Valuing Vocations

March 30-April 5,06
Valuing Vocations
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Chuck Wainwright
Northern Region Hosts Mass and Day-Long Events Promoting Vocations

FULTON — Headlines and news updates may not proclaim it, but the idea of a vocation to the priesthood and to religious life within the Catholic Church is not entirely non-existent judging by a recent event held at Immaculate Conception Church. There were families galore at the Mass, which began at 3 p.m. after an early afternoon schedule that offered adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and recitation of the rosary.

Mothers, fathers and their children traveled from as far away as Greene, N.Y. to pray for an increase in vocations. Bishop James Moynihan was the main celebrant at the Mass and he was joined by Father Stephen Wirkes, pastor of Immaculate Conception, Father Andrew Baranski who is assistant chancellor and director of the Office of Vocation Promotion, Father Gregory Golyzniak,who serves at St. John the Baptist Church in Rome, deacons and several seminarians.

A bagpiper led the procession through the church as the day’s events also honored St. Joseph and St. Patrick. At the end of the Mass, Father Wirkes invited everyone downstairs for a “Gaelic and garlic” dinner to conclude the day’s festivities. There were little girls in ribbons and dresses and little boys in pressed shirts and ties in the pews during the Mass. They weren’t always focused on prayer, but many did seem earnest in their posture.

Dan and Barb Parks brought three of their four children to the event. “We talk about vocations at home,” Barb said. “We tell them to be open to God’s call no matter what it is. Priests are able to touch so many lives. We have respect for priests and we have priests as friends, so the children are aware.” The Parks attend Holy Family Church in Fairmount b ut helped to prepare for the event at the Fulton church. Barb Parks thought the first-time celebration was a great success and a lot of fun. She said preparations began in earnest about six weeks ago.

Bishop Moynihan began the Mass by welcoming everyone and stressing how important prayers for vocations are, saying, “We must ask the Father in prayer for laborers in the vineyard.” The number of diocesan priests has decreased steadily over the past several years. Figures from the Vicar for Parishes include 168 priests active inside the diocese today. That number includes bishops, pastors, parochial vicars and those in specialized ministry. To put the numbers in perspective, diocesan priests numbered 272 in January of 1993. The homily was delivered by Father Golyzniak who is also a part of the Vocation Team for the diocese. This year the Office of Vocation Promotion is trying a new approach. Several priests serve in the office by traveling throughout the diocese speaking at various venues and by exchanging pulpits with other priests.

“These priests get in touch with parishes, with pastors, parish vocation committees, schools, youth ministers and colleges in order to promote and discuss vocations to the priesthood and to religious life,” Father Baranski explained. Father Golyzniak’s homily referred to Scripture and the challenges facing those called by God. “Not everybody who was called in the Bible answered God’s call,” he said. He spoke of Moses when God asked him to go to Pharaoh and bring His People out of Egypt. Father Golyzniak said Moses replied, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh?” God reassured Moses several times, but Moses was apprehensive.

He also talked about Jeremiah. “God said to him, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I appointed you as prophet to the nations,’” Father Golyzniak said. Jeremiah’s response was, “Lord Yahweh, I do not know how to speak, I am only a child.”

A story within the Gospel of Mark features a wealthy young man who asked what else, in addition to obeying the commandments, he had to do to inherit eternal life. “Jesus asked him to do one more thing,” Father Golyzniak said, “to sell what he had and follow Jesus. But the young man’s face fell at these words of Jesus and he went away sad. He went away sad because he wanted to follow Jesus and he wanted to keep his possessions.”

Answering God’s call requires saying no to other possibilities, Father Golyzniak explained. “The young man had a vocation but he freely chose not to answer it because he did not want to say no to some of the possibilities that life offered him,” he said. “But in saying no to his vocation, he surely lost out on greater possibilities and greater possibilities for happiness.

Immaculate Conception’s day for vocations is something that could be repeated in other areas of the diocese. Father Baranski said he was invited to the Fulton area to talk with parents about how to foster vocations in their homes, but after discussion the presentation grew into a diocesan event. “Our goal is to pray for vocations and to raise awareness,” he said. Parishes hosting similar events is a definite possibility, Father Baranski said. “It is hard to commit the bishop for an event during Confirmation season. I guess the Spirit was working with us,” he said, smiling.

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