Jan. 15-21, 2004
‘This is God Calling!’
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Parish Vocations Committees Help Promote Vocations Awareness Week
The week of Jan. 11 through 17 is National Vocation Awareness Week –– a time to raise awareness about vocational choices and a time to respond to God’s call to pursue the priesthood or religious life. All Christians are called to share of themselves –– their time, talents and resources in order to make the world a better place. This week is meant to remind the faithful to live out their Christian discipleship, regardless of the path they choose. At St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Binghamton, the Vocation Promotion Committee looks for creative ways to raise awareness of the call to vocations. The committee is made up of six students and four adults and is facilitated by Sister Karen Gaube, CSJ. Edith Blabac, a member of the committee, said that Sister Karen is responsible for recruiting young people to serve on the committee. “The young people bring such vitality to the committee,” said Blabac. “They are the ones who come up with the ideas to raise awareness of vocations. They explore ways of how everyone can lead a Christian life.”
Seton Catholic Central High School senior, Ryan Kopyar is co-chair of the vocation committee at St. Catherine’s. He agrees with Blabec that not everyone will receive a call to religious life. “Personally, I have always been open to a religious calling, although I have not felt that calling yet in my life. The committee allows me to help other kids my age who may not be open to the call for whatever reason.” Ryan said that Sister Karen gives the group perspective into what religious life is like. “I have shared my vocation with the parish,” said Sister Karen. She said that she tries to share with her parish community the charisms of her community –– the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, which are unity and reconciliation. “Although sisters are fewer in number than in the past, I feel the support of my whole community as I go about ministering in the church,” said Sister Karen. “Because the parishioners don’t see us in large numbers, it may not be apparent that a large part of our lives is the strength and support we get from each other.”
Ryan said that as a group, the committee looks at articles and newspaper clippings regarding vocations and uses them as tools in promoting to young people the idea of a vocation. “Oftentimes, people fear what they do not understand,” said Ryan. “Or they say ‘no’ to something they do not understand. We try to give our young people an understanding of what religious life truly is.” Father John Donovan, director of the office of Vocation Promotion for the Syracuse Diocese, said that it is a shared Christian vocation to call leadership forward. “We have to participate in God’s service,” said Father Donovan. “National Vocation Awareness Week focuses on the state of life, specifically the priesthood and women religious.” Father Donovan said that those whom God is calling need to listen to the call. “Those who are serious have to be motivated through humility toward service. We are looking for sincere, compassionate people,” he said. Father Donovan also said that the people who hear God’s call need not be perfect. “Only God is perfect,” he said.
Blabec agrees wholeheartedly. “We try to dispel the theory that priests don’t come from everyday families,” she said. “They do. We talk about that. It’s important to plant the thought into someone’s head. If they thought about it [becoming a priest or religious], but no one ever called it to their attention, the idea wouldn’t grow,” said Blabec. Father Donovan said that people can’t be afraid to extend the invitation. “It’s all of our responsibility,” he said. “Although people have questions regarding who may be ordained and the lifestyle for priests, these issues may or may not be addressed, but we still have the responsibility to assure our future with priests and religious. We still have the responsibility to extend the invitation.” In addition to spreading the word about what religious life is all about, the members of the vocation committee at St. Catherine’s plan to spend the month of January praying for parishioners who may hear the call to religious life. Taking an idea they received from St. Rita’s Parish in Chenango Forks, the parishioners will be asked to write on a piece of paper the name of someone they feel would make a good priest or sister. The names will be put in a sealed envelope and placed in the collection basket and then placed on the altar. The congregation will pray for them and ask God to help them feel the call if that is His plan for them. The vocation committee at St. Paul’s Parish in Binghamton is also gearing up for National Vocation Awareness Week. Deacon John Stella said that now that their capital campaign is winding down, they will be jump-starting vocation awareness. “We have a ‘Wall of Fame’ in our vestibule,” said Deacon Stella. On it are 24 pictures of past parishioners of St. Paul’s who entered religious life. “The pictures are the first thing you see when you enter the church,” he said. “They’ve stirred up a lot of interest and discussion among the parishioners.” Among those on the wall of fame are four sisters from the same family, who years ago all became Sisters of St. Joseph. “There were also two brothers who became Jesuit priests,” said Deacon Stella. “As a result of our prayers, Walter Jenkins, a former parishioner of St. Paul’s, was just ordained on Jan. 3 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. His parents are still parishioners here.”
Michael Curry, a vocation committee member at St. Paul’s, said the group wrote a brief description and history of different religious orders and included them in the weekly bulletins. In the future, they plan to produce a video in which priests from different parishes explain why they became priests and how the vocation has fulfilled their lives. “It’s important to let the young adults of our parish know that they are appreciated,” said Barbara Testa, another vocation committee member and the RCIA director at St. Paul’s. “They need to know that because of their involvement in the ministries of the church, they are valued. This may lead them to realize a possible call to priesthood or another religious vocation and help them grow spiritually in that direction,” she said.
Sister Karen encourages young people and their parents to look upon religious life as a viable option in their life choices. “For me personally, I’m very grateful for my religious vocation. It has brought me much joy through the years.”