Each September the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors (NCDVD) convenes for a series of talks and workshops to help priests like me. One presentation that stood out was entitled “The Priests We Need Today,” which was delivered by Dr. Edward Sri.
Dr. Sri is a well-known theologian but, in this presentation, he spoke from his perspective as a husband and a father. He encouraged us as vocation directors to help our seminarians become missionary disciples. We do not need priests who are going to sit behind a desk and lead in abstract ways. Pope Francis is clearly calling priests to “go out,” and encounter those who may find themselves on the “outside looking in.”
Dr. Sri also reminded us that witnesses are much more effective than teachers in this day and age. We can eloquently explain the faith in a homily, but if we are not living like Jesus none of our words will have any weight. Dr. Sri asked us to train men who “live out of their own encounter with God’s word.” He also asked us to form seminarians who are excellent spiritual fathers because they know their people. He provided the example of Pope John Paul II who spent so much time encountering young people, married couples, and all of his parishioners as a priest and continued to do so as a bishop and finally as pope.
So, how are we going to do this? That’s the question that popped into my head as I listened to Dr. Sri. Well, we are doing some great things already. I’ve told you about our Quo Vadis Young Men’s Retreat this past summer. That was great as our seminarians got to take leadership roles and mentor the men who participated. Several of our seminarians are a part of relief efforts on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. All of our seminarians are encouraged to take an active role in the seminary communities that they live in. I rejoice when I see our seminarians cultivating meaningful relationships with parishioners and families that they meet on their summer assignments and at other times as they visit parishes and get to know the diocese, and I believe that this is where our formation program needs to continue to grow. I am working with Bishop Kopacz, the Chancery staff and priests in our parishes to help give our seminarians more opportunities to know you and to minister to you. The only way they can discern whether or not they are called to be a missionary priest in this missionary diocese is to get practice, and so this is what I need to facilitate as vocation director.
Thank you for your continued support of our men. I hope you are able to attend our 2nd Annual Homegrown Harvest Festival which will be held on Oct. 2, 2021. All proceeds from this event will go toward helping our seminarians become the missionary disciples the church needs and toward finding more men and women who desire to follow the Lord’s call to priesthood and religious life. You can log onto one.bidpal.net/homegrownharvest2021 to sponsor the event or buy individual tickets. Or call me at (601) 969-4020 if you have any questions. God bless you all for your commitment to your faith and to the church.