Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
One of the things that continues to impress me as I travel around our diocese is the witness and dedicated service of our priests, deacons and members of religious communities. These men and women minister to the people of God in different ways, but all of them share one thing in common: they heard and accepted God’s invitation to spread the Good News by answering the call to a religious vocation.
Lay leadership is so important in the life of the church, but we also need more people willing to devote their lives in service to Christ through religious vocations. And, we all have a role to play in helping others, particularly young people, to discern whether or not they are being called to serve in this way.
Two upcoming observances can help us do this. In just over a week, we will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week — a time for our parishes, schools and families to focus on fostering a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. The start of the Year of Consecrated Life on Nov. 30 also is an opportunity to pray for, and learn more about, this way of life.
In his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis emphasized the importance of building a culture of vocations: “The fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to preaching of the Gospel,” he said. “This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration.”
“I answered the call to the priesthood nearly 45 years ago, And, I can honestly say that I can’t imagine a more fulfilling way to serve the church.” — Bishop Donald Kettler
Today, when there is much that competes for the minds and attention of our young people, the pope’s words highlight the need to pray for them as they discern their God-given gifts, to encourage and answer their questions about religious vocations and to invite them to consider one.
The power of the personal invitation can’t be overstated. A national study a few years ago found that individuals who had one person encouraging them were nearly twice as likely to consider a vocation than those who weren’t encouraged. Those encouraged by more people were even more likely to consider a vocation.
We are blessed in this diocese to have an excellent Vocations Office that offers support and resources to anyone discerning a possible religious vocation. Our religious communities — the Benedictine women and men, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Crosier Fathers and Brothers and Poor Clare Sisters — also are ready to walk the journey with anyone considering religious life.
Everyone has a vocation. Many will discern that married life is what God plans for them — which is a blessing, too, because the church needs more strong witnesses to the beauty of family life. Some may choose the single life. But the church also needs more generous men and women who are willing to devote their lives to serving the people of God as priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers.
I answered the call to the priesthood nearly 45 years ago, And, I can honestly say that I can’t imagine a more fulfilling way to serve the church. I encourage you — whether you are a parent, priest, parishioner or member of a religious community — to pray and extend the invitation to consider a religious vocation to someone you know.
Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud