How to Talk About Vocations in Your Parish

April 7, 2022  •   LPi

person with Bible on the lap with hands folded on top of the Bible

The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is approaching on May 8, 2022 — a day dedicated to asking that the Lord “send laborers into his harvest” (Lk 10:2). The day is also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” or also the shorthand “Vocations Sunday.” While the term “vocation” refers to the callings of married life, priesthood, vowed religious life, and consecrated life, this day is set aside to promote and uphold ordained ministries, consecrated life, secular institutes, and missionary life. (Married couples, you get World Marriage Day in February 😉 ).

Wondering how you can promote religious vocations in your parish? Here are some tips from all walks of life — a priest, a youth minister, a young dad, and a consecrated virgin.

Cultivate a culture of prayer in young people

Fr. Josh Johnson, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, advocates strongly for prayer. “We don’t have a crisis of vocations,” he states bluntly, “we have a crisis of prayer — people don’t know how to pray.”

Fr. Johnson encourages the focus homilies, youth group nights, and other formative messages on understanding prayer and cultivating a relationship with Jesus Christ. Start there, he says, and vocations will follow. Fr. Johnson relates a story of St. John Paul II as a young man around 20 years old. The future pope was invited to a youth group where the group leader focused every single week on the interior life. Every. Single. Week. What was the result? Of the young people in attendance, 9 of the men became priests, 3 became bishops, and one became Pope — all because one young leader knew Jesus and invited a group of young men to know him intimately as well.

Fr. Johnson insists that “the fruit of prayer is vocations,” and offers these ideas for cultivating a culture of prayer in your parish.

  • Model what prayer can look like and make a statement of the importance of prayer by dedicating time to your prayerful relationship with God. Spend a significant amount of time before and after Mass praying, pointing to your most important relationship.
  • Fr. Josh advocates using formative time with young people to help them encounter the Word of God by using techniques like Lectio Divina and similar scripture immersion. Focus on making the entire youth experience a space where people can encounter the Word of God personally and deeply.
Talk about vocations

Lauryn Coules, serving as a youth minister since 2008, believes that honesty about relationship with God is crucial when helping young people understand vocation. “I’m super open with my vocation, I don’t talk about it all the time, but I do answer questions [as they arise].” Coules addresses questions openly, whether about religious life or her personal experience dating and preparing for marriage. (She announced her engagement to her youth group on Vocations’ Sunday last year!)

  • Coules uses time in her youth group to show videos that have well-rounded people choosing to answer God’s invitation, not mere caricatures of religious life (like this soccer-player-turned-priest by the Knights of Columbus).
  • Coules also invites local seminarians to hang out with the youth, building relationships of trust and understanding.
  • “One more way that we show the youth that [vocations] are real,” Coules says, is her youth group’s project of sends gift bags to the seminary once a year, letting the seminarians know that the youth group is praying for them. Coules adds that she is sometimes stopped in the halls of her local seminary, where the seminarians tell her how much they appreciate the gesture.

Lauryn also stresses the importance of perspective in the process — that vocation is something you get to be, not something you have to be. “When you say, ‘yes,’ to God, amazing things happen,” Lauryn says to her youth, “[so] why would you say ‘no’?”

Make room for encounters

Matthew Shea, father of 3 small children in the Seattle area, also believes in the power of witness when introducing children to vocations. He stays in touch with friends who are vowed religious and invites them to his home, where his children can see religious life as a real possibility. “I have a couple [ordained] buds who I hang out with as buds,” he says, “occasionally [they] come over for movie nights … and they’re also priests.”

  • Shea writes letters to religious sisters with his children to stay in touch with friends while using the activity to talk about vocations in his home.
  • At the parish level, if you are aware of any introductory weekends or retreats with your local seminary and/or religious communities, make sure that your print and electronic communications are updated with the proper information — the curious may be the called.
Allow space for God to speak

Michelle Piccolo, a consecrated virgin in the Archdiocese of Detroit, remembers her journey of discernment. First, she spoke to her parish priest who put her in touch with the vocations director and she learned and grew from there. The parish she attended as a young adult would promote local retreats that helped young people listen to the voice of God. Even though she didn’t hear much about religious or consecrated life as a child, she feels like God placed people in her path who helped her discover where God was calling her today.

  • She believes that the most important element of discernment is time spent in Adoration, asking the Lord, “Are you calling me to this vocation?” Promote time with Jesus in Adoration—make sure that any times for Adoration are updated on your web, bulletin, and other locations. No time spent with Jesus is ever wasted.

Vocations Sunday is an opportunity for parishes to walk alongside young people who are trying to navigate their future. Tread gently, encourage prayer, answer questions, and cultivate relationships with God.

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