It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to raise priests and religious for our parishes, schools and ministries. I spent some time in Little Rock, Arkansas in early May to discover why the heck they have so many seminarians. They have about 30 seminarians and about 25 of them are from Arkansas. They also have nine men and women who are studying for religious life. This is Little Rock, not New Orleans. This is a diocese that is 5% Catholic and very rural. And they have 30 seminarians and nine men and women studying for religious life! I studied their vocations poster, and it reveals a diverse cast of characters representing many corners of their very large diocese. There are some wonderful missionaries who have come to study for the diocese, but the vast majority come from within.
I left my visit extremely fired up: we can do this! The thing that impressed me most about Little Rock’s program is the culture that has been built over years of collaboration between the Vocation Department, the Bishop’s Office and the Chancery, parish leadership, and the people of God. Everything in that department is geared toward serving the people of God in Arkansas. There is a clear message that God could be calling you to serve, and we are going to support you in that call. It takes a village, and we are that village.
This sort of support is certainly present in communities in our diocese. It took a village for Andrew Bowden to be ordained as Deacon Andrew Bowden on May 15. It took a village for Tristan Stovall to be supported through the RCIA process in Philadelphia and finally to see him off to seminary formation. It took the villages of St. Paul Flowood, St. Richard and St. Joseph Schools and St. Joseph Starkville to inspire Will Foggo to enter the seminary this past year. But we can create a bigger, more cohesive village, and that’s what I learned in Little Rock. This summer I hope our village gets a little bigger as I host our first ever Quo Vadis? Young Men’s Retreat. This fall I hope it gets even bigger with our second annual Homegrown Harvest Seminarian Gala. And I also understand that this village will not be built overnight, and I am not building it alone. If you have ideas or just want to get involved in supporting our seminarians and young men and women who are discerning, please let me know. You can always email me at email@example.com. There are great things happening in the church, and there are great things happening in our diocese. Please continue to pray for vocations, and live in great hope, because the Lord will respond to these prayers, and we need to support one another as we look to build up our culture of vocations.