Liz and Tom Champion pray during a Holy Hour for Priests & Vocations at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Omaha. The Champions are parishioners there. ROBERT ERVIN

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Parishes find a variety of ways to promote vocations

RELATED STORY: An increase in vocations requires an increase in faith

 

Holy hours, talks by priests and religious, bulletin articles, prayer cards, a traveling crucifix that is passed from family to family to serve as a reminder to pray for vocations. 

These are all ways parishes promote priestly and religious vocations.

They’re like pieces of a puzzle that work together to encourage young people to consider how God is calling them, said Father Andrew Roza, director of vocations for the archdiocese and associate pastor at the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha.

The parish efforts are “simple steps that just help people be aware, to be mindful” of religious vocations, he said, and to show support for priests and members of religious communities.

A projected decline in the number of priests in the archdiocese has added some urgency to those efforts. The number of priests active in parishes is projected to drop more than 20%, from 105 priests to 81 by 2033, according to archdiocese estimates.

“It would be a sad time, a sad place, for everyone if we didn’t have priests, deacons and religious available to us,” said Sally O’Neill, president of the Serra Club of Omaha and a member of the vocations committee at her parish, Christ the King in Omaha. “The numbers are down, so we really need to pray for that.”

Fostering religious vocations has always been the driving force for Serra organizations.

“It’s very much the focus of the Serra Club of Omaha,” O’Neill said.

Speakers, often priests, talk about their vocations at the club’s meetings. “And we also recognize seminarians and say a Rosary for them,” O’Neill said.

Serra members helped organize a Vocation Summit in April at St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn. Representatives from 23 parishes gathered to discuss ideas to promote vocations to the priesthood. The summit, hosted by the archdiocese’s Vocations Office, is an annual event, which was revived this year after taking a break for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 55 people attended and exchanged ideas on ways to promote and support vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Other ideas to promote vocations, though, have been inspired through personal prayer.

Colleen Hoff, for example, started a monthly Holy Hour for Priests & Vocations at her parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Omaha.

“I just had this strong desire to have this holy hour for priests,” Hoff said. After much prayer and conversations with her pastor, Father Vitalis Anyanike, the first hour was offered in November.

For years parishioners had been praying at a weekday morning holy hour for priests, but Hoff said she wanted to make an hour available during the evening so more people could attend. She also wanted priests to speak and help lead prayer.

Father Mike Eckley, pastor of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha, speaks at a Holy Hour for Priests & Vocations at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Omaha. ROBERT ERVIN

“I just felt that it would be inspirational for others to hear the vocation journeys of the priests,” she said. “How did God touch their heart to desire to become a priest, giving your whole life to serving, to be the leader, the shepherd? It’s a pretty big commitment, and it’s life changing.”

The holy hours, offered on the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m., include eucharistic adoration, Benediction, hymns, Scripture readings, a talk by a priest and prayers for priests and vocations.

A  May 12 holy hour will feature a talk by Benedictine Father Thomas Lietner of the Christ the King Priory in Schuyler, where he is administrator of the St. Benedict Center.

“Our priests need renewal,” Hoff said. “They need the Holy Spirit. … They need us, and we need them.”

“They have a pretty big job, you know. They’re Christ’s representatives on earth.”