By Katherine Long | Editor
The Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) met March 21 at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt. The DPC is composed of pastoral council and ministry representatives from across the diocese and meets regularly throughout the year.
The day’s agenda included vocation promotion initiatives, pastoral care updates, and remarks from Bishop Douglas J. Lucia. The vocation promotion presentation is detailed here; coverage of the pastoral planning presentation and Bishop Lucia’s remarks will appear in next week’s issue.
Father Jason Hage, Director of the Office of Vocation Promotion, offered an overview of Year of Vocations efforts to date as well as some insight on forthcoming initiatives.
Bishop Lucia declared the Year of Vocations, under the patronage of St. Joseph, as a diocesanwide effort to help all baptized Catholics discover God’s call in their lives. The year opened Nov. 14, 2020, with a special Mass and workshop; the year will run through the Feast of Christ the King Nov. 21, 2021.
Father Hage shared that Bishop Lucia chose St. Joseph as the year’s patron because “he demonstrates for us as a diocesan family that vocations come from the home. We can never forget that…. St. Joseph was the foster father of Jesus our Savior and also the caretaker of our Blessed Mother. So when you think about Jesus’s own vocation, clearly, St. Joseph had a huge role to play,” Father Hage explained.
A key component of vocation promotion efforts in the diocese is empowering the laity and calling forth their gifts, talents, and abilities, Father Hage said.
“You are the first vocation promoters on the parish level. You know the young people in your parish, you know their families, you know their households, which means that you would know first if this young person has the … raw material for a potential call,” he said.
To that end, Bishop Lucia and Father Hage engaged vocations author and speaker Rhonda Gruenewald to assist in diocesan vocation promotion training. During the annual clergy convocation in September, Gruenewald trained priests in supporting a vocations ministry on the parish level. At the Syracuse Vocations Summit in November, Gruenewald trained 181 lay faithful from 79 parishes in the art of vocation promotion and how to accompany young people in their discernment. A follow-up seminar will take place via Zoom on June 9. A half-day retreat for lay people to consider how they can more effectively articulate their call will be held Aug. 2 at Christ the King Retreat House in Syracuse.
Additional Year of Vocations efforts include:
• Renewed focus on accompaniment for young women who are discerning. A women’s discernment group has been formed; there are now 10 women meeting together over Zoom. The Vocations Office website, vocations-syracuse.org, now features all the religious congregations ministering in the diocese and contact information for each.
• Sharing stories of the faithful. The diocese is partnering with lay Catholics to share video testimonials about their vocations and their calls to holiness. A new video is released each Friday; find them at facebook.com/DioceseofSyracuse and youtube.com/syrdio. Several of the diocese’s priests previously filmed videos about discerning their vocations; find the videos at vocations-syracuse.org.
• Enhancing digital presence. Father Hage said the Office of Vocation Promotion’s social media presence has “skyrocketed”; connect on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Father Hage also launched Vocation Chats, a monthly podcast that gives listeners a glimpse of the humanity of the priesthood. Co-hosted by St. Rose of Lima Pastor Father Chris Celentano and featuring guest voices, Vocation Chats episodes are released on the first Friday of each month; visit vocations-syracuse.org to listen.
• Going to Joseph and bringing Joseph to the faithful. An icon of St. Joseph, blessed by Bishop Lucia, is traveling to parishes, colleges, and schools throughout the year. Every week, the icon stands in a church sanctuary and a holy hour for vocations is offered. Find the icon schedule at vocations-syracuse.org.
Foundational to this year’s efforts is helping “the lay faithful reconnect to this universal call to holiness and finally unpack what it means to discern God’s call in your own life,” Father Hage said. It is not just priests and religious who discern a vocation; rather, “all of us are called to something in this body of Christ that is completely unique to you.”
Further, he said, young people “will be a lot less likely to say yes to the call if they don’t see credible witnesses to holiness in their own lives, among the lay faithful in their parishes, in their pews. It’s what inspires young people to be generous in their lives — when they see other people being generous with Christ in their own life.”
In his remarks at the end of the meeting, Bishop Lucia reflected on two keys to his own vocation.
“One is the example of the priests or of the religious,” he said. Recalling his childhood pastor, he noted, “I saw a man who really cared for the flock, who loved liturgy…. and who was really there for his people. And you could tell he was a man of prayer.”
“The second part of it, though, was my own parents — my own parents who allowed our house to be a household of faith,” he said.
Promoting vocations — to the priesthood, religious and consecrated life, married life — “to me, no matter what it is, it begins in the family.”