“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” The words Jesus spoke to the apostles are symbolic and refer not only to the Twelve, but to all the generations of those whom Jesus Christ has called down the centuries. They refer to some in a personal way. We are speaking of the priestly vocation, but we are also thinking of the vocations of men and women to the consecrated life. Vocations are a central problem for the Church, for the faith, for the future of the faith in this world.
Every vocation is a gift of God, according to these words of Jesus, “I chose you.” Thus it is a choice, an election by Jesus, one that always concerns the person. However, this person lives in the given context of a family, a society, a culture, a Church. A vocation is a gift, but it is also the response to this gift. How each of us, how the one who is called and chosen can answer this divine call depends on many circumstances. It depends on a certain inner, personal maturity and on cooperation with God’s grace.
This means to know how to cooperate, how to listen, how to follow. We know well what Jesus said to that young man in the Gospel: “Follow me.” One must know how to follow, and when one follows, then the vocation is mature, fulfilled and realized. This is always for the good of the person and the community.
For its part, the community must know how to respond to the vocations that arise within it. They are born in the family, and the family must cooperate with a vocation. They are born in the parish, and the parish must cooperate with a vocation. These are the circumstances of human life and human existence: existential circumstances.
The response to a vocation depends to a very high degree on the witness of the whole community, the family and the parish. People help vocations to grow. By their example, priests can attract young men and help them respond to Jesus’ words: “Follow me.” Those who have received a vocation must give an example of how to follow it.
In the parish today it is increasingly apparent that movements and associations are contributing in a special way to the growth of vocations and to vocation work. One of the movements or associations that is typical of the parish is that of the altar servers. This fact is a great help to future vocations, as it was in the past. Many who first were altar boys later became priests. This is still useful today, but other ways must be tried: how to cooperate with the divine call, with the divine choice; how to fulfill the words of Jesus: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” The harvest is always great; the workers are always few, especially in some countries.
However, Jesus urges us to pray for this to the Lord of the harvest. For us all, without exception, there remains above all the task of praying for vocations. If we feel involved in the redeeming work of Christ and the Church, we must always pray for vocations. The harvest is great!” Blessed Pope John Paul II, Message to the General Audience September 29, 1993.
A Diocesan priest is called to serve the people of God. He fulfills the mission of the Church through liturgical and sacramental celebrations, teaching and preaching the Gospel, and upholding the faith of the Church. The Diocese of Providence comprises the entire state of Rhode Island. Diocesan priests serve the 157 parishes and numerous missions, hospitals, schools and social agencies. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin oversees the Diocese. Approximately 300 priests, as well as religious men and women meet the spiritual needs of the people with regard to worship, education and community life. A priest takes on the roles of shepherd, administrator, counselor, teacher and collaborator. The most vital role of the priesthood is spiritual and sacramental leadership. In his ministry, a priest promotes the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of the people.
Discerning a call to the priesthood or religious life? Are you being called to something greater? We invite you to visit www.catholicpriest.com, the website for the Diocese of Providence’s Office of Vocations. If you have questions about the priesthood, please contact the pastor at the Parish Office or call the Director of Vocations, Father Carl Fissette, at 401-333-1316 or the Parish Priests at the Parish Office, 401-884.4968 or by email, email@example.com.