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Creating a culture of vocations

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

June 24, 2015

As you know, one of our Diocesan Priorities is to Create a Culture of Vocations in the North Country.

St. Joseph Sister Gregory Munger and her team have been working diligently on a We Are Called Vocational Awareness plan for our parishes that will be promulgated later this fall.  This plan will help guide us in building a culture where awareness of our baptismal call to holiness is nurtured and where Church vocations are encouraged and celebrated.

The vitality of a parish can be gauged by the culture of vocations it instills in its faith family. 

In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis makes the point:  “Many places are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.  This is often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervor in communities which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness. 

Wherever there is life, fervor and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise.  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.” (EG, #107)

The Holy Father reminds us of the necessity of persistent prayer. Nothing of what we say or do will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. 

Contagious apostolic fervor is fueled by our personal and communal encounters with Christ.  Without prayer, all our activities risk fruitlessness and our message will convey hollow words.

When I visit our Catholic schools and Christian Formation classes, I am so pleased to learn that some have “adopted” one of our seminarians for special prayer and attention.  I encourage more of our classes to take up the mantle of prayer and include our deacon candidates and Consecrated Religious in their prayers.  Prayer is so necessary if our parishes are to be truly Living Stones.  Prayer is everything!

It is difficult in today’s world to propose to its young people the path of special consecration.  In many instances, as Pope Francis notes, it takes courage.

It’s not easy for us to make commitments to whatever life’s vocation we may be attracted.  However, if I wait for everything to be perfect, for all the questions and uncertainties to be answered before I make a commitment, I will live a very lonely, solitary life missing the joys to be encountered on the road not taken.  That’s why the “art of accompaniment” is so important.

We must encourage and support one another in discerning and living out our Christian vocation.

To be a Living Stone in a vibrant parish is to be a member of a family of faith that is always noticing, welcoming, inviting, smiling, befriending, and serving others.  We do not and cannot walk alone in our desire to respond to our baptismal call to follow Jesus. 

The three Diocesan Priorities and six Goals that have been established are means to stir the flame of faith and encourage new life in our parishes.  All the baptized are called to a personal involvement in the life of the Church. 

I have recently concluded this year’s Confirmation ‘circuit.’  What an uplifting experience for me!

I was greeted with the joy-filled, welcoming faces of our young people, their parents, and their parish families. Often, the candidates shared with me the community service activities in which they have participated.  In some parishes, the newly confirmed publicly commit to continue parish/community service, both in the parish (i.e. at Mass, Christian Formation) and in their community. 

What a wonderful way to discern, encourage and celebrate one’s Christian vocation!

Our four seminarians, Todd Thibault, Michael Jablonski, Matt Conger and Leagon Carlin exude the contagious apostolic fervor about which Pope Francis writes. 

Please pray for them as they continue in the program for priestly formation at the Josephinum. 

To those who are hesitant to respond to the Lord, once again the Holy Father offers reassuring words:  “There is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting Him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever He wills.”  (EG, #280) 

The Lord never disappoints us when we take the risk to follow Him.  God provides some wonderful surprises on the journey, once we open the door!  We continue to build up a culture in our parishes where the God of surprises has lots of room to operate.

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