Catholic Free Press

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  • Jan
  • 17

Encouragement for vocations is important

Posted By January 17, 2013 | 1:02 pm | Lead Story #3

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

WORCESTER – “I think you’d make a great priest” are words that can make a profound difference in someone’s life.
Vocations Director Father James S. Mazzone already knew this. But a newly released study offers proof this type of encouragement is important, he said.
The Survey of Youth and Young Adults on Vocations, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, underscores the need for laypeople, as well as priests, to help identify and support people who might have a vocation, Father Mazzone stated in an interview just before the start of National Vocations Awareness Week, which runs from January 13-19.
Among other things, the survey found that 13 percent of single teens and young adults have, at some point, considered the priesthood or religious life, and 3 percent of this total are giving it serious thought.
Most men discern the call between the ages of 13 to 18, although 22 percent consider avocation before reaching their teens. Another 19 percent of single men think about becoming a priest between the ages of 19 and 24, according to the findings.
The survey showed 10 percent of white (non-Spanish-speaking) Catholic males were encouraged to consider a religious vocation by someone, usually a priest, their mother and/or their grandmother.
But those discerning also received support from other parishioners, catechists, deacons, youth ministers, friends, co-workers and campus ministers.
Hispanic males in the United States, overall, were found to receive less encouragement than any other group.
All respondents, especially Hispanics, noticed a fair amount of discouragement.
“Across all age groups, friends and fathers are the most common types of discouragers,” noted the study.
It is precisely because of this climate that Father Mazzone believes it’s important to say something positive to someone who may have calling.
“They simply have to say, ‘Have you ever thought about a vocation to the priesthood?’ or ‘I think you’d make a great priest, have you ever thought of it?’”
Father Mazzone said it’s a safe bet that most priests can remember a turning point, when someone else noticed they might make a good priest.
“Most stories I’ve heard the young man had been thinking of a vocation for years,” he said. “It’s the first time anybody has ever said that out loud.”
Father Mazzone assured the faithful they wouldn’t be meddling if they sought someone out, and posed the question of whether they’ve considered the priesthood.
“Rather than being anxious about bringing the subject up to a young man, most likely they’re marking an extraordinary moment in a young man’s life that they’ll never forget,” he stated.
Also, speaking words of encouragement are probably more important today, than at times in the past.
“There are so many societal and unseen forces that are belittling all religious vocations,” Father Mazzone explained. “Now more than ever we need the voice of the faithful to say those words out loud to young men and women they feel they have a vocation.”
Father Mazzone also distinctly remembers when someone noticed that he might have a vocation.
He was a junior in high school and attending a Catholic Youth Conference event when a female adviser said to him, “I think you’d make a great priest. Have you ever thought about it?”
Within the diocese, the local Serra Clubs work to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Msgr. John Doran, pastor of St. Leo in Leominster, is also chaplain of the Serra Worcester North chapter.
He also believes it’s important for the faithful to ask certain young men if they’ve ever thought of becoming a priest. “I do that myself,” he said.
The Serra Club, he noted, actively works toward this end by prayer and by doing other works to support current seminarians.
“It really is a priority for every Serran,” he added.
Although Msgr. Doran doesn’t recall a specific incident, in his youth, of someone asking if he’d ever thought of a religious vocation, he believes it must have happened.
Like many men called to the priesthood today, Msgr. Doran, growing up, was highly involved in his parish.
“All of those things put me in line for thinking about the priesthood anyway,” he said.
Msgr. Doran added that it’s important for young people to see examples of clergy who are joyful, happy and committed to their vocations.
John Shannon of Leominster is vice president of vocations and communication for the Serra North chapter. He is well aware of the need to encourage people possibly discerning a call to religious life. He said other members believe this as well.
“It’s even talked about at the meetings,” he noted.
Mr. Shannon said the faithful shouldn’t hesitate to ask certain young men if they’ve ever considered the priesthood.
“I have suggested to a couple of people they may have vocations,” he said. “You never know if it will spark a response.”