Fr. Scnippel and I after Mass during the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors Convention.
A Traveling Crucifix or Chalice program
During at least one Sunday Mass each week, a family is commissioned to take from the Sunday Celebration a Crucifix or Chalice, or some type of religious icon, home with them to pray for vocations during the upcoming week. As part of this program, the family prays for vocations to the priesthood, religious life (male and female), permanent diaconate, married life, single life, and lay ministry. This heightens the awareness that all are called to spread the Good News of Christ to our world today. The focus is also to help the young people of the parish to pray for guidance that they may find their true calling from God and have the strength and courage to embrace it completely. Click here for a model program for the Archdiocese. Electronic versions of the document are available upon request from the Vocation Office. As a side note, I think it is important to do this at Sunday Mass, and not just let it be something that is picked up as people leave, as it helps to raise the awareness of the need for prayer by all of the faithful. Parishes that do not have this as part of Mass find that they have trouble filling the spots, because people don’t know it is happening in the parish!!!
Adoration for Vocations
One of the few items that Jesus specifically tells us to pray for is an increase of Vocations: “Beg the master of the harvest to send out laborers to gather his harvest.” (Matt 9:38) It continues to happen that young people begin to hear the call to serve as they are confronted in the silence of Eucharistic Adoration. It is also a place where all members of the parish can come forward before Jesus in the Eucharist to offer their own contribution for the needs of priests, and those who are being called. If you already have Adoration periods scheduled for your parish, please have Vocation Office materials available. We are also working on putting together a small booklet specifically for Holy Hours for Vocations. Please help to promote this when published, hopefully by the end of the year. I am convinced that I first heard the call to the priesthood while I spent time in the Adoration Chapel at my small country parish. This is where any vocation promotion effort should begin.
Weekly Petitions at Mass
Again, following the command of Our Lord to pray for Vocations, the Sunday Assembly is where the Community of Believers gathers most frequently. As they hear this on a weekly basis, it starts to penetrate the focus of the Community, raising the awareness of the need for response to God’s invitation. One critique is that the people may get tired of hearing the same petition over and over. To answer that, the Vocation Office will be sending out sample petitions that can be adapted to your parish’s needs, beginning with the First Sunday of Advent. Also, if you have a son or daughter from your parish currently in formation, please mention him or her in the petitions. This helps to raise awareness of the possibility of a vocation among the younger members of the parish. (“If she can do it, so can I.”)
As part of our efforts to help raise awareness and disseminate information regarding seminaries, houses of formation, religious orders, the Vocation Office will also be providing “Bulletin Blurbs” for use in weekly parish bulletins. These will highlight upcoming events, point to various vocation links around the web, and include some reading materials for discernment, priesthood and religious life. Examples can be found here. These would be in addition to the continuing “Vocation Views,” which are based on material from the National Religious Vocation Council.
Display of posters from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and the Vocation Office
These two permanent display items help to raise awareness that there are young men, just like those in your parish, who are committing themselves to a life of service in the priesthood. The Vocation Office poster is designed to attract attention and to drive our young people to explore the call that might already be present. Often in the pursuit of clarity, they become frozen and unable to respond as they wait for an unmistakable sign from God. The slogan is meant to engage this desire and move them along the path. To request more of the yellow “Trumpets” poster, please contact the Vocation Office at 513-421-3131; for more of the blue “Athenaeum” poster, please contact Mount St. Mary’s Seminary at 513-231-2223. If your diocese does not produce a poster of the current roster of seminarians, call your Vocation Director and INSIST that he does this! As young men see these faces that look just like their own, they can see themselves in the program. Also, they begin to realize that they are not the only ones feeling this call, others will walk the road along with them.
The annual Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate from Georgetown University report on the upcoming ordinandi routinely mentions how men being ordained first seriously considered the call after repeated invitations from a priest to consider the priesthood. Reports also show that 36% of young people today still consider the call to the priesthood or religious life, but many report that they do not respond because they do not feel encouraged or supported along this path. By naming that you see aspects of what would make for a good priest (or religious) in them, you are helping to nourish this call. One thing that always helps a young man discern a call to the diocesan priesthood is a visit to our seminary, either on an arranged visit or through participation in an event sponsored by the Vocation Office. In my experience, when someone is being called, they often do not understand what they are experiencing. By identifying the call for them, it gives them clarity and direction. For more information, see this blog post, written from the perspective of a young woman considering religious life.
Participation and Promotion of Vocation Awareness Week
Every year, following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Church sets aside a week of prayer for vocations. This past year, we generated the materials for Vocation Awareness Week in house, instead of state wide from the Diocese of Cleveland. With the new website, we wanted to help get the word out and to have a more consistent message. We will be publishing the materials in house again this year, with a targeted publishing date around November 1st. For this past year’s materials, please visit the Vocation Awareness Week page. This link is going to be changing shortly, as new material is published for this coming year.
Fishers of Men DVD
The most inspiring video in recent times regarding the priesthood, and recruiting for the priesthood is Fishers of Men, produced by Grassroots Films, at the request of the USCCB Secretariat for Vocations. I think that every young person, if not every Catholic, should see this video. Yes, it presents a very high ideal of the priesthood, but it resonates with young people of today. The Vocation Office has copies of the DVD available to the parishes of the Archdiocese. To request a copy, either call 513-421-3131, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For other projects from Grassroots Films, see their website: http://www.grassrootsfilms.com/.
Group Tours of the Seminary Grounds
Questions of how one becomes a priest invariably turn to where men go to the seminary. By bringing student groups to visit Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, it can awaken the call to the vocation as they start to see themselves in the building. Many of the convents of nuns and sisters are very gracious in hosting visitors as well.
The following are projects that various parishes and groups within the Archdiocese have found successful:
Way of the Cross for Vocations
This particular Lenten devotion can have a specific focus on praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. For a model program, click here.
One weekend is set aside to help promote various ways that the call to priesthood and religious life is lived out. Religious orders are very interested in promoting their way of life, and are very giving of materials to help demonstrate how they live. Fairs could either be self standing events on a specific Sunday, or you could have literature and materials available during other parish wide events, such as picnics and festivals. This would also help increase the awareness of the need for vocations.
Rosary for Vocations
During the months of May and October, months where the Church consciously reflects on the role and patronage of Mary, offer the public recitation of the Rosary with a specific theme on vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Meditations for the Mysteries of the Rosary with a vocation theme can be found here.
Adopt a Seminarian
Our world is more and more about relationships. As a way of highlighting that there are highly qualified men who are pursuing the priesthood today, there is the option of ‘Adopting’ a seminarian. This relationship would involve praying for him as a parish, providing opportunities for him to share his story with the parish, and the possibility of him hosting groups to visit him at the seminary.
It is my hope that all of these programs together will help create a culture of vocations in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati; a culture which would not only foster calls to the priesthood and religious life, but would also nurture and support young people who are being called to the married or single life as well.
Please know that I pray for you, my brother priests, on a daily basis. We are trying to make the materials developed in the Vocation Office as user friendly as possible. If you have any comments or concerns, any thoughts you would like to share, please feel free to contact me. I am convinced that there are many people being called to the priesthood and religious life, they just need the support from you to help them realize what they are already experiencing is truly a call from God to serve Him in all the wonder and mystery which that entails.
Your Brother in Christ,
Fr. Kyle Schnippel - Vocation Director
Matthew 9:38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into his harvest.