As most of you are aware, in October, Bishop Warfel appointed me to the vocation team for the diocese as the main point of contact for recruiting potential seminarians and helping those who are discerning a call to religious life. Fr. Jay Peterson will remain as a member of the team responsible for the formation of our seminarians once they enter the seminary.
I am excited about this new role in my ministry, but I realize that it truly is a team effort. While Fr. Jay, myself and a few others make up the formal vocation team, each of us is a member of the informal vocation team. Whether we are a priest, religious sister or religious brother, or another member of the laity, we each are responsible for promoting and recruiting vocations.
I'd like to use my story as an example of how the total team works. I grew up in a family that really did not practice its faith. My dad was Catholic and my mother was not. Even though we (I have a twin) were baptized at a young age, we only went to church when Grandma was visiting, or we were visiting her. There was not a lot of religious formation taking place, but I can remember a prayer that was said after every Mass in my grandmother's parish. It was a prayer for vocations encouraged by the Knights of Columbus and both bishops of South Dakota. It sparked a seed. As a matter of fact, we use that same prayer today in my parishes at the end of Mass. The people joining in prayer were part of the team that lead me to the priesthood.
The summer before entering high school, my family and I moved to Forsyth. I got involved with the local Boy Scout troop. One of the other families in the troop had a strong Catholic faith. They invited my brothers and me to join them for Mass each weekend. Being true members of the team, the encouragement from families in the parish to practice the faith feed into my formation and helped to water the seeds that had been planted through prayer. While in high school I received the other sacraments of initiation. Fr. McTague was an important part of the life of the parish while I was in high school.
I started college at MSU in Bozeman. My first year there, my mother passed away. That next summer, Fr. McTague, having retired the year before, was doing supply work while the local pastor was on vacation. He invited me to lunch one day and, while we were enjoying the meal, asked if I'd ever considered being a priest. I told him I had, but gave a litany of excuses as to why that would never happen. He told me to keep thinking about it. Here was another member of the vocation team opening my eyes to the call God was trying to send me in life.
There are other priests, religious and laity who also had an impact in helping me hear the call that was before me. Truly they all make up the team.
This month we will be celebrating National Vocations Awareness week from Jan 11th, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, through Jan 17th. The Office for Vocations has sent out to the pastors a set of bulletin announcements to help people reflect more fully on God's call for them in life. We will be working on some new programs that we hope to implement within the diocese to make encouraging and supporting vocations to religious life and priesthood central to our parish life.
God bless all of those who make up the vocation team.