During his homily for the Eucharistic Holy Hour and Vespers for Vocations at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James, Oct. 8, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio told congregants that the responsibility to pray for future leaders in the Church lands on the shoulders of the faithful.
“What is lacking is our participation,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “The Lord tells us Himself, we must pray to the Master of the harvest to send laborers into the vineyard. That’s why we’re here tonight sacrificing a Sunday night to come in prayer, begging the Lord to send us the laborers that we need in the vineyard.”
Reflecting upon the significance of the Year of Vocations, Bishop DiMarzio also shared the resources within the Brooklyn Diocese that help those discerning to cultivate their seeds of faith. He spoke about the Office of Vocations, Cathedral Prep, Cathedral House of Formation, St. Joseph’s Seminary and the John Paul II House of Discernment, which are dedicated to nurturing seminarians in their faith formation, but he also reiterated the need to simply ask.
“We know in our research right here in our own diocese that the thing that was lacking when we approached young people and asked them why they’re not considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, what was lacking was that no one ever asked them to consider a vocation. No one invited them into the vineyard. No one ever heard the voice of Jesus that comes to us telling us that the harvest is great but the laborers are few.”
The faithful recited Psalms in front of the Blessed Sacrament, alternating verses with cantor Father Carlos Velasquez and the choir, composed of other priests and seminarians. Psalms of “God’s Marvelous Works” and “The Messiah, King and Priest” filled the church as a prayerful mood radiated throughout the evening.
After the intercessory prayers, the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament capped the service in solemn reverence and divine praises, lifting the intentions of those gathered – young and old – some from the parish communities of St. Gerard Majella, Hollis, and St. Pancras, Glendale.
Karl Werkmann attended the Holy Hour with a group of parishioners from Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish, Ridgewood.
“We want to support the idea to get more young people to be priests and to be religious people,” said Werkmann. “Our church is losing too many faithful people and we have to inspire the young people to believe in Christianity and Jesus Christ and God and the Holy Spirit.”
Attending the prayer service with Cathedral Prep and Seminary students Father Joseph Fonti, rector of the school, invited students because he believed they would be inspired when they saw the support coming from the community.
“I think strength in numbers,” said Father Fonti. “If other young people see their peers coming together to pray, to adore, to support, I think they feel the strength to go forward. At least to open their minds, their hearts, their lips to say ‘Lord, here I am, send me’ or at least say ‘I’ll give it a try.’
“So I think when we do come out as a Church to celebrate our faith in ritual, or in procession or in adoration, it is a testimony to each of us that we’re not alone. There’s strength in numbers, that God has chosen us from all different walks of life and experiences of day-to-day life, and I think it gives us a good affirmation. It gives us a good foundation then to stand on to say ‘I want to be part of this’ or at least to say ‘I think I can be a part of it.’”
Accepting the invitation from Father Fonti, senior Jose Angel Solorzano, who attended the Vespers with his mother because he felt God was inviting him to discern the priesthood – a message he said was softly whispered to him in silence, at the beginning of this school year.
“I’m possibly thinking right now between the priesthood and law,” said Solorzano. “So I’m not sure which one to take first.”
Father Fonti, as he reflected on his own vocation story, said, “It humbles me, in this place I was ordained 25 years ago and it was at Cathedral Prep first in my home parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary, but then at my own experience at Cathedral Prep that I really started peeling away the layers of my life and starting to see that there is something underneath it that is beautiful for God.
“Maybe I didn’t always see it. Other people pointed it out, but I think Cathedral was the first place that I was encouraged to not fear God, but to face God and to do it in a way that made me fall in love with Him,” he said.