Cardinal Sean asked that vocations to the diocesan priesthood be a priority in every local pastoral plan (LPP). From "Disciples in Mission" the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan: "The collaborative pastoral plans will address vocation recruitment within the parishes of the collaborative -- especially to the priesthood, ..." (Pt. 1 10.d). Local Plans are unique to each collaborative. Even when collaboratives have the same priority, the goals and actions under the priority will have the "flavor" of that collaborative. Twenty-seven collaboratives are now implementing their approved plans. How are vocations priorities doing? Exciting, encouraging things are happening.
The Catholic Parishes of Stoughton have two travelling vocations icons, "intended to be a prayer focal point for vocations to the priesthood." Parishioners are encouraged to host the icon at home for a week and pray daily for vocations. The community is updated via the bulletin as to where the icons have been, where they are, and where they are going. The whole community is invited to join their prayers for vocations to the prayers of the host household each week. Several collaboratives including Lynnfield, Quincy, and Cranberry, have a vocations chalice or vocations crucifix, moving each week to a different home, asking all parishioners to pray with the host family for vocations.
The Cranberry Collaborative -- Middleborough, Lakeville, and Rochester -- named their vocations priority, "Hearing His Voice." Their vocations team is made up of clergy, and married, and single laypersons, tasked with promoting vocations through prayer, activities, and awareness. In the few months since the team was formed, they have started a Vocations Prayer Team which meets every Wednesday morning at Sacred Heart to pray for vocations. Perhaps their biggest success was their Vocations Evening: "One Voice, Many Callings" a panel discussion with a priest, deacon, nun, married couple and single person. More than 225 people, including confirmation students, parents, and interested parishioners, came to the local middle school for the event. Father John Sheridan, pastor, said, "It was a great night of learning. It's our goal to host this kind of experience every year."
Donna Delahanty, director of Parish Ministries in the Lynnfield collaborative is pleased that they're doing a lot "to promote the culture of priesthood." Next month, Father Dan Hennessey, archdiocesan vocations director, will speak at weekend Masses at St. Maria Goretti and Our Lady of the Assumption parishes. Following the 11 a.m. Mass there will be a panel discussion with priests and deacons talking about hearing their call. The panel will represent different age cohorts, with some different, some similar experiences. This collaborative-wide event will conclude with lunch. Donna praises the collaborative vocations committee, "a strong committee, with good thinkers," attentive to the goals and tasks in their LPP. A parishioner wrote a prayer for priestly vocations. The prayer is printed on a card, inserted in each worship aide in both churches, and is prayed by the whole assembly at the weekend Masses. Another parishioner donated a vocations chalice to the collaborative. A vocations kit accompanies the chalice as it moves from home to home. The kit contains prayers, a family prayer service, Bible, table cloth, battery candle, and photo suggesting how to set up the chalice in the home. The Lynnfield collaborative also has weekly holy hours for vocations in each parish. Not only do collaborative clergy visit classes in the school and faith formation program, but catechists have written lesson plans specific to hearing God's call for grades five through confirmation.
Father Hennessey is pleased that seminarians go out to visit collaboratives. In their "Omnes Gentes" witness talks, they speak about their own vocational discernment and preparation. The Lynn Collaborative, he says "is tearing it up!" They sent a big group to the annual Altar Server Mass and a huge group to the St. Andrew Dinner. These dinners are held several times a year for young men in high school who are open to learning more about seminary life. Father Hennessey also works with many collaboratives to help form vocations teams. He applauds the hard work being done in many collaboratives, mentioning just two: Jamaica Plain/Roxbury and Beverly. Team training generates "tons and tons of questions" from the members who are, themselves, learning about vocations even as they work to raise awareness and encourage prayer in the collaboratives. When asked about his hopes and dreams for vocations work in collaboratives -- and all parishes -- Father Hennessey replied, "that the men who are being called to serve God will come to know God's plan for them, and will serve God and the community with joy." May Father Hennessey's dreams come true!
- SUSAN ABBOTT IS EVANGELIZATION ASSOCIATE, OUR LADY OF GOOD VOYAGE SHRINE.