Father Jason Hage, director of the Office of Vocation Promotion, speaks during the Mass to kick off the diocesan Year of Vocations Nov. 14, 2020, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)
By Father Jason C. Hage | Director of the Office of Vocation Promotion
There is something brewing in the Diocese of Syracuse. This Year of Vocations has truly created a whirlwind of activity around the area of vocation promotion. I have been encouraged by the great number of our diocesan ministries and parishes that have taken hold of this year of grace. It has been over 50 years since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, and most church historians would say that it takes at least 50 years for an Ecumenical Council to take hold in the life of the Church. I believe this will be the year for our local Church in the Diocese of Syracuse.
When I first proposed the idea to Bishop Lucia about boldly proclaiming a Year of Vocations during this time of pandemic, I did so with two very particular goals in mind. The first goal is foundational to my work as a vocation promoter: to help the lay faithful reconnect to their baptismal call to a life of heroic virtue and holiness. I know that without the faithful presence of lay Catholics radically pursuing holiness, our young people saying “yes” to their particular vocation is a lot less likely.
The second goal will be the direct fruit of the first, and that is to help lay Catholics recommitted to the pursuit of holiness in their lives to feel co-responsible over the future of vocation promotion in our diocese. I am currently blessed with the full-time pastoral care of four parishes in the Eastern Region as well as service to the Colgate Newman Community. I have come to a very sobering realization in light of this reality that I must begin to work smarter, not harder, in the field of vocation promotion.
This is what inspired me to invite Rhonda Gruenwald, the Director of Vocations Ministry, to come to our diocese and conduct a workshop to train parish lay leaders on how to effectively promote vocations on the parish and school levels. My fervent prayer is that these lay leaders will feel a deep sense of co-ownership over the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in our local Church. I am pleased to report that at the Syracuse Vocations Summit that took place this past November we had 79 of our parishes send 181 lay representatives to be trained in the art of vocation promotion.
Many people have asked me how I could possibly manage four parishes, a Newman Community, as well as the responsibility as diocesan Director of Vocation Promotion. My response has been that my current assignments have actually motivated me in a surprising way in the work of vocation promotion in our diocese because I feel most directly the strain of not having enough priests to celebrate the Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. I pray day and night for an outpouring of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in our diocese because without the Eucharist there is no Church, and without the priest there is no Eucharist. Sometimes I don’t think people realize just how urgent the situation is because a Catholic parish ceases to exist without the celebration of the Eucharist.
But I believe that this sense of urgency over the work of vocation promotion will be an occasion for dramatic and lasting renewal in our diocese. During this Year of Vocations, the entire diocese is sending out a clear call to the lay faithful that they have a real part to play in the future of our Church, and that their response can and will make all the difference. Just our willingness to accompany a young person in the initial stages of their discernment can create ripple effects in the life of our parishes for years to come, and can even save many souls.
“But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news’” (Rom 10:14-15)!