By Archbishop Michael Jackels
When most people hear the word “vocation” they think of God calling someone to be a priest or sister. In truth, all human beings have at least four vocations:
God calls each person (1) to go to heaven, (2) to become holy by imitating Jesus, (3) to support the mission of the church and (4) to a state in life, not to live in Iowa, but to live as a single or married person, as a sister or priest.
Of the four vocations, the call to a state in life is the most important, because we can’t take one step toward answering God’s call to heaven, holiness and mission until we know, embrace and live our state in life.
And that’s because whatever we do in answer to God’s call to heaven, holiness and mission is conditioned by our state in life; we do whatever as a single or married person, as a sister or priest.
All states in life are important and needed, but a bishop has to be especially concerned with vocations to the priesthood, and so therefore with recruiting, screening, educating and (God-willing) ordaining seminarians.
I like to say that seminarians are like garlic in cooking and incense at Mass: more is better! We need more seminarians because we need more priests. And more priests to ensure that now and in the future we have priests for our parishes and institutions.
With priests, we have someone to preach the good news of God’s love; to nourish our life in Christ with the Eucharist; to reconcile us to God and the church through confession; to strengthen us with anointing when we are sick or dying; to pastor us like a shepherd to sheep, going out to people lost, gathering people in and sending them out to continue the mission of Jesus.
This last role of the priest is related to our baptismal vocation to support the mission of the church. This is an important way we practice our faith. And that’s why a key ministry of priests is to unfold the gifts of the baptized so that each person can do his or her part. A priest cannot, must not engage in ministry alone, but collaborate with deacons, religious and laity.
The need to collaborate is not a consequence of a temporary priest shortage, but a duty that follows upon baptism. And it is not a concession granted by priests, but the great commission issued by Jesus himself to all his followers.
So, we might say that we need more priests in order to have more deacons, religious and laity – married and single – engaged in mission. And more of them in order to have more people who know the blessing of discipleship!
We all can and must do something. What we can do is expressed in the acronym PITA: pray, invite, talk it up, and appreciate.
We pray because we recognize our need for priests to practice fully our faith, that we are in need of more and that we turn to God in our needs.
We invite young men to consider a vocation to the priesthood.
We talk up vocation, encouraging young people to pray daily to know God’s plan for their state in life and to have the courage to say yes.
And we appreciate the person and ministry of the priest, which says to a young person that priesthood is important, needed.
“O God, help us to want what you want: to be a religious, a single person dedicated to service, a priest in the Archdiocese of Dubuque or married in the church. For knowing this, our vocation, we will then know who to pardon and to please, how to serve and to sacrifice. And help us, O God, to do all this in imitation of Jesus, continuing his mission in the church and in the world. May it be so. Amen.”
This story is provided courtesy of The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.