Local author’s new book encourages families to promote parish vocations

August 18, 2015

HOUSTON — Rhonda Gruenewald, a parishioner at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, took inspiration from Pope Francis, who said “No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people,” and wrote “Hundredfold, A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry” in an effort to encourage and develop vocation ministries in every parish.

“We have the perfect opportunity to connect in a real way with the families, especially the youth, of the parish which is the seedbed of vocations,” Gruenewald said. “Another reason that involving the families in this mission is vital is because young men and women are thinking about their future most when they still live with their family.”

The book, which includes a comprehensive guide with 57 activities for planting the seeds of vocations within our Catholic parishes, aims to inspire anyone starting or reviving a vocation ministry and give them tested activities to bring about a culture of vocations in their parish.

Citing a recent survey, Gruenewald noted that the majority of young men and almost as many young women consider a religious vocation between 13 and 18 years of age. Furthermore, a third of those surveyed considered it first in their pre-teen years, highlighting the importance of engaging and encouraging religious vocations at this time of life, when young people are still at home and more active in family and parish life. 

Gruenewald said to think of Hundredfold as a Farmer’s Almanac, but instead of farming, Hundredfold shares when, how, and why we are to prepare the soil for the Holy Spirit to plant seeds of holiness.

With this approach, Gruenewald said the Serran and vocation director can have a concrete, comprehensive guide to give to a parish priest, a committee that is already in place, or some active Catholic that does not know yet that he or she is interested in vocation work. The author said the four main elements of Hundredfold are: 

• A basic understanding of vocations: “We cannot promote well what we do not understand, and as you all know vocations has a language unto itself. How can we relate the beauty of vocations to parishioners without a basic understanding of that language?”

• Leadership training: “I give advice to those who are directing the ministry, which includes how to recruit and retain members, run a meeting, create a budget, and much more.”

• Step-by-step of 50+ activities: “Many readers will be most interested in the final four chapters which are dedicated to the activities themselves. The overview of each activity should aid ministry members in evaluating which activities to implement such as time of year, funds needed, and volunteers needed, among other information. In addition, step-by-step instructions lay out the process for each activity.”

• Pre-launch and four phases: “The phases give the structure, the underpinning to the ministry, making sure that the activities are not overwhelming for a new ministry and not repetitive for those established ministries. In each phase, activities become more complex and/or require more resources.”

In addition, to help ministries bring these activities to life in the parish, Gruenewald launched www.vocationministry.com where resources such as videos and tools are available to help all working in the field of vocations. In the book Hundredfold, each activity is explained in detail and includes a section on resources that can help a ministry to implement each activity within the parish. 

For example, if your new ministry would like to celebrate Priesthood Sunday, you would go to the website to find this event and download and customize bulletin inserts, prayer drive sign-up sheets, small displays about the prayer drive in English and Spanish, a banner, cards for their priests, and much more. 

With the book and website, there is an answer to the excuse of “I don’t know how to do the work of vocations.”

“I know that every diocese, parish, and ministry is different,” Gruenewald. “Each parish just needs to start somewhere and move forward, doing more than they did the year before and keeping in mind that the goal is to bring about a more vocation-minded parish one family, one individual, and one discerning youth at a time.

Sister Anita Brenek, CDP, associate director in the Office of Vocations, said the office recommends the book.

“We recommend it to parish vocation committees as a great resource,” she said. “Some parish vocation committees have been active and appreciate new ideas; others are trying to revitalize and need this resource to get going again. The book has some clear step-by-step plans as well as links to electronic materials.”