Put Out into the Deep

Vocation as a Life-Changing Experience

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The Fourth Sunday of Easter was designated World Day of Prayer for Vocations 52 years ago, as each Gospel proclaimed on that Sunday gives the image of Christ the Good Shepherd. It is the Lord, Himself, who told us to pray “to the Lord of the Harvest so that He may send out laborers into His harvest.”

The prayer that I composed for vocations concentrates on that very line of Scripture, that we must pray for laborers and that there will never be enough workers for the Gospel, and that the scarcity of vocations at any particular time should be an impetus for us to continue working for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

This year’s celebration has a theme chosen by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, “Exodus, a fundamental experience of vocation.” We recognize that exodus was a life-changing event for the people of Israel. They left the slavery of Egypt to journey to the promised land, although that journey took them 40 years.

And so it is with vocations. Vocations are a departure from past life, no matter what it was, and it is a journey towards a new life. It is, one might say, a conformity of life to the Paschal Mystery when dying to self allows us to live fully for God. Each person who accepts a vocation makes that life journey, which, for most, takes several years of training, education and formation. How important it is that we recognize the great sacrifice that many today are still making for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

When we look at our own Diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens and our own program for the promotion of vocations, we recognize that we have expanded those involved in the vocation ministry. We have a full-time vocation coordinator who will take office at the end of this coming June, in the name of Father Sean Suckiel, who currently serves as a regional coordinator. He will be assisted by two former vocation directors, Father Kevin Sweeney and Father Kevin Abels, and also four regional coordinators; Fathers Frederick Cintron, Jean Delva, Josephjude Gannon, and a regional coordinator who will replace Father Suckiel will be announced shortly.

Father James Rodriguez, the current director, will provide an initial psychological review for candidates. Supported with the administrative assistance of Lisa Amore, this team will function together for a stronger recruitment of vocations and prepare each to accept various programs of preparation.

A most important change in our vocation program is our Project Andrew programs. These meetings of potential vocation discerners with a bishop will take place in individual parishes. In the past, I, as Bishop, held the Project Andrew programs at the St. John Paul II House of Discernment in Cypress Hills, where we called together those who might be considering a vocation to the priesthood and met with them personally for an afternoon of prayer and fellowship.

Now all of our Auxiliary Bishops will conduct Project Andrew programs at individual parishes or on a deanery level. With the help of our parish vocation committees, young men who may be considering a vocation will be brought together. Not to forget women who might have a vocation to religious life, we have a parallel program called Project Myriam that is conducted for prospective members of religious communities by the communities themselves.

Our efforts of the past have been rewarded. However, we must never rest on our laurels. We have 52 men preparing for the priesthood at nine seminaries. Of that number, we have been blessed with 10 men who will be ordained to the Priesthood, please God, this June.

For the past several years we have had relatively large ordination classes, with 2014 being the largest class in the United States with 13 new priests. For the next two years, we will have classes of an average of nine. For the successive years, we all must work hard to attract more young people for formation.

The trend around our country regarding vocations is a positive one. In 2015, this coming year, there will be almost 600 ordinations to the Priesthood, up from 575 in the past year. This national trend of an increase in priestly vocations is a positive one which should encourage us to recognize that the Lord is calling. However, we must be His instruments in making sure that those who are called are able to make a commitment, enter programs of formation, and be supported throughout their formation.

Any vocational call, as described by the Holy Father, is an exodus which entails putting out into the deep unknown territory of our vocation calling. This Sunday is a day of prayer when we especially pray for those considering a vocation, and those who already have accepted a vocation. Join me in this special World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Bishop DiMarzio’s Prayer for Vocations

Lord of the harvest, we petition you as you have taught us to ask for more laborers to serve in the vineyard of your Church. You have told us that the harvest is great and the laborers are few and we experience this great need in the face of the challenge of the New Evangelization.

We ask the Holy Spirit to inspire young men and women to seriously consider vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Help all of us to be effective instruments to encourage and support those whom you are calling to serve and lead the Church of Brooklyn and Queens in the future.

Lord, you told the Apostles to put out into the deep, we ask for the grace and courage to respond to your call as we pray and work for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest. Amen.

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