Annual Bishop’s picnic, Holy Hours keep focus on vocations

By Kathryne Rakowski
Contributing writer.

Father Brendan Foley in conversation at last year’s vocations picnic.

To some, it may feel like the season is over for now, the vocation season, that is. But it’s only just begun anew.

The high season began in May with the transitional deacon ordination of two seminarians, Reverend Misters Benjamin Schrantz and Pawel Zmija. In June, Father James Buttner was ordained to the priesthood. We also celebrated Jubilee Masses for priests and members of religious orders who marked milestone years of service in 2023. Next May will see the biannual ordination to the permanent diaconate.

Coming up on July 20, Bishop Douglas J. Lucia will host the Tenth Hour, an annual picnic for anyone considering a possible vocation. It’s a food, fun and faith affair where a discerner can chat with priests and religious, as well as others considering a vocation, in a relaxed outdoor setting. It traditionally is a popular setting for young people who hear a call, even a very faint whisper.

These events aside, the persistent and prayerful efforts of many in our diocese and beyond remind us that it is always a time to pray for and discern vocations to a holier life, and this has been something of a milestone year for these efforts. 2023 marks the 60th year for the World Day of Prayer for vocations, and once again Bishop Lucia invited people to come together as a diocesan family for a Holy Hour for Vocations in May at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Bishop Douglas J. Lucia is the principal Holy Hour celebrant.

A Holy Hour is a beautiful Catholic tradition of spending an hour in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration. This Holy Hour gave people the opportunity to intentionally pray for the vocations of priesthood, diaconate, religious life and married life. It also gave people the opportunity to step away from the hectic nature of everyday life and make a space for God.

“The Bishop is inviting us to pause and take some time away from all the noise that surrounds us,” said Father Jason Hage, Director of the Office of Vocation Promotion. Father Hage explained that the start to any vocation begins with an intimate relationship with Christ. “Any vocation will only happen if we make room for silence. We must be attentive to God’s voice. This creates a space for that.”

Joanne Brusa, a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Fairmount, attended the Holy Hour with her husband, John Brusa, Jr., and agreed that making time for silence and prayer is essential, especially for young people considering religious life.

Father Jason Hage delivers the homily during the May Holy Hour.

“It’s not that God is not calling as many people to the priesthood and religious life; I think it’s that not as many people are listening. It takes courage to answer that call and our young people need our prayers and support to take that next step.”

The Brusas have a son, John III, currently in the seminary and make it a priority to pray that other young men will answer that call.

“An increase in vocations to the priesthood should be on everyone’s prayer list. They are the future leaders of our Church that will help continue Jesus’ presence on Earth, guiding his flock through administering the sacraments,” John Brusa, Jr. shared.

In addition to prayer, the observance consisted of Scripture, music and a homily by Father Hage in which he talked about the first time he experienced Eucharistic Adoration while a high schooler and the profound effect it had on him.

“For the first time ever in my young life, the lightbulb went off. This is Jesus,” he said, pointing at the monstrance. “And that changed everything.” After that, Father Hage realized he wanted to be a priest. “I wanted to give my life to making sure everyone had access to this life-changing gift.”

The homily hit home for Carlos Gonzalez, Youth Minister at St. Augustine’s and St. Mary’s in Baldwinsville. It was in high school that he too experienced Eucharistic Adoration for the first time. Since then, he regularly finds strength and guidance from this practice. As a Youth Minister, he tries to expose his youth group to this form of prayer often.v

I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of giving young people the opportunity to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “I believe St. Augustine’s and St. Mary’s thriving youth ministry is a result from our teens’ regular encounter with God in Adoration. In these moments, God is able to transform their minds, hearts and souls, and surely gives them the fire of the Holy Spirit!” 

Seminarian Joseph Ryan served at the Holy Hour and found the liturgy very encouraging, ending the night with a feeling of hope.

“It was so wonderful to see many people gather at the Cathedral to pray for more answered vocations in our diocese,” he said. “Each person has been given a vocation, a special call that only they can answer. Hopefully the prayers of those gathered here can stir the hearts of young people to respond to the call the Lord has already placed in their hearts.”

Father Hage was glad so many people attended, as it gave people the opportunity to put their faith above other commitments. 

The picnic offers an ideal opportunity for young men and women to go deeper in discernment.

“Coming out of the pandemic, people have all these priorities, but is faith one of them? We’ve lost our ability to pick the priority of faith,” he said. “This needs to be our first priority. THE priority.” He also added that he hopes practices like this encourage young discerners to let go of anything holding them back and go to where God is leading them.

“Young people don’t trust commitment. They think somehow they’ll lose their happiness. But only through sacrifice do we find true happiness. If we truly imitate what we find in the Eucharist, then we will truly find joy.”

Holy Hours provide a perfect setting for vocational prayer, but they only take place once in a while. As Catholics, we are urged to pray regularly for vocations and to encourage those considering a vocation to attend special events like the Tenth Hour gathering. This year’s event is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 20, at Christ the King Retreat House in Syracuse. Attendees should register by July 16. To do so, and for more information on priesthood and religious life, visit


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