From the Vineyard: A Few Thoughts
I have entered my fourth year “In the Vineyard” so-to-speak; in a dedicated way as Director of Vocations. A priest should always find himself in the vineyard in every way, encouraging and supporting men and women to dedicated service in the Church of Christ. Today, I want to begin to offer a few thoughts (for those few who might find themselves reading my blog musings) on this blessed ministry which I am grateful that I have been called to by the Lord.
These really have been four amazing years. As a relatively “new” priest (I celebrated my fifth anniversary of ordination in May), I have been blessed to spend 1 1/2 years in a beautiful and vibrant community and then reassigned to the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Toronto in January 2014. I have worked with many who have heard the Lord’s call and find myself collaborating with many to find new and better ways to help those who are open to discerning find their way too. One of the most helpful directives I received from Cardinal Collins upon my appointment as Director was his desire that I always put “people before programs” which I have tried my best to honour. The investment of time offered for anyone discerning is well worth it!
The Church is blessed with many very fine people discerning. There are many very solid, loving, faith-filled men and women discerning religious vocations amid the challenges that we face as a Church and as Christians in the world today. There are many devout Disciples of Christ who are willing and ready to make sacrifices for a life that is filled with meaning and purpose, such as they are hopeful to find when they contact my office or speak to their priest or minister who will then speak to me. The challenge I find the vocations team faces in the Archdiocese of Toronto is finding the right place for all people to find their way to dedicated service as priests; religious sisters and brothers in the Church.
Every Vocation Director has his priorities, and these are mine. I share them, because these are what I see as the most important things we do as Christians to discern ourselves but help others discern too and from these will flow the next few reflections I will share here with you:
- Personal Accompaniment: It really is not the Christian way for us to “go it alone” in our vocational discernment. Although silence in prayer often is the place where the Lord speaks to us most clearly and profoundly, a vocation to priesthood or religious life is one which requires direction and companionship. This is the primary work and ministry for a Vocation Director and it certainly comprises most of my own dedicated time.
- Development of our Catholic Culture: Even as dedicated Catholic people, we do not live in a culture that often welcomes, embraces or supports religious vocations. It’s not that we are hostile to these kinds of dedicated lives, but we tend not to understand them. We need to “get the word out” and we need to help everyone, not just those discerning to see the relevance of religious vocations today and help one another to a greater understanding of what a religious vocation is and why they are essential for us all.
- Development of our Culture of Prayer: Even as dedicated Catholic people, we sometimes have a superficial understanding of prayer and why it’s important. As I’ve said before, prayer is not to change the mind of God, especially praying for vocations. Prayer often is most important because it helps to change the social conscience and awareness among ourselves of what’s important to us. In families for example, when we pray for an increase in vocations to all vocations, children are more apt to speak with parents and family members about religious vocations, and if families consider these kinds of vocations just as important as the vocation of holy, healthy marriages; these kinds of thoughts and considerations become the part of a young person’s formation in life and may lead to considering religious life.
- Leading by Example. As I present myself before the Lord, I am altogether very aware of my own weaknesses and sins, my shortcomings and challenges in life that make me less than everything I would wish to be. I am grateful for my gifts but well aware of my many faults. However, the greatest asset I have as a Vocation Director is my own sense of joy in the priesthood. I try to share this with the men discerning and the seminarians with whom I mainly work. I also try my best to point out the other priests and religious who share and radiate this quality of joy. It’s the most attractive thing. Joyful witnesses beget more joyful witnesses of the Gospel. Negativity, melancholy and pessimism in priesthood and religious life don’t attract others to a commitment to live for a life that doesn’t seem appealing.
I hope you will enjoy the reflections I offer you here in these next days and I hope that my Blog Reflections continue to offer some food for thought. May God bless you!