By Fr. Hien Nguyen
It is always hard to promote vocations in a diocese and a Vocation Director seems to be the “lone ranger” who would receive no supports from his brother priests. For this reason it is important to involve the priests in the diocese to be the primary Vocation Directors. What would be their ideas and ways of promoting vocations in the dioceses? I had the privilege of asking almost all of the priests in the Archdiocese of Vancouver to give me what each individual think or can do to actively encourage the young people of Vancouver to consider the vocation to the priesthood. These are there suggestions that we can apply to this particular diocese:
- We should nurture in ourselves a masculine spirituality, a spiritual father of the community and demonstrate it through our work. Young men need to see us pray. They need to see our love for Christ and our dedication to the Church.
- We have to take a bigger role with the altar servers, not just in training them but also in talking to them about the saints, teaching them the virtues, showing them how to communicate to God. We have to create an environment (vocations pilgrimage to different religious orders, Churches in the diocese, etc.) which will help them ask questions about the priesthood, and encourage those who show signs of a possible vocation to take a further step by discerning it in a seminary.
- Our happiness in the ministry must be shown in an outward way and our manners should be those of a Christian gentleman. We need to portray the image of joyful service and rid ourselves of the image of workaholic (“sorry I am busy”).
- We need to be seen around our youth so that they feel comfortable talking to us. We also need to get more involved with youth groups and establish post-elementary religious education programs to keep our contact with students after they enter junior high school. We can intentionally plan events or activities for young people so that they can get to know us and Christ.
- We have to begin to observe our young men and women for signs of a calling to the priesthood or religious life and invite them to discern a possible vocation. At the same time, we must offer to assist them in their discernment.
- Our seminarians need to start talking in parishes on vocations and on their journey so far. They need to be more visible to our young men within parishes in the diocese.
- We need to find new ways, like the Vocations Family Kit, to have parents encourage vocations within their families. We should find ways to promote family prayers and encourage prayers for vocations. Visiting families is another way we can encourage vocations at home.
- We should not be afraid to show our human side –to show that we do normal things like everyone else: exercising, being involved in sports, etc.
- There should be an annual diocesan event, such as a Vocations Mass, to which a pastor can bring prospective candidates from his parish. At this Mass the Archbishop can preach on vocations. Parents and other family members can encourage their own children to come to the Mass. Or we can have a vocation fair once in a while where the various religious communities set up booths that display information describing their orders, with some members available to answer questions.
- We should have parish-based promotion of vocations, including such annual events as retreats and summer camps. There can also be days of prayer for vocations. We can put more emphasis on Vocations Sunday.
- On the personal side, we can make vocations a part of our daily prayer. We can ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and courage to invite young men to the priesthood and name them before Christ in prayer.
- We must talk honestly to the youth about priestly life. We need to let them know that it is possible to have a fulfilling and happy life being a priest while faithfully keeping our vows. We also need to give reflections on the priesthood and to relate our own vocation stories.
- We could establish a ‘pre-seminary house’, a house that promotes deeper spiritual growth and a deeper love for Christ. It would be a residential house of formation for men seriously planning on entering the seminary, with well established ‘rules of life’. The candidates could be working still or going to college.
We priests have to play our role in promoting vocations. We need to look for those who can replace us to continue the mission of Christ building the kingdom of God. Jesus called us to be “Fisher of Men” (Mat 4:19), and so we are obliged to go “fishing”.