Fostering a “Culture of Vocations”
(Vermont Catholic/Cori Fugere Urban) Rhonda Gruenewald, author of “Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry,” speaks during a daylong workshop on the topic at St. Anthony Church in White River Junction Nov. 4.
There is no doubt of the importance of the priesthood, consecrated religious life and sacramental marriage in the Church, but to foster and build these vocations, there must be a culture of vocations in each parish.
That was the message Rhonda Gruenewald, author of “Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry,” brought to a daylong workshop on the topic at St. Anthony Church in White River Junction Nov. 4.
The aim of her book — and of her presentations — is to inspire laypersons beginning or reviving a vocation ministry or committee and provide tested activities to bring about a culture of vocations in their parish.
Each of the 40 participants in the workshop at St. Anthony’s received a copy of the book, which gives background and ideas for a vocations ministry like a family Holy Hour for vocations, Eucharistic adoration for vocations, an altar server lunch with priests, a fish fry for vocations, seminarian trading cards, recognition of married couples at Mass and panel discussions.
“We are trying to create an environment where young people can hear and answer God’s call” to priesthood, consecrated religious life or sacramental marriage, Gruenewald said in her presentation entitled “Forming a Vocation-Friendly Parish.”
With some 3,500 parishes in the United States without a resident pastor, the number of religious sisters diminishing in many orders and many young people not considering marriage in the Church an option, this is a “clarion call to do something,” Gruenewald emphasized.
Though there is an uptick in the number of seminarians in some dioceses and some religious orders are receiving more new members, “we need an entity in every parish to pray and promote vocations,” she said. “We know God is calling. We have a listening problem.”
Members of vocations ministries must “till the soil” by making parishioners and visitors aware of vocation options and comfortable discerning God’s call for them, she continued.
Some suggestions: place a poster of seminarians in a prominent place in the church, include prayers for an increase in vocations in the Prayers of the Faithful at each Mass and make vocation-related materials available in parish book racks.
And to reach young people, it is important to reach families. “We need to equip families to talk about vocations,” Gruenewald said. “We need to get to work in age-appropriate ways when families are bringing their children to the parish.”
In addition to the ideas presented in her book, she provides a plethora of information on vocations ministry at vocationsministry.com.
Rita Baglini of Our Lady of the Snows Church in Waitsfield attended the workshop. “We have to promote vocations,” she said. “This is our faith.”
Even in a church like hers where many worshippers are vacationers, a culture of vocations is important so visitors can be inspired to listen to God’s call.
Fostering this culture of vocations can be a challenge especially in aging parishes, in the least religious state and in communities where many young people leave to find opportunities, she said.
But all parishes — regardless of the number of young parishioners — can be involved in vocations ministry at least with a prayer component. “Do something!” Gruenewald said, saying youth are attracted to the truth, to authentic witness for Christ and to the example of it being lived boldly.
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne thanked participants for their interest in vocations ministry and said he hoped the workshop would “bear [the] fruit” of vocations in their parishes.
Father Jon Schnobrich, full-time vocations director for the Diocese of Burlington, offered workshop participants an overview of vocation work in the Diocese including the Totus Tuus summer programs that cultivate a culture of vocations directly and indirectly, his visits to parishes throughout the state to preach about vocations, his visits to Catholic schools, Masses at eldercare homes at which he encourages residents to pray for vocations and summer seminarian assignments in parishes where they are “joyful witnesses” to young parishioners.
Children can be inspired to a vocation at any age, Gruenewald said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do to affect vocations in God’s time. We just have to keep tilling the soil.”