By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond
The church will celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week Nov. 5-11 for parishes throughout the U.S. to actively foster and pray for a culture of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life. Why is this important?
We should pray for vocations all year, but it’s important that we designate specific times to pray for and talk about vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life as religious brothers and sisters. Our prayer is that God may use us to awaken in others the vocational call that he has already given to them. In the archdiocese, we have 42 seminarians at the present time, which is a great blessing. I will ordain five men to the priesthood next June. In the last 10 years, we have ordained 33 men. I will also ordain 22 men to the permanent diaconate next June. Additionally, we have a House of Discernment for Women, so I believe the archdiocese is rich in awakening God’s call and creating a culture of vocations.
What are some questions people who are wrestling with a vocation may ask?
I often hear people say, “I’m not sure what I want to do with my life.” But that’s the wrong approach. The real question should be, “What is God asking me to do with my life based on the gifts he has given to me? How can I use those gifts to make a difference in the world and to serve others, and in so doing, also be a source of fulfillment for me?” For some people, the answer to that is marriage and family life; for others, it might be a single way of life; but, for some, it’s definitely the priesthood, diaconate or religious life. So, the question should be: “What is God calling me to do?”
How has the synod influenced vocations ministry in the archdiocese?
The synod specifically asked for a vocation committee to be established and a vocation ministry coordinator to be named in every parish, and thus far we have coordinators in 67 parishes. I want to thank and affirm those men and women who have taken on the responsibility to foster vocations in their parishes and also the people who are working with them. Father Kurt Young, who is our vocations director, has done a great job promoting vocations in the archdiocese. Many parishes ask families to take home from Sunday Mass a vocation cross or a vocation chalice, which they can use to pray for vocations every night during the week. For example, Our Lady of the Lake just started a chalice program, and St. Catherine of Siena passes out multiple crosses with a prayer book to a family at each Mass once a month. St. Dominic is beginning a monthly Mass for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, which will be celebrated by different priests, and they will have information tables set up after Mass. I would be glad to know what other parishes are doing. We’re doing a Come and See weekend for high school juniors and seniors and college-age men this weekend at St. Joseph Seminary College, and there will be another offered in the spring. Father Kurt visits various high schools and parishes to speak about vocations and the discernment process. There’s also a wonderful website – www.Nola Priest.com – that is updated regularly. It will be rolling out promotional videos on social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) during National Vocation Awareness Week. There are video testimonies on the website from several of our seminarians about their vocational call. Of course, every year we do a Calling All Fifth Graders day to talk to young people about vocations, and the vocation office is working closely with Sam Pitre in the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office to be more visible and connected with young adults on college campuses. We’re even planning a basketball game in the spring between priests and seminarians to promote vocations!
Haven’t you also encouraged seminarians to give vocation talks in parishes?
Yes. A lot of parishioners are impressed with the quality of our seminarians, and they enjoy hearing their vocation stories. It gives the parishioners a sense of understanding vocations and also empowers them to help us foster vocations. Parents who are hesitant to support a religious vocation in one of their children can benefit from such reflections.
Can a call come at almost any age?
Very often when we talk about vocations to the priesthood or religious life, we talk about young people. But there are some people, who are not exactly the youngest, who hear and respond to God’s call. It’s not unusual to get someone in the seminary who is in his 30s, 40s or 50s.
What can Catholics do to promote vocations?
Sometimes people come up to me and say they see a certain young person whom they really admire and think that person should be a priest, deacon or religious sister or brother. I thank them for telling me, but then I always add, “Don’t tell me, tell them!” Very often, laity are the ones who can awaken God’s call in someone. May God continue to bless our efforts at helping people hear and respond to God’s call in their lives.
Questions for Archbishop Aymond can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.