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Monday, April 28, 2008

“At least one qualified candidate per parish”

LA archdiocese looks at different strategy for finding new priests

From California Catholic Daily

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles will begin asking parishes to actively help in the recruitment of new priests in an effort to respond to what appears to be a nationwide surge of interest in priestly vocations.

The Los Angeles archdiocese has “undertaken a change in direction for promoting vocations in 2008,” wrote Fr. James Forsen, director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations, in the April 18 Tidings, the archdiocesan weekly. Forsen wrote that the archdiocese subscribes to a to the “philosophy” of Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk that "the church has commissioned the faithful to create a culture of discernment."

Brother Paul is executive director of the Chicago-based National Vocation Conference, whose web site, VisionVocationMatch.com, in February published the results of an online survey that showed an increased interest in the religious life, especially among those under 30 years old. The survey indicated that 30% of religious communities in the U.S. have more individuals in their formation programs and that 62% of communities that participated in the survey reported an increase in vocation inquiries last year. (See “Seriously considering it,” March 2 California Catholic Daily.)

Citing the survey, Forsen noted in the Tidings article that “a robust surge in inquiries is bringing a new life and hope to vocation ministry.” As far as priestly vocations go, of the 133 male respondents to the survey, 88 said the vocation to the priesthood interested them most. (Sixty-one of them indicated interest in being a religious priest, while 27 said they would prefer the diocesan priesthood.)

“Why this sudden upswing” in interest in vocations to the priesthood? asked Forsen in the article. He cited a “growing disenchantment with living an unfulfilled and meaningless life away from God.” To tap into this apparent “upswing,” Forsen’s office has come up with a threefold strategy.

The first part of the strategy involves “action at the parish level,” he wrote in the Tidings. Using two of the archdiocese’s pastoral regions as “templates,” Forsen’s office will seek 10 to 15 parishes that would volunteer to promote vocations. The hope is to find “at least one qualified candidate per parish,” Forsen wrote. Parish staff will be trained to identify such candidates.

Since, said Forsen’s piece, “all vocations are relationship driven,” each parish will “adopt” a seminarian at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo in order “to put a ‘face’ on a vocation.” This effort will include diocesan seminarians as well as those interested in men’s and women’s religious communities. Other parish efforts will include passing a chalice and stole to a family, who will keep it for a week while praying for vocations. The chalice and stole will then go to another family.

Another effort, already under way, is the a priestly discernment group called “The Vocational Journey,” which is currently meeting at St. Monica’s parish in Santa Monica with the goal of cultivating “Bold Leaders for Christ.” Group members make a one-year commitment and participate in spiritual direction, retreats, and prayer.

The third part of the strategy involves parish lay ministers, who will pass out “vocation cards and materials that can be simply given to worthy men and woman that one knows,” Forsen wrote. Nearly all diocesan seminarians at St. Johns “are there because at some point in their lives a person said to them, ‘You'd make a good priest.’"

1 comment:

A Simple Sinner said...

OK file this under "Things Simple has said for years - that he learned from bishops who already understood it!"

Very simply, the diocesan vocations director should contact each pastor of each parish and ask for a 3-5 name "short list" of young men. Several times a year using the contact info they should be invited to the Cathedral for Mass, and dinner at the Episcopal residence or in some restaraunt that has a private dining room where the bishop himself can say "I invite you to pray and consider this".

14ish years ago I was 18 and working with a buddy of mine on a volunteer project on a Saturday afternoon at an inner city parish. We were doing some landscaping on a really beautiful day when we could have been playing some softball or drinking some beers one of our older brothers scored for us... but there we were.

For about 5 min the pastor made small talk with us after he saw us working... Just enough small talk to know we were Catholics, we were active members in our Catholic parishes, we went to Catholic school and well - by observation! - we cared enough to do some volunteer work at a Catholic parish on a day we could have found "funner" (as my kid sister would say) things to do.

A month or two later we would come to find out that he was the vocations director for the diocese. And what he NEVER said "boo" about - not even close was "You guys ever think about the priesthood?"

That just MIGHT explain why the diocese I grew up in had no more than 2-3 seminarians at a time for two decades and why - with a changing of the guard - the same diocese has 25+ every year now.

Moral of the story that you already well know? Find the men, ask them, pray with them, pray for them... and 4-8 years later you will be ordaining some of them.