Let us pray for more priests and religious vocations


Editor: Bishop Vásquez, the diocese received many names on Called By Name Sunday. Will you tell us more about this program?

Bishop Vásquez: Called By Name Sunday is one of the initiatives we started a few years back, when we knew we were in a vocations crisis in our diocese. On that particular Sunday, which was in January this year, I asked priests to speak about their personal vocation and to tell how they had been called to serve as a priest. I also asked people in our parishes to submit the names of men who might make good priests and women who might make good religious sisters.

Once the diocese received those names, I followed up with a letter sent to each one of them saying someone believes they have the gifts that would make a good priest or a good sister. In that letter, I personally invite them to consider the possibility of a vocation.

Called by Name Sunday has proven to be a great success. This year more than 1,000 names were submitted, which means we have more people than ever being invited to discern the call to the priesthood or religious life.

In the past, the bishop, vocations director, priests or religious were typically the ones who were advocating for more vocations. However, as St. John Paul II said, “The entire people of God is responsible for promoting vocations.” So it is exciting to see that people are awakening to their responsibility of living out their baptismal call by taking seriously the need to invite others to consider vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Editor: We have some ordinations coming up, but only one for the priesthood, correct?

Bishop Vásquez: Yes! As I have mentioned before, last year we did not ordain any priests. This really broke my heart knowing that we could not provide a new priest to serve in this diocese. This year we will ordain Deacon Matthew Jewell to the priesthood on June 8, and in May we will ordain five new transitional deacons. This means in 2025 we will have five new priests. We have much to be grateful for as a diocese.

Editor: We have many priests retiring, though, in the next several years. How will we fill those shoes?

Bishop Vásquez: Yes, we have many priests who will be retiring. Our priests have the option to retire at the age of 70. We also have priests who are or who may become seriously ill who cannot serve in a parish. What that means is we must be very proactive and very careful about cultivating vocations within our diocese.

Also we have invited priests from other countries or religious communities to serve in this diocese, which is also the case in many dioceses throughout the country. We could not take care of the 700,000 people in our diocese without the assistance of these extern priests, and we are going to continue to need them until we have sufficient vocations to the priesthood to take care of our own people.

Editor: How can the average Catholic in the pew help with this vocations crisis?

Bishop Vásquez: As Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” We too must pray for more priests and religious. Only God can move the hearts of men and women to consider the priesthood and religious life. So let us all pray that young men and women hear and respond generously to the Lord’s call to the priesthood and religious life.

Many parishes have established vocation ministry teams, which is a great way for the laity to be involved in promoting vocations at the parish level. I invite parents to talk about vocations with their children. When your children are very young talk to them about the saints and how they listened to the voice of God and responded to him. Ask your children about how God may be calling them to the priesthood or religious life. You don’t have to push, just bring it up now and then. I also invite everyone to get to know our priests. Help your children to see that our priests and religious, like everyone else, come from families, went to school, and enjoy sports, food and friends.

Editor: What is your prayer for our priests, both new and old?

Bishop Vásquez: I pray that all of us will live our priesthood joyfully and be faithful men of Jesus Christ, loving the Lord always. May others see in us the face of Christ in a compassionate, caring and loving way. May many more men be drawn to the priesthood through our example, good works and service to the people of God. Amen.