By Father Matthew Simmons
Vocation Awareness Week begins November 2. Since the week begins this year with All Souls Day, the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors suggests we use Sunday, Nov. 9, the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, to wrap up a week focusing on vocations awareness. The Lateran Basilica is the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome; and, as Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis has a special place in inspiring vocations to the priesthood not only for the Diocese of Rome but throughout the universal church.
“Behind and before every vocation to the priesthood or to consecrated life there is always the strong and intense prayer of someone: a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father, a community…. Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer; and only through prayer can they persevere and bear fruit,” said Pope Francis.
One of the seminarians for the Diocese of Jackson recently designed a new vocations poster which you may have seen in your school or parish. It features a photograph of Bishop Joseph Kopacz laying hands on Father Rusty Vincent during the ordination Mass last summer. The poster also features the verse: “Do not conform to the customs of nations. I have set you apart to be my own” from Leviticus 20. Recently, many who work in vocation promotion are again focusing on the sacrificial element of following Christ. Both celibacy and marriage require making sacrifices.
I invite you to pray for the nine men currently in the seminary for our diocese. While seminary was a wonderful experience for me, it is also a place of discernment for priesthood. Each of these men is working to discover God’s plan for him. The vocations committee of Jackson St. Richard Parish prints a prayer card each year with the seminarians’ names as a way to personalize the prayer effort. The parish will also host a brunch on Sunday, Nov. 2, so people can support their education and meet the seminarians.
Lay people in the diocese can support the seminarians with their prayer, donations to the seminarian education fund or sending letters and cards of encouragement. Contact information for the seminarians can be found on the diocesan website www.jacksondiocese.org/about/offices/vocations/.
(Father Matthew Simmons is the director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Jackson.)