World Day of Vocations
Give thanks, tell your story and invite the faithful to share in this work
Bishop David J. Bonnar Comments Off on World Day of Vocations
When I was a pastor, I always found the Easter season to be a time pregnant with grace in the parish. In addition to celebrating the good news of the empty tomb and welcoming the newly baptized into the fold, there is an abundance of grace that flows from our parishes in the way of baptisms, first holy Communions, confirmations, marriages and, in some cases, ordinations.
Indeed, Easter is a grace-filled time that contains the anticipation of even more grace with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. What excites me, particularly about this time, is that the Church appears to be so alive.
In the face of all these life-giving streams of grace, what can sometimes become lost is World Day of Vocations, typically celebrated on the Fourth Sunday of Easter. This year’s observance on Sunday, April 30, 2023, marks the 60th anniversary of this annual celebration.
How do you plan to commemorate this moment in your parish? If I may, I would like to offer a few suggestions for your consideration. They are presented in the spirit of someone who was called and joyfully embraces that call and was blessed for five years to serve as a director of vocations and rector of a house of formation.
First, for all of us who have responded to a particular priestly call, this is a day to give thanks for our vocation. Who we are and what we do is not a job but a divine calling and, therefore, a precious gift. This is a good time to prayerfully thank God for our priesthood and all those along the way who have helped us to live out this call. This prayer of thanksgiving is something we can do every day. For instance, I keep a photo in my breviary of my ordination day that includes an image of my parents, the ordaining bishop and me. Every time I gaze at that image, my heart wells up with gratitude, and I ask God to renew the grace of that day.
Second, as a further expression of one’s appreciation, share your vocational story. People in the pews love to hear vocational stories. Some priests are reluctant to do so because they do not want to talk about themselves, especially at the pulpit. But these stories are always bigger than us because they point to God’s grace. To make the story even more compelling, you might even want to go back to the photo album (I am dating myself) from your ordination and prepare a picture collage of that day for the faithful to view. We need not rely solely upon the pulpit to tell our story. There is always the parish bulletin and social media. Whatever medium you choose, be sure to smile. Nothing is more compelling in the promotion of vocations than a happy and holy priest.
Finally, invite the faithful to assist in the promotion of vocations to the priesthood. Many years ago, the U.S. bishops wrote “A Future Full of Hope.” The document noted that the work of promoting vocations does not fall exclusively to the bishop or the vocation director, but it is a “shared responsibility” to be embraced by all in prayer and work. One of the ways the bishops sought to deepen this responsibility was through the invitation to form parish vocation councils that would come together regularly to pray for and support vocations.
When I became a pastor of a large suburban parish, one of my first tasks was to form a vocation council. For 11 years it was my honor to accompany them in this effort. Nearly three years after my departure, that group still exists and continues to make a difference supporting priests through prayer and greeting cards, as well as encouraging vocations through prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. At this time, two men have been ordained to the priesthood and there are two more in formation. The beauty of it is that two of these men are embracing diocesan priesthood while the other two have been led to religious communities.
Be sure to celebrate World Day of Vocations by giving thanks, telling your story and inviting the faithful to share in this work. And remember to smile!
BISHOP DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.