When was the last time your parish celebrated a Priestly Ordination?
Hands up, those who can remember — without much difficulty — a Priestly Ordination in their parish church. Chances are, your hand is still at your side! In Singapore, priests are usually ordained at the parish where they grew up — and for a good reason. Since the parish is entrusted with the pastoral care of her members, a priestly vocation raised within her testifies to her fruitfulness.
And as members of our parish, we can all play a part — no matter how small — to make our parish a fruitful one.
Here are five ways you can help to make your parish a living spring for priestly vocations.
1. Form Young People into Disciplies
No young man will dedicate his life to becoming a priest just because he finds Catholic teaching sensible and attractive. It doesn’t justify giving up family life, or being of service to parishioners almost 24/7 for a negligible or zero allowance every month.
“The best way to promote vocations is simply this: […] To help our young people fall in love with Jesus,” says Archbishop William Goh, “because if they fall in love with Jesus, some of them will feel called to serve the Church.”
Yes, it falls on catechists and youth leaders to tailor programmes that will help young people to encounter Christ. But it needs the entire parish to come together and foster a culture in which all members are encouraged and supported, and thus, dare to explore their personal relationship with the Lord.
We must also convince young people that — besides the universal call to holiness — the Lord has a unique calling for each of them. That, if they do not explore the promptings of their heart, they will miss out on their God-given vocations. And in turn, will never realise their true calling in this world.
2. Involve Young People in Parish Life
When the fishermen Peter, James, and John left everything by the Lake of Gennesaret to follow Jesus, they didn’t know what was in store for them. They just went, but you can be sure there was some apprehension in their hearts. Today’s young disciples face the same uncertainty. To encourage them, they need opportunities for them to discover their unique vocations.
The parish — with its array of ministries and communities — is a great place for young people to explore their calling. As they serve, they will grow in a spirit of generosity for the Kingdom, as well as discover and develop their God-given talents.
If we identify someone as a potential priest, we should encourage him to take up a role in a ministry relevant to the priestly office. Some of these include roles within the liturgy, pastoral care, catechesis, and community or parish leadership.
3. Be Prudent in Proposing the Priesthood
If you think that someone would make a fine priest, don’t just tell him so. Ask him instead. Ask him if he would consider the priesthood.
Be mindful that the young man may already be discerning the priesthood, wrestling within himself as it is. By asserting, “I think God is calling you to the priesthood,” you will create more confusion, as he then needs to discern whether that message comes from God or from men.
Rather, point out to him the signs of the priestly calling you see in him — without asserting the conclusion that you have come to. Remember, the young man alone would know the full context of his feelings, and so he is the best person to interpret them as the Lord intends.
4. Keep the Confidence when Someone Shares about His Vocation Discernment
Finally! A parishioner shares with you that he is considering the priesthood. You are so elated you naturally want to share this with the whole community, the whole parish, and the whole archdiocese!
But please do not.
Vocation discernment is a highly private and sacred space your friend has chosen to let you in on. So, respect his decision to share it with you and you alone. Also, by sharing with others, you will turn unnecessary attention on the man. This can cloud his intentions and pile more pressure on him.
Rather, be a friend to your brother and walk this journey with him. Remind him to fix his gaze on Jesus and be attentive to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
“The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to do his harvesting.” (Luke 10:2)
There is so much we must do to till the soil for priestly vocations in our parish, but our Lord Jesus reminds us to begin on our knees. We must remember that it is the Lord himself who sows and reaps and causes the rain to fall. It is Christ himself who calls these young men to be his “other Christ”. So let us pray:
Our Loving Father, source of all goodness, we turn to you with trust and confidence, following your Son’s instruction to pray for more labourers to bring in the harvest.
Bless your Church with families and communities of faith and love, and from among them produce men and women dedicated to a life of holiness and service.
Guide those you have called to discern your purpose for them, and be willing to offer their lives to serve you in Holy Orders and consecrated life.
We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord.
Written by Louis of VITA Scribes.