In between Masses this past Sunday, I walked up to our local coffee shop, which is near Church of the Magdalen where I serve as pastor. The place was packed! Here were my would-be parishioners, a couple blocks away, enjoying good food and company, yes, but missing out on the nourishment and community the Lord and His Church offer!
I ordered a double shot; I needed the boost to reflect on how we can reach them.
November 7-13 is National Vocations Awareness Week. It’s a time to help young men and women think of the possibilities of the Lord’s call, how He is inviting them to serve.
We’ve been blessed with many vocations from our archdiocese, of individuals who have responded faithfully to all kinds of vocations. But we’d be fooling ourselves if we rested on the laurels of old. Like my neighborhood café, there are many who have gone elsewhere, who are not responding to God’s call. They’ve grown lackluster in their practice; some have abandoned the faith altogether. Even among the faithful, many aren’t giving any thought to how the Lord is calling them.
The Oct. 18 edition of the St. Louis Review highlighted the new strategic planning initiative of the archdiocese, “All Things New.” Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski shared that evangelization must be the emphasis of any re-envisioning of our local Church. “We have to be a little different in the way we proclaim the Gospel,” Archbishop Rozanski said.
The same is true in vocation ministry. If young men aren’t instructed and encouraged by people who know and love them, how do we expect them to know how to respond when a call to the priesthood is discerned? The same is true for women and men religious vocations. If we don’t foster the faith in young people and raise up these calls as a possibility, how can they say yes?
It’s time for us to rethink how we do things, in Jesus’ name. The Lord is asking us to ask! And so I am asking you to do the following:
• Are there young, happy, disciples of Jesus in your parish that you know by name, who you think would make good parish priests or men and women religious?
• Intercede for them, by name. Ask the Lord to bring clarity and courage to their lives.
• Disciple them! Be a mentor and good example.
• Ask them to be open to the possibility of a priestly vocation or religious life, to sacrifice their plans and desires and follow the Lord. This will include leaving much good behind, for Him.
• Put them in touch with me, the archdiocesan vocation director. I’m not out to make every young person a priest or religious. My call is to direct, to help them understand where the Lord might be leading them. But I don’t know them yet; you do. I’d love to meet them!
There are so many faithful young people in our archdiocese. The Lord is calling all of them to serve, and some as priests and religious. Let’s do our part and encourage them.
Father Fallon is director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations and pastor of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in St. Louis.