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Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Apostolate of Suffering offers prayers for vocations"

From the Catholic Globe
By Katie Lefebvre

Offering suffering up as a prayer for vocations is one way to help increase vocations to the priesthood, says the diocesan vocations director.

The Diocese of Sioux City recently started the Apostolate of Suffering that is made up of individuals who unite their sufferings with the Lord’s Passion for grace of many vocations to the priesthood in the diocese.

“This is a program that tries to bring more people into praying specifically for vocations,” said Father Brad Pelzel, director of vocations for the diocese. “The people that it focuses on are the people that are homebound, people in nursing homes, people in hospitals and people who are struggling with various infirmities and health issues.”

Someone can become a member of the apostolate by making a daily offering of their sufferings and prayers for an increase in vocations to the priesthood in the diocese.

“The outlook for people in our parishes, who are homebound or in nursing homes, is that if it is going to get better, it is probably not going to get a lot better and not going to stay better for that long,” said Father Pelzel.
“The long-term prognosis for all of us is that we are going to die. The question is what do we do between now and then?”

The program is asking the people who are suffering to “take their crosses and lift them up on behalf of the church,” said the priest.

Those participating in the apostolate are given a brochure and a prayer card with the Morning Offering prayer. They are asked to pray the Morning Offering each day.

The Morning Offering
O my Jesus, I adore you and I love you. Source of all mercy, look upon me with compassion. Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I unite my cross with yours and offer you all of my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, especially for holy vocations to the priesthood for the Diocese of Sioux City. Amen.

The Diocese of Sioux Falls started using this program a couple of years ago, Father Pelzel pointed out.

“One of the things that vocations directors do is steal the good ideas of each other,” said the priest. “When I found out they were doing this, I got information from them.”

Another idea from the Diocese of Sioux Falls was to ask the parishioners to not only pray for vocations while they are on earth, but also after they die and are up in heaven.

“A lot of the homebound feel marginalized and forgotten because they aren’t able to work the church dinners or because they aren’t active in the church choir anymore,” said Father Pelzel. “They really feel like they are not an integral part of the parish community anymore.”

He added that sometimes people get busy and do not take the time to go visit the parishioners who are homebound or in a nursing home or hospital.

“This program is a way to remind them how valuable they are and to give them an outlet to continue to contribute in a critically important manner,” said the priest.

Every priest in the diocese has received the brochures and prayer cards. If someone is interested in participating, all they have to do is ask for the information. If a parish runs out of information pieces, Father Pelzel mentioned that he has more.

“I want to promote a culture in our diocese where everyone is praying for and promoting vocations,” said Father Pelzel. “I think this is an integral part of that.”

He recalled the story from Scripture, the ultimate answer to the vocations crisis, when Jesus saw people “wandering like sheep without a shepherd.”

“He had compassion on them and said, ‘The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few. Pray that the master of the harvest sends workers,’” said Father Pelzel. “He didn’t say, ‘Okay boys roll up your sleeves and get busy.’ He specifically said to pray that the master of the harvest sends workers. Of all the solutions that we are working on, it seems to me that the one we should be working on the hardest should be the one that Jesus gave us directly.”

He hopes that people realize how important praying for vocations is.

“All too often, for far too many Catholics, the only prayers they offer for vocations are at Sunday Mass when the general intercessions come out and they say, ‘Lord hear our prayer,’” said Father Pelzel. “That is a prayer that they are remotely going through and they are not themselves invested in. I am trying to get people invested in praying for vocations. If we do, the Lord has promised that he will answer our prayers.”

Ways to participate in the Apostolate of Suffering include:
- Starting the day with the Morning Offering
- Passing out copies of the brochure and the Morning Offering to others who suffer
- If possible, comforting others who are suffering
- Accepting the services of others with patience and love
- Praying for vocations to the priesthood
- Recognizing and appreciating God’s gift of suffering
- Refusing to give in to complaining, self pity, bitterness or hopelessness
- In times of great pain, uniting suffering to Christ’s

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