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Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Strives to create culture of vocations"

From The Catholic Globe
By Renee Webb

Creating a culture of vocations within the Diocese of Sioux City is one of the main goals of the diocesan director of vocations.

Father Brad Pelzel, vocations director, said the problems that the church faces in promoting vocations are cultural in nature, not a church problem.

“You see so many different aspects funneling into it and affecting it whether it’s the decreased family size and frankly, our prosperity. Because we have everything we want, we don’t think we need God or think about God as much,” said Father Pelzel. “We see that in the reduced attendance at Mass.”

In society in general, he added, people are having increased difficulty with making commitments. He referred to the high number of divorces.

“There are a lot of social factors working against us, so because of that there is no one way that we are going to overcome this,” Father Pelzel said.

With that in mind, he wants to look at the possibility of promoting vocations from every possible angle. This means getting people – lots of people and different types of people from parents to youth – involved.

As with in previous years, Father Pelzel stressed the fact that priests continue to be a key factor. He said he has spoken with his brother priests and has asked them to be the vocation directors of their own parishes.

“Eighty percent of the guys that are in seminary say that one of the most influential aspects of their decision to enter the seminary was that their parish priest talked to them,” said Father Pelzel. “The priests see the kids and know the kids.”

As the diocesan vocations director, he said he can have follow-up conversations with individuals who might have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, but its best when the local pastor plants that seed and nourishs it through affirming conversation.

Father Pelzel said lay people can assist with this through conversations. Rather than asking a young man or woman directly, have you thought about being a priest or sister, he suggested talking to them in more specific terms.

For example, the vocation director said a lay person may say, “You are so kind and work so well with others. Have you ever thought about being a sister because I see the qualities in you that the great sisters in my life had.”

A young man or young woman may in time see priestly or religious qualities in themselves.

He would love it if the youth not only heard positive feedback from their pastors and parishioners, but also from their parents.

“Every kid should grow up considering the possibility of a religious vocation and that possibility should be encouraged by everyone they know,” said Father Pelzel. “It doesn’t mean that we peg a kid, ‘You’re going to be the family priest.’ But it should be part of their consideration just as they would think about being a doctor or fireman.”

When Father Pelzel meets with those who believe they might have a vocation he said he doesn’t try to convince them that they are supposed to be a priest or sister but rather asks them to do what God is calling them to do.

“If we encourage all of our kids to follow what God is calling them to do, we will have enough priests and sisters. The ones who don’t become priests or sisters, they will be great parents, great teachers and great workers because they will have gone into it working through the Lord,” he said.

Building that culture of vocations, he said, “takes the involvement of everyone.”

With this in mind, Father Pelzel would love to see every parish have a vocations committee. He has no cookie-cutter form for the committees.

The vocations director pointed out that in some parishes the Knights of Columbus have taken the lead with promoting vocations and Serra Clubs promote and affirm vocations. In Wesley, he added, the Divine Mercy Cenacle is acting as a vocations committee.

If a group in a parish wishes to start a vocations committee, many resources are available.

Father Pelzel said on the diocesan Web site, he has listed over 30 ideas to promote vocations in parishes. The ideas range from Eucharistic adoration for vocations to vocation awareness bulletin board featuring priests and sisters from the parish and Mass intentions for vocations.

He said he is particularly fond of the idea of Eucharistic adoration for vocations as one of the by-products of that devotion is an improvement in the parishioners’ personal prayer lives.

“I will go to any parish or any group and I will work with them and share materials,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t have all of the answers but all of us are smarter than just one of us.”

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