I had served as a parish priest for nine years when then Bishop Henry J. Mansell asked me to return to Christ the King Seminary as part of the formation team. In those nine beautiful years in parish ministry, I encountered some dedicated lay people who wanted to know what they could do to promote vocations.
About 10 of these lay people began to gather monthly at the seminary for an early morning Saturday Mass and then, over coffee, would discuss what they could do to increase vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life. On the drawing board they came up with detailed programs, workshops, posters, brochures and advertising blitzes.
All of these ideas had merit, but during one Saturday morning session the group members looked at all they had drawn up, and almost as one, came to the realization that nothing was more important than prayer for vocations. They began to shift their focus to fostering vocations through the power of prayer.
The Vocation Group authored a simple yet powerful vocation prayer that they had printed on prayer cards and distributed to local parishes. Some 37 parishes chose to use this prayer during Mass either at the Prayer of the Faithful or near the close of Mass. Three years ago this program expanded into the Adopt a Seminarian program. Each of our diocesan seminarians has their picture and a brief biography and contact information printed on a card with the vocation prayer printed on the back.
These cards are distributed to parishes, Catholic schools and religious education programs. Parishioners of all ages and children in all grade levels are encouraged to pray for additional vocations, but also to pray for the perseverance of those who are already in a program of study and formation toward the priesthood. The seminarians claim they can feel this power of prayer and they appreciate the emails and letters sent to them from parishioners. Parishioners like to know that they are doing their part in promoting God's call to those who are discerning a vocation.
St. John Paul II has said, "At a minimum we should pray for vocations daily."
Is your parish or school or religious education program using these vocation prayer cards? If not, would you like more information on the Adopt a Seminarian prayer card program? Contact Father Walter Szczesny in the Vocation Office at 716-847-5535 or via email.