To Pray for Vocations

In 1964, Pope Paul VI launched the World Day of Prayer for Vocations with this prayer: “O Jesus, divine Shepherd of the spirit, you have called the Apostles in order to make them fishermen of men, you still attract to you burning spirits and generous young people, in order to render them your followers and ministers to us.”  Since then, Catholic parishes around the world have been praying for vocations every fourth Sunday of Easter. Despite the prayers of faithful Catholics, the number of religious priests, brothers and sisters has relentlessly declined in the United States. But lately: signs of hope.

On Sunday at St. Peter’s Parish  in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Father Tom Odorizzi, C.O., spoke forcefully during his homily to about 100 Rutgers University students gathered at the 8 p.m. Rutgers Catholic Center Mass. He shared his own story of graduating from college with an electrical engineering degree and every intention of launching a successful career as an engineer. “So it’s possible,” said the pastor, who was ordained in 1992. “You need to have a heart that is open, a heart that is open to the call of the Lord.” 

Less than a decade ago,  Rutgers student Jeffrey Calia sat in those pews. Baptized in the Lutheran faith, but not raised in a church-going family,  he converted to Catholicism during his college years. Now Brother Jeff in the Metuchen Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, he will be ordained over Memorial Day Weekend  at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen. After Brother Jeff’s conversion, his mother converted to Catholicism after marrying a Catholic man; and Brother Jeff’s father, a lapsed cradle Catholic, has begun to attend Mass regularly as well. 

Faith is blossoming at colleges across the country, and that is encouraging vocations. At Walsh University, a small Catholic institution in North Canton, Ohio, five students are entering religious life: one young man will be ordained a priest and four women will become Dominican nuns. All of them credit campus chaplain Rev. Christopher M. Saliga, for helping them to follow God’s plan. (I would love to collect more of these success stories. Readers: what are yours? )

While charismatic college chaplains are nurturing vocations, parents play a key role in whether young adults can hear the call to religious life. To ensure the vitality of our Catholic Church in the future, we Catholic parents must embrace the possibility that one of our sons or daughters might have a religious vocation. Without priests, there would be no sacraments and no Church. Pope Benedict XIV, pictured here when he was a child, grew up in a family where pursuing a religious life was not unusual. His brother, Georg, is also a priest, as was a great uncle. In childhood, the Pontiff desired to be a priest. How would we react if one of our sons told us this? Or if a daughter said she wanted to become a nun? As Maria and Joseph Ratzinger Sr. did, we need to embrace those possibilities.

  • Anonymous

    Allison,Your posts seem to be hitting close to home, lately! My sister, Diane Roche, (the inspiration for our Lennon Sisters spoof) has been a Religious of the Sacred Heart for the past 35 years, so I can speak to having a family member choose this path. My parents had no objection, as devout Catholics (with four other daughters to provide grand children) – and the blessings have far outweighed the sacrifices. She inspires all of us to stretch in our faith by her brave example. Most notably, she chose to move to Haiti just as the 2004 Revolution erupted in fresh violence and remained there for four years. She was only days back from a return visit when the earthquake struck.Googling "Sister Diane Roche" will bring up a piece she wrote in 2001 about her vocation (Nuns live out an odd Paradox) – but perhaps the link below will work. (I've notice some recent comments have active links.)

    • Harry Mattison

      I am a literature professor and an old friend of Diane’s from her Sursum Corda years. Is there an email address where I can contact her?
      Many thanks!

  • Anonymous

    I go to a public state university, and my friend left as a junior to enter the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist this past summer, another friend is leaving as a junior to enter seminary for the diocese, and another is leaving as a sophomore to become a numerary in Opus Dei, so three religious vocations in two years, praise God!

  • Julie Cragon

    I agree with the close to home comment. The pictured sister is from the Nashville Dominicans who teach my children. Their Motherhouse is here and they have had 10-20 young women enter each year for the past, I don't know, maybe 10 years. They started as a boarding school which my grandmother and mother attended and now have a grade school (Overbrook), a high school (St. Cecilia Academy) and a college (Aquinas). My sisters and I as well as my 1st 2 daughters went to the all girl high school. I laugh because the Mother Superior was my high school principal and the one 2 before her was my 1st grade teacher. My guess is that after they've dealt with the likes of me, they go straight to Mother Superior. We are lucky to have them and because of their growth, they have scattered to other schools throughout the U.S. I would love for one of my girls to join these Dominicans and preach and teach and pray as St. Dominic.

  • Allison

    @Sheila: So neat to hear your story.@Julie: It is a small world indeed. I just pulled that photo from Google images; no idea she is someone you know!My family never – going back many generations- has had priests or nuns in it. And virtually no experience with Catholic schools or universities either. It is nice to hear your stories.

  • Anonymous

    I am a person who He has 'attracted to Him'. In love with the divine Spouse. But you raise an important point Allison, of the support of parents. The reasons don't matter but very often parents play a discouraging role – in this day and age. Very often because such a decision is counter cultural. I have struggled… still struggling to help them understand my decision. I don't blame them but it affects me greatly… However, He is still calling people today. I believe that with my whole heart. Sometimes through priests, through sisters, through books, sometimes directly. But He is still calling people – even today. Pls pray for those who are called to have the courage to say yes.

  • Laura R.

    @Anonymous, God bless you as you seek to follow His call!