Last June, Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year for Priests; next week, the Catholic Church will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
It may be uncommon to spot a “religious vocation” table at many university career fairs, but Catholic churches across the country will be highlighting this choice during National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) next week.
U.S. bishops have declared the promotion of vocations to priesthood and religious life as one of their current most pressing priorities.
Last June 19, Pope Benedict XVI declared a Vatican-sponsored “Year for Priests.” Churches across the nation are being encouraged to highlight the works of their dioceses, bring attention to priestly vocations on their Web sites and provide information to young people interested in this life choice.
Christ the King Catholic Church in Ann Arbor - a church which, according to clergy members, has been recognized by the Catholic bishops in Washington, D.C. as probably having more men in seminary than any other Catholic church in the United States - features a Year for Priests on its Web site at www.rc.net/lansing/ctk/.
At a time when the Catholic Church is battling a decline in clergy interest, Christ the King’s accomplishment is noteworthy - particularly when some dioceses can’t reach the number (24) of men that the Ann Arbor parish has.
According to clergy members, both religious leaders and church members strive to help those considering a consecrated life or ordination to the priesthood every day of the year. Of importance, they also say, is that they don’t push the pursuit of religious vocation on everyone. Rather, part of the church’s mission remains to open young people’s ears and to support those who do find themselves following a religious vocational path.
“As Catholics, we believe a call to a vocation is something Jesus does, and what a parish strives to do is to help people to hear the call,” said Deacon Dan Foley of Christ the King Catholic Church, also a member of the church’s vocations committee. “We don’t push. Maybe someone was meant for something else - married life, to become an evangelist or teacher - we want them to discern what Jesus wants. We help them to hear the voice of the Lord and we encourage families to be supportive of them.”
Unlike the high number of up-and-coming clergy from Christ the King Catholic Church, however, the Catholic Church as a whole has been battling a decline in new clergy for years. Pope Benedict XVI recognized this fact when, in an address to the members of the Congregation for the Clergy last March, he announced his reasons for creating a Year for Priests.
“Awareness of the radical social changes that have occurred in recent decades must motivate the best ecclesial forces to supervise the formation of candidates for the ministry,” stated the Pope.
And how would the Catholic Church go about reaching the young people of today?
Well, through Web sites like Facebook, of course.
The Year for Priests on Facebook has 6,515 official fans, quotes, discussions and more.
Even if specific events aren’t scheduled for next week’s National Vocation Awareness Week, Catholic churches in Ann Arbor - such as St. Mary Student Parish - continually have educational material available and priests, nuns and other clergy members available for questions or to talk.
At Christ the King Catholic Church, support for vocations remains at the top of the list of priorities.
“The nature of our parish is to be open to men being called, and we try to support them in a practical sense while Fr. Ed (Fride) mentors them,” Foley said. “We have supportive families and good priests as models - the kind of priests these men want to be. And every Thursday, we have a Mass intended to pray for those in the seminary.”
Stephanie Fenton covers faith for AnnArbor.com. Stephanie can be reached at Fenton.Stephanie@gmail.com.