Fostering vocations: What's the next step?

by Jennifer Brinker, Review Staff Writer

As area Catholics dedicate themselves to praying for religious vocations, many are also asking what they can do beyond prayer to make these vocations a reality.

Amid the prayer, those encouraging religious vocations also face a rising problem with parents who discourage their children from thinking about becoming a priest or nun.

Catholics across the archdiocese have been establishing in their parishes a Serra Club initiative called the "31 Club," in which participants dedicate one day of the month to come to Mass and pray for religious vocations.

Serra Club officials note the program has been around for several years, but parishes are once again picking up an interest.

However, many people such as Father William G. Kempf, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Normandy, where a "31 Club" was recently established, have been asking the question: Where do we go from here?

"Somehow we need to be active and proactive about it," said Father Kempf, a former director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations.

Father Kempf said he knows of former seminarians who can recall an encounter with someone — such as a priest or woman religious — who asked them if they would consider a vocation to the priesthood.

"Somehow, when that invitation falls on fertile soil ... it make a huge difference," Father Kempf said. "The entire congregation takes an active role. ... The goal in all of that is to invite more and more of those people to become part of that process."

Years ago, the Serra Club established the "Called By Name" program, in which participants would submit to their priests the names of people they thought would make good priests or religious. The program is regaining popularity.

However, Father Michael T. Butler, director of the archdiocesan Vocations Office, said he is witnessing a challenge among young men and women considering a possible religious vocation — gaining the acceptance of their parents.

According to a study conducted in the late 1990s by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA), roughly 75 to 80 percent of parents in the United States discourage their children from looking at a vocation as a priest or religious, Father Butler said.

The Office of Vocations, he noted, is working on a project that he said he hopes will address the issue of parents developing positive attitudes toward their children exploring religious vocations.

According to a 1997 CARA study, parental encouragement of religious vocations leads to dramatically higher positive attitudes toward becoming a priest or religious. The nationwide study was conducted for U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with the support of the Serra International Foundation.

In addition, the study found that those who have seriously considered a religious vocation are likely not to for reasons including fear of parental reaction, even if they say their parents encourage vocations, or the reaction of their peers.

Data in the study pointed to the top reasons parents might discourage their children from looking at a religious vocation, which include a concern that their child would not be happy as a priest, sister or brother; the parents’ desire for grandchildren; and a feeling that their child will need the intimacy of a spouse.

"The study shows that parents have a profound impact on what vocation their children will even consider as a possibility for their lives," said Father Butler.

"It becomes important then for parents to reflect on their own attitudes toward their faith, the Church and on the value of young people consecrating their lives to Christ, and to make a conscious effort to address any negative attitudes that they might outwardly or subconsciously be communicating to their children in the home," he said.

Especially with young men who are looking at the priesthood, parents are not just discouraging, but forbidding their sons to look at the possibility, Father Butler said.

Sometimes, "they’re the same people who will sit in the pews and pray for vocations — just not from their family," Father Butler said.

"In fact, I have five guys who would love to come into the seminary this year, but they won’t because of their parents," he said. "One mother, a couple of years ago, even went as far as to say to her son, ‘If you go to the seminary, don’t ever come back home.’"

"Some young men who enter Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will go on to become priests," Father Butler said, "and some will not. But all of the students attest to the fact that spending time in the seminary to explore the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood is well worth the effort and is beneficial for a fulfilling life, no matter what path in the end they might choose.

"Why would a parent want to deny their child the opportunity to experience such fulfillment and peace?" he asked.

But for now, groups like the Serra Club are encouraging parishes to cultivate religious vocations by starting with a strong prayer base.

Programs such as the "31 Club" focus on the "prayer of the people," Father Kempf said. "It lets people in the parish know that we value vocations."

"Praying is kind of the first part in my mind of all that," he said. "And then the second part is, we’re going to say, ‘Now, who is good in our community? Who do we need to ask and who do we need to invite?’"

For more information about the Serra Club and its "31 Club" program, call the Serra Club of St. Louis at (314) 231-2786 or (314) 576-4629 or the Serra Club of St. Charles at (636) 379-8171.

For more information on religious vocations, call the archdiocesan Office of Vocations at (314) 792-6460.

*Reprinted with permission of the [St. Louis Review](http://www.stlreview.com). July 30, 2004.*


Lectio Divina for Vocational Discernment

Lectio divina is a traditional practice of prayer with Sacred Scripture which is familiar in monastic settings. The Bible is like no other book. It is the inspired Word of God. God speaks to us through His Word. He reveals Himself to us and shows us His will through His Word.

This experience of Lectio divina is open to young people, aged 18 to 30, who want to discern God's plan for their lives. Each evening will conclude with time for Eucharistic Adoration. Please join us to learn about this way of praying and to come to know more fully God's will for your future.

Those who would like to are also invited to join us for Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. The Little Sisters of the Poor are located at 3225 North Florissant Ave, St. Louis, MO 63107. There is no charge for this program.

For more information or to register, please contact Sr. Charles Patricia at 314.421.6022 or .

Dates, Times, and Themes:

October 6, 2004 - 7:30 to 9:30 PM

Introduction to Lectio Divina

The Call of Samuel - 1 Samuel 3:1-10

November 3, 2004 - 7:30 to 8:30 PM

The Parable of the Sower - Luke 8:4-15

December 1, 2004 - 7:30 to 8:30 PM

The Call of Isaiah - Isaiah 6:1-8

January 12, 2005 - 7:30 to 8:30 PM

The Rich Young Man - Mark 10:17-31

February 2, 2005 - 7:30 to 8:30 PM

The Call of Jeremiah - Jeremiah 1:4-10

March 2, 2005 - 7:30 to 8:30 PM

The Call of Matthew - Luke 5:27-32

April 6, 2005 - 7:30 to 8:30 PM

The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38


"The Hands that Bring Us Christ" Campaign for Prie

The vocations resource website [www.vocation.com](http://www.vocation.com) has launched a Eucharistic Adoration and letter writing campaign which invites the lay faithful to show gratitude to priests, bishops, and cardinals for responding to God's call and to pray for their continued holiness and perseverance.

Participants are encouraged to log on to [www.vocation.com](http://www.vocation.com) to register online their hours of Eucharistic Adoration for vocations in honor of their own priests.

The simple registration process at [www.vocation.com/adoration](http://www.vocation.com/adoration/) allows visitors to enter their name, location, and the times of the hours of Eucharistic Adoration that they will be offering for vocations in their home parish, chapel or shrine. The site displays the 24-hour worldwide calendar of participating adorers.

The goal is to log 100,000 hours of adoration for our priests between May 2nd (World Day of Prayer for Vocations) and October 16th (The Anniversary of the Election of Pope John Paul II).

Log on to [www.vocation.com](http://www.vocation.com) and write to your priest, bishop or cardinal thanking them for their vocation, encouraging them in their mission and notifying them of Eucharistic Adoration hours pledged, via vocation.com's online email system. Please provide the email address of the recipient.

Please join us in this initiative to promote the gift of the priesthood and to pray for the perseverance of those who bring Christ to us everyday. The results will be presented to Pope John Paul II at the close of the campaign.

Download the [flyer](http://www.stlyouth.org/sites/stlyouth.org/files/pdf/eman-19.pdf) (pdf).


Spanish-Language Vocation Website Launched for His

The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) is pleased to announce the launch of [www.vocacioncatolica.com](http://www.vocacioncatolica.com/), a new Spanish-language website for Hispanic Catholics who are seeking spiritual development and who may be considering religious life.

The need for Hispanic religious vocations is great. Surveys demonstrate the rapid growth of the U.S. Hispanic Catholic population, but also give evidence to the serious shortage of religious vocations from and to the Latino population.

Vocación Católica (the website address omits accent marks) is an attractive, contemporary website designed to appeal to younger Latinos, ages 18 to 35, living a bilingual, bicultural existence in the U.S. It targets those who care about their Catholic faith tradition and wonder how they can develop and express that faith more fully in their lives.

Amid an eye-popping, lively design, [www.vocacioncatolica.com](http://www.vocacioncatolica.com/) offers articles that address common questions and concerns about religious life and spiritual development in a culturally sensitive way. Featured articles approach discernment and the spiritual life by relating the personal stories of priests, sisters, and brothers, as well as the stories of those who are considering and pursuing a religious vocation.

The site also provides contact information and detailed descriptions of religious communities interested in hearing from Hispanic Catholics, as well as postings of educational and formational opportunities in addition to other resources and website links of special interest to young Latinos living in the U.S.

Latinos are projected to account for half of the total U.S. Catholic churchgoing population within a decade. The U.S. Catholic Conference 1999 "Report of the Bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs" revealed that while the general Catholic population is served by one priest for every 1,230 Catholics, the Hispanic Catholic population is only served by one priest for every 9,925 Catholics. The need, therefore, to encourage religious vocations within this burgeoning population has never been greater.

Recognizing the rapid growth of this community and desiring to see it better served, the NRVC, through its publisher, TrueQuest Communications of Chicago, has developed [www.vocacioncatolica.com](http://www.vocacioncatolica.com/), to act as a sister site to the NRVC's long-standing vocation website, [www.visionguide.org](http://www.visionguide.org). Both sites complement the NRVC's popular print publication Vision: the Annual Religious Vocation Discernment Guide, used by parishes in the U.S. and Canada, Catholic high schools and colleges, and hundreds of religious communities, to communicate with young people about religious life.

For more information, or to participate in [www.vocacioncatolica.com](http://www.vocacioncatolica.com/) through editorial or advertising content, please contact TrueQuest Communication, 806 West Washington Blvd., Ste. 201, Chicago, IL 60607; Email: **You had some bad html here.**correo@vocacioncatolica.com**You had some bad html here.**; Telephone: 312-829-7200 or toll-free, 800-942-2811.