By FATHER RICKY V. ORDOÑEZ
One of the greatest blessings of being the Vocations Director is the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of our Diocese of Tucson. Presentations to schools and parish groups are made and Masses celebrated in many parishes. While we all share the same Catholic faith and tradition, each parish is unique and the spirit of its parishioners varied.
However, I have found that if there is one common call for all of us it is the fact that vocations is our business!
The Vocations Director is one person – based in Tucson – who tries to connect with those who have a calling to the priesthood. Early on, I realized that it will be physically impossible to go into each and every parish hoping to meet these young men. I know that I will have to depend on “leads” given by parents, priests, youth leaders, school principals and teachers. In the corporate world, they would be referred to as the “frontliners” in identifying possible vocations. This is the reason why promoting vocations has been called a “shared responsibility” and that it makes it “our business.”
People have asked me why we don’t seem to have much interest in priestly vocations among the young. If this is the perception, perhaps it would be because priesthood has not always been included in the options presented by family, society and culture.
I used to teach at a parish elementary school and would hear my students talk about wanting to be a doctor, engineer, architect, NBA player, baseball player or be a professional football player. When asked why they thought of it, they would answer that they have always known it to be a “cool” profession because it is what their parents perceive to be so – and they almost always go by what their parents think! It makes me wonder how many parents out there encourage their children to consider priesthood as an option. Hmmmm. I thought so!
But, God calls! Yes, the Lord calls on many – “Many are called, but few are chosen…” (Matthew 22:14) – few respond and fewer still remain. So many of “the called” may be thinking about it but when confronted with familial, societal and cultural expectations about a financially rewarding career, priesthood is conveniently set aside to be “dealt with” sometime in the future. Yet the call remains, always hovering around like an undaunted spirit pleading to be recognized by an unsettled heart.
A discernment of one’s life journey may be a personal one, however, outside pressures play a great role in the final choice. Should one go with what the family wants? Can afford? What would be the financial compensation? It is surprising to know what considerations are included in the choice of a career path. What complicates a vocation to the priesthood is that it is not just that – a career! It is a vocation – God’s invitation to give glory to HIM in the service of HIS people. This gives it an entirely different twist. Priests live not for themselves but to serve God and His people.
Many have asked me: “Father, how can we help?” My standard answer: “In many ways!”
First, let us begin to change the present demands of family, culture and society by encouraging those young men whom we see have the call to priesthood. It is not so difficult if we simply open our eyes and our hearts to the Holy Spirit. Priesthood is, indeed, a good option for your sons to take.
Second, let us assist them in finding their true vocations by having discernment groups in our parishes to deal with the question, “Where is God leading me to serve?”
Third, some may be called to assist in many different ways – a financial contributor, a fund raiser, a prayer warrior and in many other venues. Perhaps it is not well known that it costs more than $30,000 a year to send a young man to the seminary. To source out these funds is a great concern, not only for the Vocations Office but for the entire diocese.
The question remains: “Do we have vocations to the priesthood?” My answer: “Oh, yes!” We just need to find them, encourage them and assist them in finding the path to it. But, let us remember that the Vocations Director cannot do it alone. I depend on the assistance of my brother priests, the religious, youth leaders, school principals, teachers, and all those whose eyes and hearts the Holy Spirit has opened to assist the vocations efforts.
This makes it all – “our business.”