My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This week, we celebrate the 54th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has chosen the theme, “The Missionary Dimension of Our Christian Calling.” He describes the theme in this way, “It is the summons to ‘go out from ourselves’ to hear the Lord’s voice, and the importance of the ecclesial community as the privileged place where God’s call is born, nourished and expressed.”
During my Chrism Mass homily on April 11, I announced our diocesan Year of Vocations which will begin on the Feast of St. John Vianney, Aug. 4. As we enter this special Year of Vocations, seeking to “Reawaken the Call,” we find ourselves in a time of rejuvenation in the Diocese of Brooklyn, as we double our efforts in identifying and recruiting young men and women to the priesthood and religious life.
The announcement of this special year comes early enough to give us time for planning. Today, I would like to share with you an outline of some of the activities that are planned here in Brooklyn and Queens. This early announcement also allows parishes to plan their own activities which may be somewhat different than the diocesan activities; however, they will be able to incorporate some ideas that have surfaced from the diocesan committee that has worked diligently on the content of the Year of Vocations.
First, we need to have a media “Vocation Awareness” campaign. Our own DeSales Media Group will assist in making public announcements in various ways to make people aware of the need to follow a vocation to the Priesthood and a Religious life.
Another campaign, “Tell Your Story,” which will be on the parish level, will invite priests and religious to tell their vocation story. Perhaps this can be done during Sunday Mass or at another special liturgical celebration or parish meeting, but especially in our Catholic schools and academies and religious education programs. Telling our own story will inspire, recognize and “Reawaken the Call” in the life of our young people as they discern their vocation.
The Tablet will carry a weekly column during the Year of Vocations in which a priest or religious sister or brother and married couples will tell their own vocation story. These vocation stories also will be featured on the Diocese of Brooklyn Facebook page as well as the Vocation Office website www.brooklynpriests.org.
Also, I will write a Pastoral Letter on Vocations which will encourage all of us to seek vocations to the priesthood or religious life, which is always the work of the Spirit. We cannot find or give a vocation. However, we can pray to the Holy Spirit to help us to be the catalyst for someone to consider the call they may be receiving.
On the diocesan level, we are asking for liturgical celebrations, especially Eucharistic devotion that might lead us to be better recruiters of priestly and religious vocations. Our Holy Father, in his message for the 2017 World Day of Vocations, tells us, “There can be no promotion of vocations or Christian mission apart from constant contemplative prayer. The Christian life needs to be nourished by attentive listening to God’s word and, above all, by the cultivation of a personal relationship with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration, the privileged ‘place’ for our encounter with God.”
I also encourage parishes to celebrate 40-Hour Devotions or special times of Eucharistic Adoration during the day, and perhaps all night vigils. This will help people who want to encourage vocations to receive the spiritual help that they need and encouragement necessary to invite others, or even themselves, to consider a priestly or religious vocation.
I am asking each deanery to host a “Project Andrew” during the Year of Vocations. It is important that we reach all throughout the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens in every deanery in bringing our young people together to consider priestly and religious vocations. In addition, there will be Project Myriams held for our young women.
On the parish level, I am asking for a renewed effort in forming Parish Vocation Committees. About half of our parishes in Brooklyn and Queens have functioning Vocation Committees, whose responsibility is to foster vocations and from their unique perspective of working with young people either in schools or religious education and sports programs. These committees are also asked to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, so that everyone can have a part in this effort.
Vocation ministry is the responsibility of everyone. Therefore, I am asking for a renewed commitment among priests, religious, deacons, teachers, catechists, coaches and youth ministers, to keep vocations at the forefront of their own ministry. It is our goal that during the Year of Vocations “every” parish in Brooklyn and Queens will have a functioning parish Vocation Committee.
Certainly, our best locations for encountering our young people are in our Catholic schools and academies, and in our religious education programs. We need to incorporate in the curriculum new presentations for our Catholic schools and academies and religious education programs. This is a curriculum that can be used to focus attention on the need for vocations and giving some indication of how a person can respond, if they feel a call to the priesthood or religious life.
Youth rallies are already in the planning stage which will allow us to gather young people together and offer ways to have them consider vocations by having the witness of those who have already responded to a vocational call. Our ongoing discernment opportunities such as Fraternitas, aimed at grammar school boys, and Jeremiah Project for high school students, and evenings of discernment and fraternity retreats all of which will continue with renewed emphasis during this Year of Vocations in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
We are very fortunate to have the Saint John Paul II House of Discernment for young men who wish to test their vocation before entering the seminary while working or going to school. This house continues to be a source of encouragement for men who are discerning.
The work of the promotion of vocations, as our Holy Father tells us, in his message consists of recognizing the presence of the Lord in our lives. He uses the parable of the sower of the seed to describe the missionary vocation of every Christian. First, Jesus is anointed by the Spirit and sent. And then Jesus, the sower of the seed, is at our side at every step along the way. And finally, Jesus makes the seed grow.
The work of promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life is certainly an effort of putting out into the deep. I ask all, during the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to pray for the success of our Year of Vocations for the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to send the laborers necessary into the vineyard to continue the work of the New Evangelization.