Local Catholics encouraged to pray for vocations

BOSTON — Parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Boston were urged to pray for vocations and encourage young people in discerning their call to the priesthood and other religious life during National Vocations Awareness Week, Jan. 8-14.

In a pastoral letter released last January, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley wrote that vocations, particularly to the priesthood, are everyone’s business.

“If you are a Catholic, you have a huge stake in the priesthood and vocations,” he said.

The letter encouraged parishes to form a vocation team that would promote awareness, begin a campaign of prayer, and identify individuals who may have a calling to the priesthood.

Father Daniel Hennessey, director of the Office for Vocations, said that the office has coordinated parish activities this week and helped parishes form their own Parish Vocation Committees (PVC). It is vital for Catholics to promote vocations because the priesthood allows them to receive the Lord, fully present in the Eucharist each Sunday, he said.

“The priest stands in the person of Christ,” he added.

Father Hennessey also noted that every individual is called by God to find his or her vocation.

“The priesthood is a gift from God to the person who is called,” he said.

Workshops were held last fall to assist parishes in forming vocation committees, Father Hennessey said.

The committees encourage everyone in the parish to pray for vocations through Mass intentions and handing out prayer cards. They also organize parish events that will promote vocations such as the Vocation Cross Program. The program allows different parish families to take a cross home each week and pray for vocations.

“The initial response has been very positive,” Arthur Guardia, coordinator of the new PVC at St. Florence Parish in Wakefield, said of the Vocation Cross Program.

So far several families have signed up for the program, which will begin within the next month, he added.

Guardia and other committee members distributed the vocation prayer cards as well, which list the names of current seminarians along with a prayer for vocations written by the archbishop. Many parishioners asked for extra cards to take to family and friends, he said.

“They really went over big,” he added.

Teachers of religious education at the parish have also been encouraged to be on the lookout for students who “appear to have a special calling,” he said.

St. Florence has long been a “vocation-oriented parish” but Guardia said with the help of the Vocation Office, the parish has been able to bring all of its resources together.

“It gives focus,” he said. “It gives structure and organization.”

Paula Pantaleo, who is helping to form a PVC at St. Bonaventure Parish in Plymouth, agreed. The office has been a “huge resource,” she said.

“The Vocation Office is incredibly wonderful,” she added.

Pantaleo said she decided to promote vocation awareness throughout her parish after she was surprised when a priest suggested that one of her sons may have a vocation.

“I don’t think parents think in terms of ‘my child being a priest or a brother or a sister.’ We just don’t think about it, so this is why I started vocation awareness,” she said.