Each year, the month of November is an exciting time for the Vocations Office and the Catholic communities of the United States, because it brings the National Vocation Awareness Week, which will occur from Nov. 5-11 this year.
As described by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, this week is "an annual weeklong celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations." Each year, it is my privilege and delight to facilitate this observance here in the Diocese of Buffalo.
Since each of our communities (parishes, schools, etc.) has a unique nature and identity, both the support of the Vocations Office and the ownership of the local leaders are necessary for the purpose of Vocation Week to be served most effectively. Because of this, I make myself available to assist those in the numerous roles of parish leadership in surveying the vast array of ideas and products that can be utilized, and in selecting and implementing those most suitable for their communities. I also recommend visiting www.vocationawarenessweek.com to browse some possibilities.
There can be found suggested formats for Holy Hours for Vocations, bulletin inserts, classroom activities and many other ideas worthy of consideration. The possibilities are endless, and there is no one right way of implementing this observance. In addition to observance in the larger community, prayers for vocations are also encouraged from families at home.
Each year, I take this week as an opportunity to reflect on the mission of the Vocations Office and to consider possible improvements - not only to maximize the potential of the week, but all aspects of vocations ministry.
A tremendous benefit in this regard is attained by my involvement with the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors. This past September, I attended the annual meeting in New Orleans. I look forward to this each year, as it gives me an opportunity to share ideas with vocation directors from through the United States and beyond, and to be informed of the latest in products, services and strategy.
One significant truth that continues to occur to me when I look to improve vocations ministry is that since all vocations are from God, then they all exist in communion with each other. Given this communion, collaboration with those in other ministerial roles is crucial. This also reminds me that I do not, and cannot, carry out my mission alone. I am blessed to continue to benefit from fruitful collaboration with pastors, permanent deacons, youth ministers, those in faith formation programs, various diocesan departments, Christ the King Seminary and other people and groups.
While my work deals primarily with the vocation to diocesan priesthood, which consists largely of raising awareness and guiding discerners, its purpose cannot be served without considering its relationship with the vocations to the permanent diaconate and consecrated life. Permanent deacons assist priests in a multitude of ways both in the parishes and out in the community. The same can be said for those living their vocations to religious life. Whether in the cloistered monastic setting, at missions throughout the world, or right within our local community, those in religious life play a crucial role in actualizing the Church's mission. There are also many cases where they have been instrumental in encouraging those called to diocesan priesthood to pursue their vocation.
Given the relatedness of all ministerial vocations, I gladly avail myself to assist those with vocations to the permanent diaconate and religious life where possible, and I provide the following information.
For those interested in the permanent diaconate, the program office can be contacted. Should one feel that they have a vocation to religious life, but are not exactly sure to which community, I recommend visiting www.VocationMatch.com, which provides a survey for fine tuning your discernment, and also nrvc.net, which will connect you with the National Religious Vocation Conference.
Lastly, I wish to thank the countless people who are responsible for fostering the ministerial vocations in the Church. I ask all of you to, at the very least, offer a prayer for a positive response from all of those whom God has called to priesthood, the permanent diaconate and religious life.