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Vocations calendar gets faithful involved in praying for seminarians, clergy, religious

ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (Catholic Explorer) - Over the last several months, the members of the Serra Club of DuPage County, an organization aimed at fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and affiliates of the Joliet Area Vocation Association and the Vocation Office of the Diocese of Joliet have worked together to create a special vocation prayer calendar.

The idea is for the names of seminarians and those in religious formation, along with the bishops of the diocese, priests, nuns, brothers, deacons and men preparing to become deacons to be placed on the brochure-like calendar. The first four months of the year have been prepared.

The first section of the calendar was recently dispatched via e-mail to parishes and religious organizations across the Diocese of Joliet. The plan is to send four versions of the calendar out per year, Wheaton Franciscan Sister Audrey Marie Rothweil told the Catholic Explorer Jan. 4.

Sister Rothweil — the nun who came up with the idea — said she hopes people of the diocese will pray for the men and women on the days their names are listed on the calendar. “It will be a boost for them,” she said.

Parish distribution system

Members of the organizations involved in the endeavor made suggestions and gathered the names for the calendar. “There was great support for the idea,” said Sister Rothweil, a retired teacher. She noted 1,170 names will make up the entire 12-month calendar, with multiple names on each date.

Parish leaders are responsible for getting the calendars into the hands of the people of their respective faith communities, said Sister Rothweil. “Each parish will have to find its own way. I hope we’ll get a lot of prayer going” for vocations, added the religious.

Sister Rothweil began thinking about the concept after seeing a similar calendar with names of seminarians from the Diocese of Rockford. “I hope this spreads to other dioceses. We could get the whole country praying,” stressed the optimistic woman of God. “You never know what a small thing might start,” she added.

George Carr, a member of the vocation committee with Sister Rothweil at St. Michael Parish in Wheaton, worked to input the names and design the calendar on his computer. The names have been placed randomly on the calendar, he said. “This will allow people to remember these men and women by name in their own prayers.”

A member of the Serra Club, Carr said he is confident the calendar will “spark interest” in vocations among young people and adults. The father of a Jesuit priest, he said he hopes parents, who pray for vocations regularly, will begin to suggest the priesthood or religious life “as a viable option for our children.”

When viewing the calendar, the people “are going to be surprised by the number of men and women serving the diocese already,” speculated Father Burke Masters, director of the diocesan Vocation Office. “Hopefully it will encourage others to step forward,” he added.

Since Father Masters assumed the duties of diocesan vocation director in 2006, he said he has come to the conclusion that parents can be the No. 1 obstacle when it comes to young people answering the call of the Lord. “Without that support, it’s really hard,” said the priest.

‘There is a real need’ for priestly vocations

Of the approximately 200 Catholic dioceses, archdioceses and eparchies across the United States, the Joliet Diocese ranks 129th when it comes to the number of men studying to become priests, according to Father Masters. A total of 32 men are in formation in the Joliet Diocese. Three of them are expected to be ordained in June, he said.

Concerned about the current number of men in formation, Father Masters pointed out that there are now about 24,000 Catholics in the Joliet Diocese for every one seminarian. “There is a real need,” he stressed. In the diocese, parishes with 3,000-plus members have only one priest. “That’s a lot of work. We need to fill that need.”

Overwhelmed by pastoral duties, parish priests cannot focus their energies on promoting vocations, said Father Masters. Parish vocations committees have sprouted across the diocese to address the problem, he said. Of the more than 120 parishes in the diocese, about 45 have vocation groups, he said. If a parish wants to start a vocation committee, his office would help line up speakers and provide practical ideas, educational materials and support, he added.

Steps at the diocesan level are also being taken to boost vocations. Among other initiatives, trips to convents and seminaries are offered to help young people discern their vocations, said Father Masters. Upcoming dinners with Bishop J. Peter Sartain have also been slated in February and April at locations throughout the diocese for young men interested in talking with the bishop and priests about the priesthood, he added.

Hitting the circuit for Vocations Awareness Week

In the meantime, many of the seminarians are set to speak about their motivation for pursuing the priesthood during National Vocation Awareness Week Jan. 13-19 at parishes across the Joliet Diocese, said Father Masters. Representatives from more than 40 faith communities invited seminarians to speak at their parishes, he said.

In order to accommodate the abundance of requests, the seminarians were expected to begin speaking at Masses the weekend of Jan. 5-6, added Father Masters.

“The seminarians are our best recruiters. They inspire others. It’s a great way to promote awareness,” said Father Masters. Through the testimonies of the men, he said he hope parents will realize that their children “can find true joy in following God’s call.”

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Catholic Explorer(www.catholicexplorer.com), official newspaper of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.

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