The New Vocations

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly






            Like most parishes, we pray every day for vocations.


            God is answering our prayer.   Although, as often happens, the Holy Spirit answers in ways we did not expect.


            This year five adults from our parish began studies for ministry in the church.  None of them is in the traditional vocations of the priesthood and religious life.  But all of them are badly needed by the church.


            One young married couple, in their mid thirties, with two small children, left high paying engineering jobs to go to Notre Dame University and study theology.  Both husband and wife will prepare themselves for full time ministry.  The wife will specialize in liturgical music.  The husband will study theology, with the hope of becoming a director of religious education for a parish or working for a diocese in adult education.  They were fortunate enough to obtain a fellowship to pay for their education, but they are still making a huge sacrifice of potential future earnings.


            We have two women, both wives and mothers whose children are now nearly grown, who have gone back to school to prepare for ministry. 


            One is getting a master's degree in theology at the Washington Theological Union in the parish partnership program.  This program prepares people for work in parishes and shares the cost of the education with parishes.  When she is finished she will be able to coordinate adult education and other spiritual enrichment programs for the parish.


            Another lady is goes to the Washington division of the Education for Parish Service Program.  EPS is a nation wide program that prepares lay people for parish work with two years of college level theology, history, and pastoral courses.  The program is tuition free, but calls for a major commitment of time in two years of study and prayer.  Graduates coordinate various ministries, such as hospital visitation, children's religious education and RCIA.  EPS exists in places as diverse as Fargo, North Dakota, and New York City.  There are hundreds of EPS graduates working full and part-time in parishes across North America.


            Finally, one man in our parish, a father of six, started his studies for the permanent diaconate.   For the next four years, he and his wife will drive fifty miles, each way, and twice a week, to prepare for ordination.  Wives often participate in preparation for the permanent diaconate because it is a major time commitment and it is important that the wife be part of her husband's vocation.  When he is finished he will be able to help with all the duties of a deacon, including baptisms, funerals, weddings, wakes, marriage preparation and ministry to the sick.


            Of course, none of these "new vocations" replace dire need for priests.  We still pray everyday for priestly vocations and the vocations of women and men to religious orders.  But we recognize that as the number of priests in parishes inevitably declines over the next decade, these "new vocations" will be increasingly important.  They can help do so many things once done by associate pastors (curates).  They can train CCD teachers, coordinate RCIA programs, develop adult education programs, coordinate ministry to the sick and shut-ins, develop youth programs, plan and play liturgical music, train lectors and eucharistic ministers, and help with the management of day to day parish life. 


            Without these new vocations parish life would come to a halt and priests would die of exhaustion.  The are a godsend.  They are answers to a prayer.


            Each of these people will contribute their talents and experience to parish ministry when they are finished.