Integrated approach helps foster the call to priesthood, consecrated life

November 14, 2017

The Office of Vocations ministry hosted the first-ever priests vs. seminarians basketball game last April to highlight vocations to the priesthood. The 2018 contest is scheduled for April 6. Photo courtesy of the Office of Vocations.

By Kerry Anne McGuire
Herald Correspondent

HOUSTON — The ministry responsible for encouraging and fostering young people in the Archdiocese who are considering a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life is the Office of Vocations. One of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), the ministry uses a variety of approaches to help these young people find meaning in their lives and be open to their vocational call, which can be challenging in this ever-changing society.

Currently in the Archdiocese, 52 men are enrolled in the seminary and approximately 30 men have attended ministry events and are in discernment of entering the seminary. In addition, close to 80 young men and women are studying in communities that will serve in religious orders.

According to Father T.J. Dolce, director of the Office of Vocations, one challenge the ministry has faced is finding young people who want to commit their whole lives to the priesthood or religious, because they come from a society that has a hard time with making commitments in general. He said while the number of seminarians in the program has remained steady for the past five years, he believes the numbers are nowhere close to meeting the needs of the Church, which makes the mission of fostering vocations even more important.

“Our main programs are to provide many opportunities for young people to encounter God’s love in retreats, meetings and discernment groups so they can seek God’s will for their lives,” said Father Dolce. “We also regularly visit Catholic schools and parish youth groups to talk about vocations. One of our programs, the Life Awareness Retreat, is one example of providing opportunities for men and women to meet many priests, brothers, sisters and nuns to help them discern their vocation in life.”

Father Dolce said a “Freedom Fest” also was added last year to encourage youth ministers to personally invite young people they thought would be a good fit in in the seminary or convent. The ministry also hosted the first-ever priests vs. seminarians basketball game last April to highlight vocations to the priesthood.

New these past few months to the Office of Vocations staff is Sister Francesca Kearns, CCVI, who for the past 30 years has worked closely with vocation animation in both Central America and Africa.

She said one of the biggest challenges facing vocations today is the busyness of people’s lives, which makes it difficult for the family to spend quality time together and impacts the children’s ability to properly listen to their deepest desires and God’s call.

“St. John Paul II refers to the family as the school of every vocation,” said Sister Kearns. “The family helps the child to develop their capacity to love, and when the family has less time with their children, there is less time to experience and develop this fundamental quality of life. Family instability, as well the lack of basic education, also limits the opportunity to respond to our vocation.”

Sister Kearns said she believes vocations are God’s loving gift to the Church. Each person has an opportunity to contribute to forming a culture that creates an awareness of vocations that helps nurture and guide young people to their fullest growth. She said she appreciates the integrated approach the Archdiocesan Vocation Office offers. She hopes to continue with its intercultural and collaborative outreach.

“It is an incredible privilege to be involved in a ministry that promotes God’s mission,” Sister Kearns said. “God could carry out His mission without our help, but He gives us the opportunity to work closely with His mission, to be His ambassadors.”

Sister Kearns said, in so doing, the ministry can become channels that connect God’s goodness with the needs of the Church and world.
“This ministry brings us closer to understanding our own vocation and how it is related to God’s bountiful love for us,” she said.

The Office of Vocations appreciates the support of the faithful who contribute to the DSF fund each year and make it possible for it to foster vocations in the Archdiocese.

“The Office of Vocations collaborates with others to create awareness of vocations and creates programs that guide and support the candidates in their response and ultimately preparation for ministry,” Sister Kearns said. “All of this requires financial support from DSF and other sources.”

Father Dolce said there would be no vocations ministry on a diocesan scale if the DSF did not exist.

“DSF helps provide the education for the 52 seminarians studying for the Archdiocese, so without the support of the people of God, we wouldn’t be able to pay to educate our future priests,” said Father Dolce. “We are very grateful for the generosity of everyone who contributes to make our programs possible.”

Click here to learn more about the Diocesan Services Fund.