On a Mission

March 25-31, 2004
On a Mission
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
Diocesan Pastoral Council Approves Its New Mission Statement There were only a few voting “nay” during a show of hands on Saturday, March 20 on the vote of approving the new mission statement that will guide the Diocesan Pastoral Council.

The adopted statement reads as follows: “We the Roman Catholic Christian Community of the Diocese of Syracuse, in response to our baptismal call and nourished by the Eucharist, seek to continue the Gospel mission of Jesus Christ by welcoming, supporting and guiding God’s family through prayer, sacramental celebration, service and education.” The mission statement was one item on the agenda at the council’s March meeting. Representatives from the Eastern Region opened the meeting with prayer before Father John Donovan, currently in charge of the diocesan Office of Vocation Promotion, gave his report on vocations. Part of Father Donovan’s philosophy for his newest role is to be visible to young people. He said he had spent the past eight months traveling to parishes, schools, college campuses and religious education classrooms to communicate his message about vocations. He also traveled to Houston with 141 youngsters from the diocese for the National Catholic Youth Conference.

Last fall Father Donovan sent a survey to parishes to determine how many had a Parish Vocations Committee (PVC) in place, and what suggestions parishes might have regarding vocations. “I wanted to know if vocations are a priority in your parish, and if you haven’t talked about it, why not?” Father Donovan asked. He said he sent out 168 surveys and 51 were returned. Out of those 51, 27 parishes have no PVC in place and 24 do have an established PVC. Father Donovan told the DPC that there are activities that individuals and parishes can do to promote vocations. Some parishes are successfully promoting vocations and typically they have plans and ideas in place within the parish. Parish members pray the rosary weekly for vocations, they talk about vocations with individual young people who may indicate a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Teens should also be active participants in parish life, Father Donovan said. He suggested making seminarians visible at parishes when they are home during breaks, adding weekly vocation prayers to the bulletin and petitions during the Prayer of the Faithful, asking students to serve on committees at parishes and trying to educate parents about vocations. Some parishes responded to Father Donovan asking for a quarterly gathering of bishops and teens, more homilies on vocations, retreats, reciting the prayer for vocations each week in church, and some suggested that priests should be a good example and demonstrate how much they enjoy their vocation. Father Donovan shared a vocation story from his own life. “It never occurred to me to be a priest. I had been K-through-eight at Blessed Sacrament and then went to Seton Catholic. Then, Sister Lois Barton came up to me when I was dressed up as a priest for a Halloween party I went to with my girlfriend,” Father Donovan said. “Sister Louis said, ‘You know, usually if someone dresses up like a priest it might be an indication that that person might want to be a priest.’” Part of Father Donovan’s job in the vocation’s office, which he said he spends 40 percent of his time at while 60 percent is given over to his role on the Diocesan Tribunal, is to make sure that young people see the happiness that comes with a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. During one of Father Donovan’s first visits to a parish to speak about vocations, the pastor said to him, “When did you say you were happy?” And that statement has stayed with him. “In my own priesthood, my happiest moments are when I am with someone at their time of need — that and the sacredness of the Eucharist,” he said.

Families need to bring up vocations to their children, Father Donovan said. One way to do this would be to pray at meal times with a vocations crucifix to “stir up the idea” in families. The action of imitation, of realizing that all have the responsibility to build the church is a central part of increasing vocations, he explained. Revisions of the constitution of the DPC were discussed by Tina Dyer, executive secretary of the council. President Jane Klaben told the council that they would be voting on approving the constitution at the May meeting. The constitution explains the membership of the body — one person from each parish selected by the pastor and/or parish pastoral council for four year renewable terms. The document details the governance, officers’ duties, committees and the terms for plenary sessions (at least four times per year). At the last DPC plenary session of an election year, each region will select or elect two people to serve a two-year term on the executive committee. If a vacancy occurs in a region during the two year period, that region will select or elect a replacement. The two representatives for each region will serve as the nominating committee and will conduct the election process. Regional meetings are not required but may indeed be held if any region decides to do so, Dyer explained. The mission, vision and goals of the DPC have been a matter of discussion for a number of months. The DPC broke up into small groups to discuss the values and goals that they will adopt. Martha Group, a parishioner of St. Patrick’s Church in Oneida, facilitated a portion of the meeting that described and explained how the relevance of the values and goals would play out within parish life and how following steps of establishing goals, developing action plans, reviewing results and determining needs can turn faith into action at the parish level. After the small group sessions, the DPC went into executive session to discuss the remainder of the agenda items. At the next gathering in May, the council will further address the values and goals of the DPC, as well as approving or disapproving the current constitution.

Editor’s note: Anyone interested in inviting Father Donovan to speak at a parish or other setting may contact him by calling (315) 470-1468 or e-mailing him at jpdonovan@syracusediocese.org.

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