By Dave Jolivet
FALL RIVER, Mass. — Catholic parishes across the world will recognize this weekend as World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Initiated 53 years ago by Pope Paul VI, the purpose of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, according to the USCCB website, “is to publicly fulfill the Lord’s instruction to, ‘Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest.’”
In his message for this year’s observance, Pope Francis said, “It is my great hope that, during the course of this extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, all the baptized may experience the joy of belonging to the Church and rediscover that the Christian vocation, just like every particular vocation, is born from within the people of God, and is a gift of Divine Mercy. The Church is the house of mercy, and it is the ‘soil’ where vocations take root, mature and bear fruit.
“For this reason, on the occasion of the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I invite all of you to reflect upon the apostolic community, and to give thanks for the role of the community in each person’s vocational journey.
“Each vocation in the Church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus. Conversion and vocation are two sides of the same coin, and continually remain interconnected throughout the whole of the missionary disciple’s life.”
In the Diocese of Fall River, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., invites all area faithful to St. Mary’s Cathedral Sunday at 3 p.m. for a Holy Hour for Vocations to pray for an increase in religious vocations.
“We need to let our people know that promoting vocations is everybody’s business,” Bishop da Cunha told The Anchor. “Our people need to know that priests have a happy and fulfilled life, that the Church needs faith-filled and generous young people ready to respond to God’s call.”
“Fostering vocations is one of the greatest works we have because it is simply praying for people to respond to Christ’s call in whatever particular path He has willed for them so as to bring Christ and the Gospel to the world,” Father Kevin A. Cook, diocesan director of Vocations and Seminarians told The Anchor. “All vocations are crucial and the Kingdom of God and prayer is the primary means to bring a deeper awareness of Christ’s call and open our hearts to Him. The Holy Hour will consist of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, some Scripture readings, a homily, intercessory prayer, a blessing for those in our diocese who are involved in their parishes promoting vocations, time of silent prayer, and Benediction.”
Father Cook, along with Father Christopher M. Peschel, assistant director of Vocations and Seminarians, and Dominican Sister Paulina Hurtado, Episcopal Representative for Religious and associate director of Vocations, have been hard at work developing strategies to foster vocations in the home, school, parish and community.
“Along with prayer there are so many other essential things to foster vocations: family life, parish life, works of mercy, growing in knowledge of our faith, growing in generosity of heart with those we encounter in our lives, joyful example of others living their vocations in generous, heroic, and daily ways, etc.,” added Father Cook. “We have a long way to go, and it’s a challenge, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Father Cook told The Anchor that the Vocations Office will continue to offer the Quo Vadis Retreat for area young men, allowing them time to escape the usual day-to-day routines and find quiet time to listen to what the Lord is asking of them. There was also a recent weekend retreat offered to young men with the purpose of fostering vocations.
Additionally, the diocesan Vocation team has been speaking at diocesan parishes and Catholic schools in the attempt to promote vocations among the many young people across the diocese.
“It starts in the home, and then the parish and schools,” said Father Cook. “And now we’re trying to establish a Vocation Team in all of the diocesan parishes, where they can look at what is specifically needed in the parish and encourage families to be active in praying for vocations.”
Last year, Sister Hurtado began working with pastors to gather names of people in parishes who may be interested in helping to collaborate with the Vocations Office in the formation or reformation of vocation committees in diocesan parishes.
The interest has been increasing and several gatherings of parish vocation committees have been held. All parish vocation committee members have been invited to Sunday’s Holy Hour for Vocations at the cathedral.
Sister Hurtado has already offered two days of reflection for young women to help them discern if they are being called to a religious vocation.
“The next scheduled day of reflection for girls 14-18 is May 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Dominican Sisters Convent, 3012 Elm Street, Dighton,” Sister Hurtado told The Anchor. “The RSVP date is May 2 by calling 909-496-2022 or emailing email@example.com.”
Currently the diocese has six men in seminaries in formation for the priesthood, and several more candidates, added Father Cook.
One of the seminarians, Matt Gill, a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Attleboro and currently in II Theology at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, recently received the ministry of lector in a ceremony there led by Bishop Robert Deeley of Maine.
“Being installed as a lector, as a part of priestly formation emphasizes the importance of the priest’s responsibility and privilege of proclaiming the Word of God, what the Lord has said to us throughout Salvation history,” Gill told The Anchor. “There was a beautiful instruction that Bishop Deeley of Maine said. He told us to receive the Scriptures from him (who represented the Church) as he handed us a Bible and he told us to ‘be faithful in handing on the Word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of His people.’
“That is what I have used as a reflection, internalizing the voice of the Lord in the Scriptures so that I can then foster a love for Him and His Word in the hearts of all those who I serve and will serve in the future.”