This evening, I will meet with diocesan seminarians who are on retreat for several days this week. Prospective seminarians will join us for dinner and prayer. This gathering occurs shortly before the start of National Vocations Awareness Week, January 7-12. This annual week is a fitting time to reflect upon the gift of our own vocation, and on how we might more prayerfully foster the discernment of God's call in the lives of those around us.
We are truly blessed in the Diocese of Arlington to have 23 men currently in the seminary, and about 18 men and 33 women in formation for consecrated life. During the year, I have the opportunity to meet with these groups and others in discernment through retreats, day trips, service projects and other diocesan events. Indeed, we are a growing diocese, and there is a need to serve our increasing Catholic and multicultural population, which now numbers over 400,000 registered Catholics. Since this multicultural aspect is becoming more dominant within our diocese, I am asking our seminarians to become more aware of the various ethnic groups and to understand more realistically how their future ministry will serve them.
A vocation — whether to the married, single, priestly or consecrated life — is truly a gift from God, and His personal call to each of us. Some are called to join their life with another through the holy sacrament of matrimony. Still others are called to living a single chaste life committed to God. Finally, there is God's call to the priesthood or consecrated life.
Vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are calls from the Lord to dedicate one's life in service to God and His Church. Each of us plays a vital role in helping others to discern these vocations. For example, students attending Catholic schools or parish CCD programs, and those participating in youth ministry and campus ministry, often begin discerning a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life through these experiences. God truly works through others to help those hear His call. That is why each of us should be involved in cultivating a climate for vocations.
Our future priests and consecrated religious may be living right beside you — they may be your sons, daughters, neighbors and friends. It is our responsibility, by virtue of our baptism, to encourage and foster vocations in our families and communities. Perhaps you have met someone that you think may have such a vocation — I ask you to pray for them and invite them to consider a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life. Often those who feel a call to the priesthood or consecrated life begin seriously discerning this call after receiving encouragement and support from members of their families and communities. We must ask ourselves if we are truly doing all that we can to encourage vocations in our families, schools, organizations, and churches. In my own life, I remember that the encouragement of my family and parish community were so very instrumental in considering my call to the priesthood.
This weekend, many of you will have an opportunity to hear our seminarians speak in parishes around the diocese. I encourage you to pray for them as they continue discerning their vocations, and for others discerning their calls as well.
I encourage you to pray our diocese's Vocation Prayer:
Heavenly Father, bless our diocese with the grace of many vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life. Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, grant to those You have called the willingness and generosity of spirit to give of themselves in devoting their lives and their talents to the service of our Lord and to His Church. Increase the faith of all within our diocese, and particularly the faith of those You have called and will continue to call. We ask this through Christ Your Son. Amen.
May we live with fidelity the vocation we have been given! Pray daily for vocations for the future well-being of this diocesan church! Remember: the answer to tomorrow's need for sufficient priests, permanent deacons, and consecrated religious begins today in prayer!