National Vocation Awareness Week Nov. 1-7
by Pat Shea
Associate editor
The “process of discernment” is a personal decision-making practice usually involving prayer, discussion and inner reflection to help a person determine how to honor God’s calling on his or her life. The calling may be a vocation of religious life, the vocation of marriage, or a different path altogether that serves God and His people.

For those beginning or currently in the process of discernment, three programs are offered within the diocese that can assist in answering questions and providing support.

St. James Vocations Committee
A year ago while attending the Catholic Women’s Conference, Donna Rawson, the mother of seminarian Matthew Rawson, came up with an idea to start a vocations committee at her home parish, St. James in Syracuse.
“Those considering the life of religious vocation need our support and encouragement,” stated Rawson. “After talking with other seminarian parents and members of the parish, I brought a proposal for the committee to our then pastor, Father John Manno. He thought it was a great idea and gave several suggestions for committee members but then the holidays came and Father Manno moved to a different parish and the idea was sidetracked for a while before we could really get the committee up and running.”
When Father Chris Ballard became pastor of St. James, the idea of creating a vocations committee was revisited. “Father Ballard was very proactive with vocations in the diocese and before we knew it, within two weeks we had a committee, developed a mission statement and began to agree on different activities to support vocations, including creating a calendar to pray for our diocesan seminarians on a rotating basis,” stated Rawson.
The vocations committee at St. James currently meets on a monthly basis. The main goal of the committee is to pray and bring awareness to vocations, not only within the St. James community, but also throughout the diocese.
“Our mission is to inspire and assist the community to foster a culture of vocations,” explained Rawson. “We have received tremendous support and guidance from our parish and from Father Joe O’Connor, the director of vocations for the diocese, Father Joe has helped us with establishing goals for the future,” stated Rawson.
The committee has created vocation banners and prayer cards and is currently working on creating holy hours to pray for vocations. Rawson also plans on the committee speaking with different parent groups and parishes to promote the creation of vocations committees in other parishes, answer questions and to give a perspective on what it is like to have a seminarian in the family.
In observance of Vocations Awareness Week, the St. James committee has already created activities to encourage members of the parish to understand and support vocations.
“We are providing a ‘traveling cross’ that Father Ballard will bless. Inside the box for the cross will be a candle and several prayer cards outlining different vocations such as the priesthood, single life, married life and religious life. It is our hope that each week a different family will sign out the cross, bring it home and get family members involved to foster and support vocations with prayer, especially in their own home,” stated Rawson.
The committee will also provide cards of support and encouragement that parishioners can send to the diocesan seminarians. “I think it’s important for our seminarians to realize their intentions are being prayed for and also get a little piece of home while they are attending the seminary,” stated Rawson.
Rawson’s son Matthew, who is in his pastoral year at St. Joseph’s in Endicott, has been very supportive of the efforts of the vocations committee and Rawson believes he has helped strengthened her own commitment to her faith and the committee.
“Since Matthews’s journey began, my faith has been enhanced. I am proud of Matthew and I think by talking with other families the committee can help bring awareness to vocations and encourage more people to go into the priesthood and religious life,” stated Rawson.
For more information on the St. James vocations committee or how to start a vocations committee, email Diane Rawson at or contact Father Joe O’Connor at

Fishermans Club encourages vocation awareness on campus
For college-aged men considering a religious vocation, Father Jason Hage hosts the Fishermans Club, at  Panasci Family Chapel on the Le Moyne College campus once a month. The goal of these 90-minute meetings is to help attendees with discerning God’s calling, and to foster an environment that encourages a deeper love of Christ.
“The bishop approached me and explained the need to have someone present on the college campus, helping those [discerning] a life of religious vocation. Le Moyne is the meeting point; any young man considering becoming a disciple of Christ is welcome to attend. It’s not just a Le Moyne event; at our last meeting we had two men from Colgate University join us,” stated Father Hage.
At these meetings, attendees discuss vocations, spend time in personal prayer, meditation and reflection, and share questions and concerns regarding a possible future as a priest and enjoy food and fellowship.
Father Hage feels a strength of the group is the ability to bring up anything that has been a concern for the attendees. “We talk things out,” stated Father Hage. “These guys can talk openly and honestly about their fears, their questions, their excitement and their confusion about a life in the priesthood with their peers. They realize they are not alone. My hope is to help these young men fall in love with the Lord and discern what kind of life God is calling them to whether its married life or a life in the priesthood. This group can offer support and help them go deeper in prayer, giving them the courage they need in life to respond to God’s call.”
The next meeting for the Fishermans Club will be Nov. 30. For more information visit the group’s Facebook page, FishermansClub-Vocations Syracuse, or visit

Discernment group for women
For women who are considering a religious vocation, the Sisters of St. Francis hold an ongoing discernment group at Alverna Heights Spirituality and Nature Center in Fayetteville.
“Any woman from the diocese is welcome to attend these meetings,” stated Sister Caryn Crook, OSF, vocation minister for the Sisters of St. Francis. “The group meets once a month on a Saturday. It’s still a work in progress but it’s a great program for someone trying to discern the call God has on her life and also receive support and guidance on programs that can help her through this process.”
The next meeting of the discernment group is on Nov. 21. “The benefit for someone to attend this meeting is that it will help grow her relationship with God. As she learns more about herself and the talents and gifts God has given her, she can combine those together and go out and serve God’s people,” stated Sister Caryn.
The Sisters of St. Francis also host discernment and contemplative weekend retreats for women at Alverna Heights. For more information contact Sister Caryn Crook (315) 751- 6819 or email

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