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Prayer, personal witness key to promoting vocations

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QUINCY—“A vocation requires asking and listening. For a lot of young men what helped them to discern a call to the priesthood was that somebody asked them,”said Father Daniel Hennessey, director of the Office for Vocations. He was addressing a group of approximately 50 people at St. Ann Parish school gathered Oct. 22 for a workshop on promoting vocations in the Archdiocese of Boston.

“It is very hard to hear the call from God, especially for young people, because there are a lot of distractions, some good and some bad,”he continued.

Representatives from a number of parishes attended the workshop to learn how to form vocation committees in their parishes, aimed at raising awareness that vocations to the priesthood and religious life are an option for young people.

“Don’t get intimidated,”Father Hennessey said. “It’s your personal witness, your personal experience, not that you do it perfectly or that we have great success. It’s the fact that you are here, that you are going to get out and do it that’s 95 percent of the work.”

“Christ wants to use you,”he said to those in attendance. “All the work that we do here—it’s not ours. It’s God’s, and God will take the effort that we bring and He’ll bring fruit to it.”

Father Hennessey told the parish representatives that a vocation is a gift from God not only to the priest, but also to the Church and to his family. Paul and Ann Marie Williams’son heard the call to the priesthood and was ordained in 2003. They were asked by their pastor to attend the workshop and help to foster vocations in their Weymouth parish.

Ann Marie remembered that the first time her son Matthew thought about a priestly vocation was around the age of nine. Years later during a 1991 family trip to Medjugorje, she said that “the seed was planted,”in her son’s heart. After returning home the family began praying together as a family more.

“We prayed to always do the will of God,”she said. “If God was calling my son to be a priest, this is what I wanted him to do—because if you are doing the will of God you will always be happy.”

Her son would return to Medjugorje several more times over the years to nurture his vocation, Ann Marie said. He is now assigned to St. Mary Parish in Dedham.

Tom Medlar, a parishioner at Sacred Heart in Middleboro, attended the workshop with Father Martin McNulty to learn how to help young people discover their vocations, he said.

“We all have special gifts, but they are sometimes hard to recognize or to know which direction to pursue,”Medlar said. “We need to help people to listen to and to hear that voice that points us to our callings.”

He said many young people do not know that a vocation to the priesthood or to religious life is a legitimate option. “We need to start more conversations about vocations,”Medlar said. “So often we miss our vocation,”he added. “It’s so easy to be confused or go astray.”

Deacon Joe Vitello of St. Jerome Parish in North Weymouth agreed. When he was 19 years old he was asked if he ever considered becoming a deacon. “I thought I wasn’t worthy,”he remembers thinking. “But none of us is really worthy.”

“There is a great need for vocations,”Vitello stated. “We need good priests at our parishes. They are a great witness of faith.”

Attendees will serve as liaisons between their parishes and the vocation office. They received a vocation committee guide containing a variety of resources and ideas to invite parishioners to consider a religious vocation. They also heard from several guest speakers who gave examples of how they promote vocations in their parishes.

Paula Pantaleo, director of religious education at St. Bonaventure in Manomet and self-proclaimed “vocation chick,”emphasized using visual materials such as posters, brochures, prayer cards and videos to catch people’s attention. “Kids aren’t always aware that a vocation is an option,”she said. “We need to get the message out there.”

To raise awareness, she puts announcements in the church bulletin when a priest in the parish celebrates the anniversary of his ordination. She has also invited guest speakers from religious orders into the religious education classes and organized field trips to a seminary or convent to show students what religious life is like.

Dianne Rastallis, of St. Agatha Parish in Milton, stressed the importance of prayer in promoting vocations in the parish. “By organizing a campaign of prayer, you include everyone in the parish,”she said. “Prayer is something that every single individual —little ones, busy adults, grandparents —can do. There isn’t a person in your parish that isn’t able to pray.”

She also encouraged attendees to include homebound parishioners and those in hospitals in praying for vocations. A St. Anne and Joachim Society of Prayer, which customarily attracts older people, could be formed, she said, where members offer daily prayers for vocations. Starting a vocation cross program in your parish, where a cross visits the home of a parishioner for one week at a time, can raise awareness, she said. Having the cross be welcomed by a family or individual during Mass will make everyone aware that a family is praying for vocations that week, Rastillis explained.

“The power of prayer is something we don’t always realize,”she continued. “It is immense.”Due to the shortage of priests, “This is the most important time to pray for vocations in our archdiocese,”Rastallis stated.

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