If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Dear Readers,

My apologies for no posts in over a week. The demands of faith, family and work have recently been such that I simply do not have the time to keep up with this blog. Posting on this blog is something I truly enjoy doing each morning. Some people enjoy reading a paper or watching the news - I enjoy reading and looking for articles and stories about vocations. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, I will not have the luxury of time needed to do this each day. It is my hope that I will be able to occasionaly get posts up, especially as they relate to the year of the priest, but I will not be able to post on a daily basis as I once did. That said, it is my goal to return to regular posting as soon as possible - I'm just not sure at the moment when that will be. God willing, sooner rather than later.

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Banking on priesthood: Broker leaves behind a lucrative career to become a man of the cloth"

From the National Post
By Katherine Laidlaw

In Thomas Lim's last job, he earned a six-figure salary, lived in an expansive home and managed the bustling operations of Sun Life Financial, a brokerage firm. He was a high roller on an upward career trajectory.

On Saturday, he starts a new job: one without material luxuries and the fast-paced intensity of the stock market. He is becoming a Catholic priest.

Eight years ago, Mr. Lim was assistant vice-president of Sun Life. He had it all: money, power, relationships, upward mobility. And yet, he says he was intensely unhappy.

Now 40 years old and after six years of study, he is being ordained at St. Michael's Cathedral.

The Catholic Church doesn't require priests to give away their savings when they enter the seminary, but he has left his financial investments in the hands of his brother, who is also a banker. He doesn't miss working in the business world. "There were moments in the past where you'd be obsessed with every tick up, every tick down," Mr. Lim said. "I don't feel like I'm shackled any more."

Between about five and 10 men have been ordained each year for the past five years in the Greater Toronto Area, according to the Archdiocese of Toronto. Seven are being ordained this Saturday.

Many come from diverse backgrounds, such as Mr. Lim, seeking spirituality they cannot find in the pressures of everyday life.

Frank Portelli, a 33-year-old once far more interested in clubbing, left his job working with the federal government's bankruptcy regulator to become a priest.

"During my undergrad [at the University of Toronto], it was more about drinks, smoking, dancing, girls, not studying," he said. He reluctantly applied to the seminary after being encouraged by a priest he knew.

Likewise, Eric Rodrigues was completing a master's in biostatistics at McGill University in Montreal when he realized his dreams of being a doctor were eclipsed by a call from God. "Deep down I know that it was a desire to serve people and help people who are suffering."

In Mr. Lim's case, he ignored his first push toward the priesthood, which came a long time ago when he was attending De La Salle College, a prestigious private school run by the Roman Catholic Lasallian brothers.

The nudge came from Brother Benedict, a short, bespectacled man who patrolled the locker hallway. "I had the fourth or fifth locker from the chapel," said Mr. Lim, whose older brother, also a student at De La Salle, was thinking of entering the monastery. Brother Benedict came down the hallway to ask Mr. Lim if he would be following suit. "I kind of laughed and said, 'Are you crazy? I want to make money,' " said Mr. Lim. "I think he thought he could get two for the price of one."

Instead, attending De La Salle left Mr. Lim with a burning desire to be wealthy. He grew up in the Regent Park housing complex, one of Toronto's most destitute, crime-ridden neighbourhoods, where he lived with his mother, father and seven brothers and sisters in a small, four-bedroom home.

He attended the private school on a scholarship. "People did look at you a little strangely. You know, you're coming home in your blue blazer and tie to Regent Park," Mr. Lim said.

"After being in that environment, with those kids who had so much, I came up with a plan. That plan was to make as much money as possible."

After high school, he went on to the University of Toronto's business school. After graduating with a bachelor of commerce, Mr. Lim took a job at Toronto-Dominion Bank, where he was made manager of the mutual funds division before moving to Canada Trust and then to Sun Life. His parents were devout Catholics. But Mr. Lim turned his back on his faith and refused to practise for 12 years. "I found out later, [my mother] prayed for my return each day," he says, voice cracking.

Eight years ago, Mr. Lim had broken up with his last girlfriend, a Catholic who attended church regularly and had encouraged him to attend as well. One Saturday, he wandered into St. Justin, Martyr, a parish in Unionville. Standing at the back of the church, Mr. Lim says he was "overpowered" by the pastor's homily. He listened while the priest spoke about encouraging those who felt lost to return to the church.

Soon after, Mr. Lim was ringing Rev. Michael Busch's doorbell, asking to speak to him about his sermon. Instead, Rev. Busch says, they talked about their lives.

"He was what we call a 'walk-in off the street'," Rev. Busch said. "I always say to him, my first impression of him was anger, bitterness, dissatisfaction."

The description is a stark contrast to the soft-spoken man he knows now, he says. "He's a lot calmer. The man that was before, sometimes those are the qualities that come out when we're searching or when we're frustrated."

Like Mr. Lim, Rev. Busch left behind a lucrative career in advertising to become a priest. "It was the same kind of thing: young, had it all, going in a certain direction but not happy," Rev. Busch said.

"It's something that's very prevalent among young people today. They're really searching for that kind of spirituality."

Seeing in Mr. Lim many qualities he remembered in himself, Rev. Busch told Mr. Lim he should consider joining the priesthood.

"I more or less threw it at him," he said. "I knew it was a bit of a shock for him. I could see he was reaching a point where his questions were leading in a very specific direction."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Pope ordains priests, warns of worldly spirit in the church"

From Catholic News Service
By John Thavis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI ordained 19 priests and urged them to make sure their ministry is not contaminated by a worldly mentality.

Priests should dedicate their lives to prayer and service, and never lose sight of the self-sacrifice of Christ, the pope said during the lengthy liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica May 3.

The Mass marked the annual celebration of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The new priests, who will serve in the Diocese of Rome, included 13 from Italy and six from other countries on four continents.

After prostrating themselves on the floor of the basilica as a litany of the saints was chanted, each of the candidates knelt before the pope as he imposed his hands on their heads, part of the ordination rite.

In his sermon, the pope quoted the First Letter of John, who contrasted the spirit of the Gospel with the spirit of the "world," a term he used to refer to all that is hostile toward God.

St. John said that "the world does not know us" because it did not know God, a lament that remains true today, the pope said.

"It's true, and we priests experience this: the 'world,' in John's meaning of the term, does not understand the Christian, does not understand the ministries of the Gospel. In part because in fact it does not know God, and in part because it does not want to know him," he said.

Accepting God would place this worldly attitude in "crisis," the pope said.

"Here we need to pay attention to a reality: that this 'world,' in the evangelical sense, threatens even the church, infecting its members and the ordained ministers themselves," he said.

"The 'world' is a mentality, a manner of thinking and living that can pollute even the church, and in fact does pollute it, and therefore requires constant vigilance and purification," the pope said. The Christian vocation, he said, is to be free from evil and different from the world, though living in the world.

The pope emphasized the centrality of prayer in the life of each priest. This prayer should be Christ-centered, and its highest form is the Eucharist, he said. From prayer comes the effectiveness of all other priestly ministry, he said.

"The priest who prays often and prays well becomes progressively expropriated from himself and increasingly united with Jesus, the good shepherd, and the servant of his brothers," he said.

The pope, who recently turned 82, looked good during the two-and-a-half-hour Mass. It was his last major liturgy before his departure May 8 on a weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Afterward, at his noon blessing, the pope urged the entire church community to pray for priestly vocations.

The pope recently proclaimed a year for priests that will run from June 2009 to June 2010. In recent years, Vatican statistics have shown that the number of priests and seminarians in the world is increasing somewhat, but not as fast as the general Catholic population.

"Discerning God's call to serve"

From The Catholic Courier
By Jennifer Burke

Peter Van Lieshout was in college when he told his mother he was seriously considering becoming a priest. He wasn't sure how she'd respond, but he was more surprised by her reaction than she was by his news.

"She said she wasn't surprised, that she thought, even when I was a little kid ... that I had a vocation to the priesthood, and she never told that to me before," recalled Van Lieshout, who will travel to Rome in July to begin his seminary studies.

He will be joined there by Greg Rupik, who had a similar experience when he told his family about his future vocation.

"When I told my parents, I think they were both a little bit surprised, but when I told my sisters that was the kicker. One of my sisters turned to my youngest sister and said, 'I told you so,'" Rupik said.

Van Lieshout and Rupik are the newest of the Diocese of Rochester's current crop of seminarians. One of those seminarians, transitional Deacon Brian Carpenter, currently is wrapping up his studies at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., and will be ordained by Bishop Matthew H. Clark at Sacred Heart Cathedral June 6.

But Deacon Carpenter will be the last priest ordained for the diocese until at least 2013, according to Carol Dady, coordinator of the diocesan Office of Priestly Vocation Awareness. Although this four-year gap between ordinations is the longest in recent years, officials say they're hopeful that 2013 might represent a turning point in terms of the volume of priestly vocations in the Diocese of Rochester.

Cultural factors

Five local men currently are finishing their first of four years of theology at various seminaries around the world. Two are studying at Theological College at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., one is at Mundelein Seminary, another is at American College at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium and another is at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Seminarians also must complete a year of pastoral work at diocesan parishes in addition to their studies, so the earliest these men could be ordained is 2013, Dady said.

Rupik and Van Lieshout spent the last eight months at Becket Hall, the diocesan residence for men discerning priestly vocations. Although they'll soon be leaving the residence to begin their seminary studies in Rome, Dady said the diocese already has received applications from four men interested in spending the next year in discernment at Becket Hall. Several other men from outside the diocese also may be considering the program, she said.

A number of societal factors probably account for the four-year gap between diocesan ordinations, said Dady and Father Tim Horan, director of the diocesan Office of Priestly Vocations Awareness. The lifelong nature of the priesthood might be scary for some young men, especially since young people today have more career options than ever before and can expect to work for several different employers during their lives, Father Horan said.

The clergy sex-abuse scandal that broke in 2002 also may have played a role in the temporary drought in priestly vocations, he added. The nation was still reeling from the scandal in 2003 and 2004, when any potential candidates for ordination in 2010 would have begun the year or two of discernment necessary before starting seminary studies.

"It was a very unpopular topic to address that a young man might consider becoming a priest, given all of the headlines that were happening at the time. I think we have suffered from huge discouragement," Father Horan said.

The pattern of priestly vocations in the Diocese of Rochester appears to mirror national trends, according to an April 2008 report on Catholic-ministry formation enrollments from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. In the 2004-05 academic year only 2,307 men were studying to become priests for the dioceses in the United States, representing the smallest number of men to do so in the 40-year period covered by the report.

Yet the number of seminarians gradually has been creeping back up, the report shows. During the 2007-08 academic year 2,489 men were studying to become priests in U.S. dioceses.

The number of seminarians and men interested in discernment locally seems to indicate an uptick in vocations here, too. Dady said she believes the late Pope John Paul II is partly responsible for turning the tide and sparking a gradual growth in vocations. He often spoke to young people about the church's need for their involvement, especially through the priesthood and religious life.

"He asked them not to be afraid if they think God may be calling them to that. I think it's opened a lot of eyes," Dady said.

Including those of Van Lieshout, apparently.

"The first time I really remember thinking about (the priesthood) was World Youth Day 2002, when Pope John Paul II said something about it in his homily," he said.

Van Lieshout said he doesn't remember exactly what the pope said that day in Toronto, but he does remember realizing the priesthood might be something he should consider.

Local efforts

Dady and Father Horan have been working together for the past five years to help young men who may be feeling the call and to get more people thinking about the priesthood.

"We're trying to raise awareness of what a priestly vocation is like so that when young people are considering what they're going to be doing with the rest of their lives, (the priesthood) is at least on the table," Dady said.

Their office sponsors a Fisher Dinner Series, through which parishes host dinners for men interested in the priesthood. During these dinners, the potential candidates are able to share prayer and fellowship with several current priests and hear their vocational stories to learn what a priest's life is like.

The annual "24 Hours with the Lord" is another popular event, Dady said. This retreat is usually held the night before a priestly ordination and features eucharistic adoration, the Liturgy of the Hours, and talks by Bishop Clark, priests and seminarians. The next morning the group attends the ordination together.

Earlier this year Rupik and Van Lieshout shared their stories on Rochester Diocese Roundtable, a radio show hosted by diocesan spokesman Doug Mandelaro and Jack Palvino, manager of Catholic radio station WHIC 1460-AM. Recordings of their three-part interview may be downloaded from the vocations page on the diocesan Web site, www.dor.org.

The diocesan Web site itself has been instrumental in encouraging priestly vocations, Father Horan noted. It provides a way for the diocese to provide a wealth of information to many people at once, and it also provides young men with an easy way to access this information without risking embarrassment.

"You can visit it without any cost to yourself, no psychological investment. You can purely observe and exit the Web site and be anonymous," he said.

Diocesan officials have harnessed other Web technologies to spread the word about priestly vocations. In a June 2007 video posted on YouTube, Bishop Clark speaks directly to young men who may be feeling the Holy Spirit's tug toward the priesthood. He shares the story of his own vocation and tells viewers he would choose this vocation again because it has led him to unimaginable blessings.

"As a priest I have been allowed to witness and participate in the workings of the Holy Spirit and the power of God's sacraments to heal and inspire, to spark happiness and courage and hope," Bishop Clark said in the video.

The bishop also encouraged young men to pray honestly and openly each day, and to ask God to show them his way in their lives and guide them along the right paths.

"And God will. I promise you that," he said.

Answering the call

Yet one of the most effective ways of encouraging priestly vocations, doesn't require any special technology, Father Horan observed. A simple comment from a friend, family member or priest can mean everything to a man contemplating the priesthood, he said.

A priestly vocation, like any other Christian vocation, is always a story begun by God, Father Horan said. Eventually a future priest will begin to feel the first rumblings of his vocation deep inside. He may not acknowledge God's call right away or know what it means, and he may even try to push it away at first. Oftentimes a simple comment or suggestion from someone else is what it takes for that man to begin to acknowledge his vocation.

"That's when you've got to consider the way that God's calling you," Father Horan said.

Rupik said his peers in high school used to jokingly ask him if he planned on becoming a priest. He assumed they were teasing because he enjoyed theology classes, but their offhand remarks still made an impression on him.

"Just those suggestions, the fact that people started to see something in me that resembled qualities they'd like to see in a priest, that got me thinking," he said.

Once men acknowledge their callings, they often feel a sense of excitement coupled with a sense of peacefulness because they know the priesthood is what they're meant to do, Dady said. They feel special when they realize they've been singled out and called by God, Father Horan said. Many of the men who become priests have had some sort of religious experience that has awakened them to Christ's presence in their lives, he said.

"Oftentimes that makes them stronger, having recognized that they were heading down the wrong path and having the grace to redirect their life," Father Horan said.

Men who think the Holy Spirit might be calling them to the priesthood should not be afraid to acknowledge their vocations, he said, noting that if God is indeed calling them to the priesthood, he also will give them the grace to follow through with it.

"If you are someone who may be considering priesthood it's important to talk about it, whether it's (with) your pastor or someone that you trust," Dady said. "The first step is telling someone else what you're thinking."

Monday, May 4, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 3 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as "Good Shepherd" Sunday, the Pope celebrated Mass in the Vatican Basilica and conferred priestly ordination on nineteen deacons of the diocese of Rome.

In his homily Benedict XVI explained how "disciples - and especially apostles - experience the same joy as Jesus in knowing the name and the face of the Father, and they share His pain in seeing that God is not known and that His love is not returned".

Quoting then from the First Letter of John - "the reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him" - the Holy Father indicated that "the 'world', in John's use of the term, does not understand Christians, it does not understand the ministers of the Gospel. Partly this is because it does not, in fact, know God, and partly because it does not want to know Him. The world does not want to know God and listen to His ministers because this would lead it into crisis".

"The 'world'", he went on, "in its evangelical meaning, also threatens the Church, contaminating her members and even her ordained ministers. The 'world' is a mentality, a way of thinking and living that can even contaminate the Church, that actually does contaminate the Church, and hence requires constant vigilance and purification. ... We are 'in' the world, and we risk being 'of' the world".

"Jesus gave His life for everyone, yet in particular He consecrated Himself for those whom the Father gave to Him to be consecrated in the truth - that is, in Him - and who hence could speak and act in His name, represent Him, extend His salvific actions by breaking the bread of life and remitting sins".

As priests, said the Pope "we are called to 'abide' in Christ - as St. John the Evangelist liked to say - and this is achieved especially through prayer. Our ministry is completely dependent on such 'abiding', which is the same as prayer and from which it draws its effectiveness".

Among a priest's various forms of prayer Benedict XVI mentioned "first and foremost daily Mass. The celebration of the Eucharist is the greatest and most exalted form of prayer and is the centre and source from which the other forms receive their 'lifeblood", he said. He also mentioned "the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic adoration, 'lectio divina', the Holy Rosary and meditation".

"A priest who prays much and prays well is progressively expropriated of himself and becomes ever more united to Christ, the Good Shepherd and Servant of His brothers and sisters", said the Pope in conclusion. "In conformity with Him, the priest also 'gives his life' for the flock entrusted to his care".

HML/PRIESTS/... VIS 090504 (480)


VATICAN CITY, 3 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Following this morning's Mass in the Vatican Basilica, during which he conferred ordination on nineteen deacons, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his private study to pray the Regina Coeli with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as "Good Shepherd" Sunday, is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the theme of which this year is "Trust in God's Initiative and the Human Response". The Pope dwelt on this fact, remarking that "trust in the Lord, Who continually calls everyone to sanctity and some in particular to a special consecration, is expressed in prayer. Both individually and in the community, we must pray for vocations, that the greatness and beauty of the love of God may attract many to follow Christ along the path of the priesthood and consecrated life.

"It is also necessary", he added, "to pray for many holy husbands and wives, capable of showing their children, especially through example, the horizons towards they must strive. ... The saints, whom the Church presents for the veneration of all the faithful, are evidence of the mature fruit of this bond between the divine call and the human response".

‘Father of the Father’

The post below was written by Fr. Luke Sweeney, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of New York, is from the website "Fathers for Good" which "is an initiative for men by the Knights of Columbus".

'Father of the Father'
By Father Luke Sweeney

Photo at left: Fr. Luke Sweeney, his father Luke Sweeney, and Archbishop Dolan
This article is printed in recognition of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, May 3.

My dad loves to recall a defining moment of his becoming a father late in life, at age 50. His habit was to come home and read the newspaper, but when I was a toddler, I must have come over and swiped the paper out of his hands. The light went on in his mind and he realized that in my childlike way I was asking my dad to play with me. He took the hint and threw his heart into doing things with me then and throughout the years.

The presence of a father is invaluable in a boy’s life. As a vocation director I witness the wounds left when fathers are physically or emotionally distant from a young man. There can be anger that builds up, problems of relating in an appropriate masculine way and difficulties in school.
I have been blessed with my dad’s continued active presence in my life.

While my mother was more vocally and explicitly Catholic, praying with me at bedtime and listening to Christian radio, my dad’s presence was always quiet, but clearly there. At different times he offered words of wisdom. He taught me how to golf, threw the football with me, and even once dug up grass from the backyard for a history project.

A short while ago I asked my dad if he had ever stopped going to church over the years. He said never. What a wonderful job his family and the priests and religious sisters did for him when he was young. They set him on a good path and he never strayed.

My father has recalled for our family on numerous occasions his days in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and how incredibly quiet and focused the crew was before a battle. Most were deep in prayer, begging for grace and preparing for death. Perhaps his trust and reliance on God during those years deepened his commitment.

My dad’s presence and practice in the faith was never lacking. I always felt encouraged to get involved with the Church through his example. He was involved as an usher, volunteer for the Cardinal’s Annual Appeal, and as a parish trustee. He went to Mass, stayed afterward for the rosary each week and would go to Stations of the Cross during Lent. We also did these things as a family.

I began talking about the possibility of a priestly vocation in the sixth grade, and my dad took me to the seminary to meet the rector when I was a senior in high school. His words of wisdom were, “No matter what you decide to do in life, your mom and I will love you and support you!” What a sense of freedom to follow God’s will and not be forced to live out a parent’s preconceived plan for my life.

My mom died of a brain tumor right after I was ordained a deacon. My dad and I were present at her passing. Now that I am a priest, my dad has become a person that I talk to about how things are going (he constantly tells me to pace myself), but also someone I now pray with. We pray the rosary when driving together in the car, and sometimes I have the privilege of offering Mass in a hotel room when we travel together. Whatever the occasion, my dad is prouder than anything to be the “Father of the Father.”

Recently, we both went to confession while on vacation. Without missing a beat, he took from his bag a little old military prayer book from the 1940’s which he had used all these years to prepare himself for the sacrament. His strong and basic faith had seen him through battles, and it continues to guide, renew and nourish him daily. His love and devotion to Jesus and the Blessed Mother have had a great effect on my life, and there is little mystery that I was able to hear God’s call.

Father Luke Sweeney, ordained in 2001, is vocations director for the Archdiocese of New York.
Hat tip to Jenna.

Vocations Video from the Archdiocese of Paris

Hat tip to Valerie

Sunday, May 3, 2009

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

If you're reading this, please the time today to pray for vocations!
Father, in your plan for our savlation you provide shepherds for your people. Fill your Church with the spirit of courage and love.
Give the Church more priests, worthy ministers for your altars and ardent but gentle servants of the Gospel.
Grant also to us an increase in vocations to the religious life. May more of your people respond to your call in a spirit of joyful generosity.
May they serve your people in love by following in the footsteps of Christ your Son and provide by their way of life a convincing sign of your Kingdom.
We ask this through Christ Our Lord.
Mary Mother of the Church, pray for us.