If praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life gives you particular satisfaction, you’re going to be in your element during the week of Nov. 2-8.
Those seven days have been designated as National Vocation Awareness Week, a time set aside specifically for the Catholic Church in the United States to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these vocations.
“A culture of vocations is one that provides the necessary support for others to hear and respond to God’s call in their lives,” says Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “With God’s grace, we help build that culture through fervent prayer, the witness of our lives and the encouragement we extend to those discerning a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life.”
The idea of a religious vocation often doesn’t appear in the mind of a potential candidate on its own. The faith community many times gives it a necessary nudge.
A 2012 study, “Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married U.S. Catholics,” conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), highlighted the role community encouragement plays in the discernment process.
“The number three seems to be critical in making a difference in the life of someone contemplating a vocation,” says Father Shawn McKnight, USCCB’s Executive Director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “When three or more people encourage someone to consider a religious vocation, he or she is far more likely to take serious steps toward answering that call.”
Father John Moneypenny, the Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Orange, says that National Vocation Awareness Week “is a wonderful time to consider what God is inviting you to do with your life. It’s always a joy for me to speak to people about opening their hearts to listen to the voice of God. I invite them to reflect on the three H’s: happy, healthy and holy. Perhaps God is calling you to consider the possibility of a religious vocation.”
Father John Guthrie, Associate Director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, says that National Vocation Awareness Week should also focus on communities that are underrepresented among religious vocations today, especially Hispanics.
“While numbers of U.S. Hispanics pursuing religious vocations are picking up, they still lag behind the overall demographic trends,” says Father John. “Fifty-four percent of U.S. Catholics under the age of 25 are Hispanic, yet only 15 percent of students in major seminaries are Hispanic, and many of these were born in other countries. To reach this untapped potential, the Church must do far more to engage and support young people in these communities.”
Pope Francis, in his November 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, underlined the continued need to build a culture of vocations. “The fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration,” Pope Francis wrote.
For more information on vocations, go to the new Diocese of Orange Vocations Office website: ocvocations.com.