By Katherine Long
As National Vocation Awareness Week approaches Nov. 6 to 12, the diocesan Office of Vocation Promotion is highlighting two resources for promoting vocations in parishes and schools: online vocation lessons and parish vocation advocates.
“I very much enjoy the opportunity to visit the schools and parishes of the diocese and to speak with young people about vocations,” Father Joseph O’Connor, director of the Office of Vocation Promotion, said in an email. However, “Helping young people discover God’s plan deserves more than one day a year.”
“Furthermore, my time in schools and parishes is too brief to really notice the signs of a religious vocation. Parents, teachers, and pastors are in a better position to do that,” he said.
Online vocation lessons
To help Catholic school teachers and faith formation leaders promote vocations in their classrooms, Father O’Connor’s office is now making available vocation lessons created by Vianney Vocations.
“The online vocation lessons provide five or six lessons for each grade level, K-12, as well as for youth groups. These are plug-and-play, ready to go for all parishes and schools of the diocese,” Father O’Connor said.
Amanda Hopkins, principal of St. Margaret’s School in Mattydale, recently taught vocation lessons to students in several grade levels.
When Father O’Connor presented the lessons to Catholic school administrators, “immediately I was excited about this program because it lays it out per grade,” Hopkins said. “As a teacher, you can sign in with your password and click on your grade and it has phenomenal lessons already laid out for you.”
There are lessons on vocations to marriage, priesthood, and religious life for each grade. The lessons include overviews, introductions, prayers, main concepts, activities, and readings, Hopkins explained, and assessments are also included in the materials. She noted the lessons were particularly easy to implement because the materials are all online and could be pulled up on a smart board. (Materials can also be downloaded and printed.)
Hopkins said she thinks her students walked away from the lessons with “great tools” about what it means to be called by the Lord. “We talked about how we’re all called to serve — and I think that that’s a theme that’s throughout all of the lessons — so the children really had a purpose and a meaningful dialogue… They walked away with a great activity, a great dialogue, some time in prayer together, and it was just an uplifting experience for them,” she said.
Parish vocation advocates
The Vocations Office identifies a parish vocation advocate as “an individual who assists their parish community in developing a deeper understanding of each parishioner’s vocation and role in promoting and encouraging vocations.” The office held a “vocations summit” for advocates earlier this year, offering presentations from Father O’Connor, Sister Caryn Crook of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, and people from parishes successful in praying for and promoting vocations. Currently, there are 12 advocates in the diocese, according to Father O’Connor.
“My hope is that an advocate in each parish will keep vocations at the forefront — by keeping materials updated, prayers during Masses, and promoting programs for discernment,” Father O’Connor said.
Anne Stark is the parish vocation advocate at St. Anne, Mother of Mary in Mexico and Christ Our Light in Pulaski. She’s made materials and holy cards available to parish youth, and she’s soon starting a special initiative: Each parish will have a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, along with rosaries and a prayer for vocations, which families can sign up to take home and pray with. Weekly adoration and rosaries after each Mass are offered for vocations, Stark noted, and a special holy hour for vocations was also held recently.
Stark identified three things she hopes will come from vocation promotion efforts in the parishes: “One is that they [youth] learn to pray. Two is that they develop a relationship with Jesus. And three is that they understand that there are many vocations — some are to the priesthood, some are single, some are to the religious life — all of those are valid vocations and all of them take a formed conscience,” she said.
Julie Hagan is the parish vocations advocate at St. Ann’s in Manlius as well as the parish’s Director of Faith Formation for grades 7 through 10. She became a vocations advocate because “vocation awareness and vocation promotion is so important, and it can’t fall only in the hands of the clergy because their hands are full,” she said.
With Vocations Week approaching, Hagan was developing a special holy card and planning “to make sure we’re deliberate about encouraging prayer for vocations and understanding everybody has a call — some are called to ordination and some are called to single life and working for the Church, and some are called for married life,” she said.
Hagan said she’d like to see parish vocation advocates’ efforts result in vocations to the priesthood — and also in an “overall understanding that it’s each parish’s call to promote them.”
Anyone interested in assisting as a parish vocation advocate or in accessing the online vocation lessons should contact Father Joseph O’Connor in the Office of Vocation Promotion at (315) 470-1468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.