Stewardship of Vocations
"The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few." Luke 10:2
When Father Andrew came to St. Thomas More, the Archbishop told him he wanted him to promote vocations. As a result, we decided to include vocations as part of our stewardship program, seeing it as stewardship issue. We plan one or two weeks in November for vocations, using a "Called by Name" program.
The first weekend, the presiding clergy preaches about his own vocation, or about a vocation issue in being a priest, brother, sister, or deacon in the church. The priest then asks parishioners to think of someone whom they think may have a vocation and to plan on nominating that person the next weekend. That means they identify some young man or woman, or even a young person 12 years or older who could start studying for the priesthood or for the religious life.
The following week, the priest gives another homily on vocation. As with other Stewardship Renewals, the priest asks parishioners to pick up a card in the pews and pray the stewardship prayer for vocations.
Since 2001 we have received an average of 150 names. They usually receive at least two letters from Father Andrew. The first letter informs them they have been nominated as a person who might consider a vocation. Some people feel honored by this. The second letter informs them of upcoming diocesan events and we also send a magazine or brochure on vocations.
Father Andrew says, "We ask them to give us a call, but I personally get very few phone calls because they're afraid of what I may say to them regarding their vocation. What happens is: moms and dads, brothers and sisters, teachers or youth ministers talk about vocations themselves and about who got nominated and who didn't. Vocations then become an open issue. When everyone talks vocation, vocation no longer seems like a dirty word."
Working on vocations takes time; two, three or four years of this. Imagine, here's an 18 year old boy who's been nominated four times and here comes the fifth nomination. He's wondering what he's going to do with his life, and he thinks; "God is calling me again?" He needs to check it out. He then calls the vocation director. It works! As a matter of fact, there was a deacon who just entered the diaconate formation program.
We actually get the most response for our diaconate program. Many men have been identified as permanent deacons through this program. This particular young man had dropped out, and then he got nominated. As a result, he thought of giving it another try and re-entered the formation to be a permanent deacon. He was ordained in 2005. Then there's another young man, 20 years old. I see him once in a while, and the last time I saw him I asked if he got my letter and he said he's thinking about it. He recently was instituted as a reader. It's our job to cultivate vocations.
One of the things we started in 2001 was "Clergy and Religious Appreciation Day" on the last weekend before Ash Wednesday. We organize a party for all the religious and clergy, even those who are retired and residing in the parish. The children and youth make posters and write letters to each of our clergy and religious expressing appreciation for their giving their life to God. This is a good time for them to learn about vocations to the priesthood or to the religious life.
In addition, the parish remembers them at Christmas and Easter, on their birthdays and on the anniversaries of their ordination or profession of vows. We have a regular column in the Sunday bulletin that lists the birthdays and special days of our clergy and religious, so the parish can be aware of those special dates. We remind our parishioners to pray for our clergy, religious and seminarians, as well as all the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Denver included on this list.
This gives credibility to the men and women who are going to be talking about stewardship. It helps people appreciate that when one gives their life to the service of the Church, they are not alone. Being called brother, sister, or father clearly denotes that we are family, and the church is a spouse. The church family's role in our vocation is that we get recognized, that important anniversaries such as ordination or profession be remembered along with birthdays as you would do with any family member on their special days. By encouraging this, it emphasizes that having a religious vocation is a good thing. When children see parents pick up a card or a gift to give to a priest or a nun, they can see the appreciation, they see it's worthwhile to have a vocation, and are left with a positive image of the clergy.
Furthermore, we promote vocations throughout the year following the Church liturgical celebrations such as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations as well as the Pastor's Appreciation Day in October.
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