religious orders of women renewing the traditional charisms and way of life are also experiencing similar growth in the United States. We've talked about the Nashville Dominicans before, but a visit to their website is always inspirational. Their formation house is also bursting at the seams with enthusiastic young women in love with Christ.
Some of the Newest Dominicans in Nashville
Don't forget about our own Diocesan Website for Priestly Vocations
It was exciting to see our bishop encourage vocations during his Confirmation visit a few days ago. Not only did he ask each of the boys serving the Confirmation ceremony about priesthood, but distributed a prayer card from the Office of Vocations and a Miraculous Medal from his recent trip to Lourdes.
Bishop O'Connell is inviting men who are discerning a call to the priesthood to his residence in Princeton for a day of prayer and reflection.
June 16th - 11 AM Young men of high school age
June 23rd - 11 AM Men between the ages of 18 - 40
Thank you for your warm response to the Bishop O'Connell's appeal to us through the video shown at all the masses today. In case you missed the message you can click here, or watch on the Bishop's Annual Appeal website.
Witness Awakens Vocations
message of Pope Benedict XVI on World Day of Prayer for Vocations
The fruitfulness of our efforts to promote vocations depends primarily on God’s free action, yet, as pastoral experience confirms, it is also helped by the quality and depth of the personal and communal witness of those who have already answered the Lord’s call to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life, for their witness is then able to awaken in others a desire to respond generously to Christ’s call.
The pope enumerated three characteristics of the witness of a priest:
1. Friendship with Christ
2. Complete gift of self to God
3. A man of communion with God, the Church, the people.
…the Lord makes use of the witness of priests who are faithful to their mission in order to awaken new priestly and religious vocations for the service of the People of God.
This coming Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday and also World Day of Prayer for Vocations. To commemorate this day, the USCCB will launce a new website designed to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Check it out on Sunday when it goes live and spread the link!
Remember to encourage and pray for vocations.
On a similar note, check out some of the characteristics of the Priestly Ordination Class 0f 2010 measured by a survey completed by the ordinandi (soon to be ordained).
The next time you're convinced that you absolutely must have more space for whatever reason, think of the Carmelite Monks in Wyoming.
Their monastery is literally bursting at the seams, but not because each monk has a personal, luxurious space. They are presented with the pleasant problem of young vocations to the point that the monastery needs to expand.
Take a look though at the personal living spaces of the monks, who are being accomodated temporarily in portable monastic cells. It struck me that the enclosures are not much bigger than some lawn storage sheds.
Sometimes enough is enough.
Check out highlights of their appearance here.
The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist will be featured on Tuesday's show and promotional teasers already tip Oprah's incredulity that the sisters can do without sex and live happily. Hopefully, there will be a serious look at their lives and the happiness that completely giving yourself to God can bring.
Curiously, the show will also feature a close-up of the women who work in the "only Western Geisha," apparently sticking with the theme of women living together in hidden communities? We can pray that the media attention to the sister will bring positive results for vocations in the Church.
Visit the sisters webpage here.