There are several ways that individuals and parish vocation committees can foster vocations, including launching a campaign of prayer for vocations and inviting individuals to consider a church vocation.
Three Major Tasks of a Parish Vocations Committee
- Launching a Campaign of Prayer for Vocations
- Creating Parish Awareness of Vocations
- Inviting Individuals
Task 1: Launching a Campaign of Prayer for Vocations.
Organize a campaign of prayer in the parish. Prayer must always be the foundation of our work to promote vocations — personal prayer and community prayer.
If we ask others to pray for vocations, we must begin by praying ourselves. Make vocations to the priesthood and religious life part of your private prayer every day.
Prayers of the Faithful
Encourage the person who writes the “Prayers of the Faithful” to include a petition for vocations in the Mass every Sunday.
Rosary before Mass
Ask those who recite the Rosary before daily Mass to include the vocation prayers at the end of the Rosary.
Parish Prayer Groups
Ask the leaders of your parish prayer groups to make vocations a special intention in their prayers and recite the vocation prayer regularly.
Prayers of the Sick
Ask those who are sick to pray for vocations and offer up their sickness for this intention. By doing this the sick can become a powerhouse of prayer for vocations. A “sick person’s prayer for vocations” can be found in the Parish’s Vocations Committee binder. To get this prayer out to the sick, enlist the help of your ministers of the sick, assuming they are the ones visiting the sick every week. A sample letter, which a chairperson can send to ministers of the sick in the parish, can be found in the binder. Also included are sample vocation commitment cards. If priests visit the sick, ask them to give the prayer cards to the sick and seek their commitment to pray. Consider including the vocation prayer card when writing to the sick or inserting the prayer in Christmas cards.
Vocation Cross Program
The Vocation Cross Program is already being actively practiced in many Hispanic and Filipino communities. Each week one family hosts a vocation cross and prays for vocations every night during that week. The following week a new family hosts the cross. This program can be organized on a parish-wide basis.
Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament
This is an increasingly popular way to pray for vocations. Dioceses that do it are blossoming with seminarians and novices for religious life. This prayer can be done before the tabernacle in the church, or it can be done during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Many parishes have holy hours and other special times when people can come to pray before the monstrance. You can turn these occasions into valuable opportunities to pray for vocations. If your parish does not have organized prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, think about starting it (with permission from the pastor, of course).
Fasting for Vocations
Many people fast privately for a variety of causes: world peace, the welfare of their children, a special intention. Make vocations one of those intentions. Fasting can be a form of sacrifice for the good of others—in this case, the future of the church--and as such is a very powerful prayer before the face of Almighty God. It can take different forms: abstaining from meat either on Fridays or Wednesdays or both; just eating less or making do with simple foods; giving up doing something they enjoy.
Votive Mass and/or Services for Vocations
Various items are available in the Parish Vocation Committee binder to assist you in this area including a sample votive Mass for vocations with a homily and a sample “Prayer Service for Senior Citizens.” Other specialized services can be written using the sheet entitled “Scripture Passages Related to God’s Call” in the binder.
Task 2: Creating Parish Awareness of Vocations
It goes without saying that a Vocations Committee should be promoting vocations! It means using every opportunity to keep the need for vocations before the eyes of the people in the parish. The Diocesan Vocations Office has a variety of material for the promotion of vocations at the parish level, including excellent posters, brochures, and other materials for display in the vestibule of the church.
Much material is available; however, it is not always displayed because of limited time available by the parish staff. That is where you come in. An important task of a Parish Vocations Committee is to assist parish staff in taking advantage of promotional material. This may mean taking responsibility for seeing that the material is displayed. The parish receives a large volume of mail each day and parish staff does not have the time to follow up on all of it. They will be happy that you are taking this chore off their shoulders. Just keep the pastor informed about what you are doing and get his permission before you begin this new role.
Ways to Promote Awareness
Display Vocation Posters
Contact the Diocesan Vocations Office for a color poster with easy to complete, self-addressed postcards attached. Upon receipt of the postcard, brochures and other material are sent to the interested individual. One important role of Vocation Committee members is to see that the poster is displayed at all times. Members should also watch out for other materials — flyers and brochures — and encourage parish staff to display them in the vestibule of the church.
Put an Announcement in Parish Bulletin
The Diocesan Vocations Office sends bulletin announcements to the parish to keep vocations before the eyes of the parishioners; copies are also sent to the Vocations Committee chairperson. Committee members should develop a relationship with the parish bulletin editor and remind that person to print these announcements.
Encourage a vocation speaker to visit classrooms (grades 4th to 8th ) of the parish school and the religious education program at least once a year. Research has shown that the seeds of most religious vocations are sown in the 4th to 8th grades, even though the person does not make the final decision until years later. Catholic school children should receive particular attention. The vocations study done by the Georgetown-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) found that attending Catholic School “has singularly dramatic effect on the likelihood of youth to seriously consider a vocation.” The analysis concluded: “Catholic schools are incubators for vocations.”
Sample lesson plans for use by speakers visiting classrooms are included in the Parish Vocations Committee binder. If you are unable to find a speaker (or do not wish to speak yourself), invite a priest or sister from the parish, or a seminarian.
Seminarians make excellent speakers for young people because they already have made the kind of decision we want some young people to make. Call the Diocesan Vocations Committee for a seminarian speaker.
Speak to the Parish Youth Group
CARA studies on vocation trends found that 30 percent of active Catholic youth today think about entering the religious life as a priest, brother or sister—36 percent of the males and 24 percent of the females. That is about the same level of interest in religious vocations as a generation ago, according to CARA director Bryan Froehl. Today, according to Mr. Froehl, instead of being pressured, prodded or gently nudged into religious life by their parents, there is little parental encouragement. Vocation posters, parish bulletin announcements, and other reminders will help wake up the consciences of parents. But it is also important to speak directly to youth. Invite seminarians or other speakers (especially priests and sisters) to speak to your parish youth group about a religious vocation, stressing personal experience. According to the CARA study, the most effective vocation talks are those that tell a real-life story.
Make Use of Vocation Sunday Material
The Diocesan Vocations Office sends out material to all pastors, deacons, and administrators for Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Awareness Week. This material includes ideas for a vocation homily as well as other suggestions for Mass on those occasions. Remind those planning Sunday liturgies to take advantage of this material and, if appropriate, offer to help.
Task 3: Inviting Individuals
People Need a Personal Invitation
Identify the names of individuals in the parish who might make good priests or religious, and personally invite them to consider this special call. This is a crucial part of vocation work and many young people have been lost to the ministry because it was not done. It is the missing link in vocation work. A Knights of Columbus study, done among young people some years ago by Fr. Andrew Greely, found that nine out of ten young men who expressed some interest in the priesthood had never been encouraged by anybody, and as a result, did not choose a priestly vocation.
Meanwhile, a survey done among the seminarians in the Mundelein Seminary in Chicago found that most men who have entered seminary have done so in part because someone along the way said: “You would make a good priest.”
Four Steps for Invitation
Who would you invite? Following are four easy steps on how to surface names of potential candidates for personal invitation.
1. Pray about it
Prayer must always be our primary tool in vocation work. Before meeting to surface names, spend at least an hour before the Blessed Sacrament as a group and ask the Lord’s help and guidance in the important mission you are about to take on.
Meet with the pastor and parish staff and ask them for names of people they believe would make good priests and religious. Use the “Invitation Checklist” included in your binder. Conduct the same discussion with all the major organizations and groups of the parish using the checklist.
Meet as a committee to add more names to the list or refine the list you have compiled. It would be helpful to have the pastor attend this meeting since he probably knows the parishioners better than anyone else.
4. Personally Invite
It is now time to personally invite candidates whose names you have surfaced. Have a member of your committee talk to the candidate and say something like this: “I am contacting you on behalf of our Vocations Committee. Our committee feels you would make a good priest/sister.
You may want to ask the pastor to do the inviting on behalf of the Vocations Committee. An invitation from the pastor can be more effective.