Good news for church vocations Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

editor's viewMsgr. Jim Bartylla, the vocation director for the Diocese of Madison, shared some good news with the Madison Serra Club in a recent talk at one of the club’s meetings.

He reported that there are four new seminarians who will be studying for the diocese beginning this fall. Every year for the past five years, the Diocese of Madison has been fortunate to have a number of new seminarians join the ranks of those preparing for the priesthood.

I interviewed all four of the new seminarians (see Page 6A of the vocation section in this week’s print edition of the Catholic Herald for more about them). They are certainly fine young men and would all make wonderful priests.

Efforts are bearing fruit

The efforts to promote vocations are starting to bear fruit. This fall, two of our seminarians — David Carrano and Greg Ihm — will be ordained to the transitional diaconate at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, where they have been studying at the Pontifical North American College. God willing, they will be ordained to the priesthood in June of 2010 in Madison. (article)

As we look ahead, the Diocese of Madison projects some good sized ordination classes: four to be ordained to the priesthood in 2011, five in 2012, four in 2013, two in 2014, and four in 2015. That’s 17 new priests for our diocese in the next five years.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we can rest easy. Retirements, illnesses, and deaths of our current priests mean that we will continue to need more priests to replace them. But we definitely are on the right track.

Reasons for increased numbers

What has led to the increased numbers in our diocese in recent years? Having Bishop Robert C. Morlino appoint a full-time vocation director has certainly helped, as has Bishop Morlino’s own work for vocations. Much like recruiting of college athletes, it takes dedicated efforts to interest more potential seminarians.

The diocesan Vocation Office has sponsored a variety of programs in cooperation with parishes, the Serra Clubs/Southwest Vocation Club, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Divine Mercy, and other organizations. These include the Traveling Chalice Program, Life Directions Weekends, and College Connections. The office has held retreats for men and women (in cooperation with religious orders) and Quo Vadis discernment programs.

Perhaps most important is prayer for vocations. Five years ago, seminarians in the Diocese of Madison started Eucharistic Adoration for vocations in the summer at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison. In September of that year (2004), the Madison Serra Club and diocesan staff members took over the Adoration program.

Every weekday morning from 9 to 11:45 a.m., people have been praying for vocations for five years straight. Since the number of diocesan seminarians has increased from six to 25 over those years, I think it’s obvious that God is listening to our prayers!

Strategies that work

A new study of recent vocations to the religious life undertaken by the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University (which did not include the diocesan priesthood) seems to validate the strategies being used in our diocese to attract vocations. The study said that programs and promotions, retreats, and having a full-time vocation director were among the best ways to promote vocations, along with an engaging online presence. The Diocese of Madison vocation Web site at certainly has plenty of interesting material on vocations.

Besides all these efforts, one of our diocesan seminarians has encouraged people to take another step. Justin Hall  contacted members of the Serra Club and invited them to join the diocesan seminarians in something they’re doing on Fridays.

They have decided that since Fridays are a day of penance, they would offer their prayers, penances, and any fasting for the intentions of vocations to the priesthood for the Madison Diocese and for the seminarians. Since it’s the Year for Priests, the seminarians thought that they would also pray for the priests of our diocese.

I encourage other people in the diocese to join the seminarians on Fridays in praying and doing penance for the three intentions of more priests, the seminarians, and the priests of our diocese. Efforts in our diocese have been pretty successful so far. Just think how much more we can accomplish in the future with even more people involved.

In this year dedicated to priests, let’s also ask St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, to intercede for us.