Collaboration with parishes helps foster lifelong vocations

October 23, 2018

Wayne Ly, a seminarian for the Archdiocese, serves during a recent priesthood ordination Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. Seminarians like Ly, and many other people discerning their vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life or a holy marriage, benefit from efforts by the Office of Vocations which works to empower parishes, schools and families. Photo by James Ramos/Herald.

HOUSTON — With a vision for every person in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to prayerfully discern and joyfully discover their vocation, the Office of Vocations has found that collaboration with individual parishes is the most effective at fostering lifelong vocations.

“Our mission is really one of collaboration,” said Father Richard McNeillie, director of the Office of Vocations, who joined the ministry in July 2018. “While we are looking to provide the Archdiocese with holy priests, we also want to empower parishes, schools and families to realize that vision for all the faithful.”

The Office of Vocations, which is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), encourages parishes to reach out to their families, so their children can search for their vocation, whether they are called by God to enter the priesthood or consecrated life or a holy marriage. While this mission to foster vocations, especially those to the priesthood and consecrated life, has always been difficult in an ever-changing society, this quest might seem even more challenging because of the recent clergy sex-abuse scandal.

“The faithful might be worried about vocations to the priesthood in this current time of scandal. However, the Office of Vocations trusts that God will continue to provide, inspiring good men to answer the call,” said Father McNeillie. “We’re certainly praying for those who have suffered from sexual abuse and for priests in general, and we’ve seen a positive response on the part of young people in the Archdiocese; those who are already following Jesus and want to follow Him even more than before. There are still men wanting to be priests, holy priests, heroic priests.”

The Office of Vocations offers discernment groups, prayer services and retreats, as well as visits to Catholic schools and parish youth programs where they speak about vocations. Currently, in the Archdiocese, 41 men are enrolled in the seminary.

Father McNeillie said that many people may not be aware that the Office of Vocations also takes care of all the seminarians while in formation along with the seminary.

“We offer several events for men and women to learn how to find the voice of God; for example, we have a silent discernment day on Oct. 27, which is designed to help young people learn St. Ignatius’ rules of discernment,” said Father McNeillie. “We also have volunteer enrichment opportunities, such as the Vocations Expo, which will be held in January, which enriches volunteers in their particular vocations ministry.”

Father McNeillie said he has seen some changes in the Archdiocese recently that have impacted the programs and services offered by the Office of Vocations.

“In the last few years, our office has doubled the number of events offered in Spanish,” he said. “Most of the Catholics in our Archdiocese are Hispanic, so we are trying to make sure that we reach them with our programs and events. I think in the future, we’ll also be looking at how we can expand our social media presence to reach the next generation.”

The staff, including new Associate Director Joelma Regis, and volunteers of the ministry are grateful for the generosity of the faithful in the Archdiocese who support the DSF, which is the lifeline of the ministry’s operations.

“We fully operate on funding provided by the DSF, so we are very grateful for every gift,” said Father McNeillie. “The local priesthood depends on DSF; we wouldn’t be able to encourage or form future priests without the support from our faithful. Literally, seminarians wouldn’t be able to afford their seminary education without DSF.”