One of my favorite weekends of the year is around Memorial Day. Sure, swimming pools open and the school year is winding down, but I especially enjoy it because of priesthood ordinations.
Each year, men who have studied for nearly a decade process down the aisle of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. They pass through the throng of family and friends, teachers, coaches, parishioners and general well-wishers and into the sanctuary. They are greeted by the archbishop and offer their lives in service as priests of Jesus Christ. They are priests forever!
It gives me serious goosebumps — every time.
A lot goes into becoming a priest. Like marriage or religious life, it’s not something one enters lightly. As vocation director for the archdiocese, I have a front-row seat to what the Lord is doing in the lives of these young men. My role is to walk with these men before they enter seminary, to instruct and inform them and discern which ones are ready to be presented to the seminary for admission. Little did I know how much of an undertaking this would be!
No one has to tell me we need more vocations for our archdiocese, especially in light of the All Things New pastoral planning initiative and the proposed models for our parishes. We need more priests, for sure. As a pastor of a historic south St. Louis parish, I feel the strain in a community that used to have three priests, sometimes with four others in residence. I’m not complaining, but it’s not lost on me that this is not sustainable.
So what do we do? How do we “get” more vocations to the diocesan priesthood?
If you’re reading this, you most likely believe that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. You’re most likely one who follows His commands and teachings and consider yourself one of His disciples. Amen! But I would also hazard a guess that few of you are single men in their teens, 20s or 30s. I know many men who fit this description, but not all of them are following the Lord as disciples. They loved their Catholic grade schools and some even high school — but they are not currently living lives of discipleship.
If we don’t foster discipleship in the lives of our young people, how are we going to expect them to hear the Lord’s call for their lives?
Of the men I know across our region who are disciples, I am honored and humbled to walk with them in discernment of God’s call. They are bright, capable young men I would be delighted to have as brother priests someday. They are not without sin or areas of growth, but they have the capacity to thrive in the seminary, to be shepherds of our parishes and to lead with the zeal of the apostles and preach, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
I journey with these men for up to several years, depending on where they are in life. I challenge them to learn the language of silent, contemplative prayer, to receive Jesus into their lives and to respond daily to His love. I ask them to articulate what they want — and what Jesus is asking of them. I ask if they’re willing to sacrifice scholarships, careers, girlfriends and material comforts to spend time in seminary discerning with the Church.
It’s hard to see some of them not enter the priesthood and go elsewhere. It’s even tougher when I have to tell them “not yet” or sometimes that they’re not called. But the Lord is still with them, patient and willing to wait for them to respond. I try to be patient, too.
That’s just a glance at my apostolate. If you could help with the following, perhaps we could see more vocations for our local Church:
• Pray daily for vocations. “Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Luke 10:2).
• Invite high school-aged young men to discern a vocation. The Office of Vocations offers opportunities for discernment throughout the year. See
• Promote our summer camp for grade school boys, Kenrick-Glennon Days, held at the seminary each year in June. See stlvocations.org/kgd
If you know of good young men, disciples of Jesus, invite them to consider a call to the priesthood. Don’t bombard or pressure them — just ask. I’d love to meet them and hear their story and show them the seminary.
Father Brian Fallon is the pastor of St. Mary Magdalen in south St. Louis and director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations.
See stlvocations.org/contact to contact him.