As part of the celebration of National Vocation Awareness Week, January 9-14, 2012, The Catholic Answer magazine interviewed Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York on how to build a “culture of vocations.”
Before becoming the Archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Dolan served as rector of the North American College, the seminary for Americans in Rome, from 1994 to 2001.
The entire interview is important reading, but I thought our readers would be especially interested in Archbishop Dolan’s insights as to what a “culture of vocations” looks like:
“What I mean by a culture of vocations is that when our young people grow up in a culture that encourages you to do God’s will and that affirms one in his desire to be a priest, you are going to get priests. I grew up in such a culture. I said to my teachers in grade school, ‘I think I want to be a priest,’ and they beamed and did everything possible to encourage me. My parish priest would. My folks would. My neighbors would. The parish would. I can remember as a kid–I must have been 9 or 10 years old–getting a haircut, and the barber said, ‘Hey shrimp, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I said, ‘I want to be a priest.’ And he wasn’t even a Catholic, but he said, ‘Hey, isn’t that great?’
“Now that is the culture of vocations that we need in the Church.”
After all, when young people are presented an uninspiring version of “American Catholicism” rather than the real deal, it’s an uphill battle to keep them Catholic, let alone willing to dedicate their lives as a priest or religious.
Yet the problem also suggests the solution when it comes to vocations.
Now, of course we need “vocation awareness” programs and resources for those on the threshold of making life decisions. Fr. Longenecker’s piece, however, reminds us that we also need to back up the bus a little further.
Specifically, if we can do a better job of transmitting the faith in our parishes, schools, and above all in our families, then more young people will make the faith their own in adulthood. We all need to be laborers in the vineyard, even if we’re not around for the harvest (see Matthew 20:1-7; John 4:37-38; 1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
And many of these convinced, young adult Catholics will generously respond to vocations to the priesthood and religious life–including the many men and women featured on this blog!
It’s all about laying the foundation, as the Catechism teaches in its challenging presentation on the duty of parents to provide for the Catholic formation and education of their children:
“A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life” (no. 2225).