Prayer, planting seeds key to increasing vocations

Categories: Guest Views

We can’t expect the Voc ations Office to do the job alone

By Doug Scott

News flash: We need more priests and religious sisters in the St. Cloud Diocese.

I know. This isn’t news.

We feel the effects of this shortage every day. Twinned or clustered parishes share a single pastor, consolidate or sometimes drop programs, often reduce Mass schedules and demand more from the laity. Thankfully, the number of permanent deacons has increased dramatically in the last 40 years, and that trend appears to be continuing.

I am grateful for the increase in permanent deacons and for more laity being active in parish life. But we shouldn’t have to do more with less in order to bring the kingdom of God. We need more priests and sisters to continue blessing us with their varied gifts and faithful service.

We need to take responsibility ourselves if we want to increase the numbers. We need a grassroots effort that assists the ongoing work of the diocesan Vocations Office.

Let’s begin by framing the issue, identifying key resources and deciding how to place them into action.

First, the issue: more vocations.

Second, who or what are our best resources to address this issue? We already know priests and sisters don’t just magically appear; they come from our families. So who else is going to promote new religious vocations better than everyone who works, worships and lives right here in the diocese?

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ report on the national ordination class of 2014 makes this case very convincingly. It states that more than 70 percent of newly ordained priests were encouraged in their choice by a parish priest. Around 40 percent reported being encouraged in their vocational pursuit by friends, parishioners and even their mothers.

Third, what are we going to do? The cardinal rule of mobilizing a plan is to make the first action simple and successful. So, I suggest that over the next year each of us here in the diocese should exercise at least one time the two P’s: pray for vocations and plant a seed.

Why pray? Because Jesus said so. “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Mathew 9: 37-38). Beside the obvious benefit of bringing our collective petitions before God, praying also raises the importance of this issue in our own minds, preparing us for our second task: planting vocation seeds.

Some vocation seeds get planted with simple encouraging words: “Hey, you do such a good job serving at Mass and helping in the community, have you ever prayed about a religious vocation?”

Participation important 

Other seeds might be planted by promoting greater involvement in parish life. The USCCB report highlighted participating in adoration, serving and lectoring at Mass and attending Catholic schools as key factors in the backgrounds of the newly ordained.

Still other seeds can be planted more hands-on. Talk with your children or grandchildren about religious life. Take them on a road trip and attend Mass or daily prayers with some the various professed religious communities throughout the diocese. Afterward, discuss that order’s unique charisms and be accommodating if your child or grandchild wants to meet a priest, religious brother or sister. Visit the gift shop and buy them a keepsake. Make the day as memorable as possible.

Let’s also remember our next priest or sister could be the single person in our parish who is approaching middle-age and is busy with his or her own career. The median age of last year’s national ordination class was 32, with the oldest being 70! The bottom line is let’s not expect the Vocations Office alone to cultivate new priests, deacons, sisters and brothers for us. Let’s keep them busy harvesting vocation leads from the seeds we plant.

For personal discernment inquiries or other religious vocation questions, contact Father Scott Pogatchnik, vocation director at 320-251-5001 or spogatchnik@gw.stcdio.org.

Doug Scott is a member of St. Louis Bertrand Parish in Foreston.