Monday, November 3, 2014

National Vocation Awareness Week

Today, I must travel to Washington, DC, for the annual meeting of Paulist Pastors, Superiors, and Directors. As in past years, we will be meeting at Saint Paul’s College, the Paulist seminary where generations of Paulist students have lived for now just over a century. (The photo is of the statue of Saint Paul in the driveway in front of the Paulist seminary in Washington's main entrance.) Half a century ago, Saint Paul’s College housed over 90 students! We reach a high of about 30 in my time as a seminarian. It is, inevitably, a special place rich in memories and powerful emotional associations. But times change, and new times bring with them new challenges.

One of the most serious challenges for the Church in our present time is fostering the necessary number of vocations, particularly to the priesthood and to religious life. Today is the beginning of National Vocation Awareness Week. In his 2013 Apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis underlined the continued need to foster 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.”

This has caused me to think about to the two vocation posters prominently displayed at present in the vestibule of the church, and in the parish hall, and also in the parish office. The first (above) features the faces of the bishop and the 14 deacons and other seminarians who are currently in various stages of formation to be ordained as priests of the Knoxville Diocese. The second (left) features the faces of the Vocation Director and 10 Paulist students and novices. (One student has since been ordained, and the four novices on the poster are now students who have in turn been replaced by two new novices.) 

Together, these posters portray 24 faces of otherwise ordinary young men, who have answered God’s invitation in this very special way. A picture, we have always been told, is worth a thousand words. Perhaps those pictures will speak to someone who looks at them in a way that invites him too to become one of the faces on the next set of such posters! Meanwhile, the rest of us need to keep each of them in our prayers and pray just as forcefully that the next two posters will have at least as many – or, better yet, even more – faces on them!

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