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 | By Emily Hurlimann

We can Help Plant the Seeds for Future Vocations

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Last year our family joyfully celebrated the priestly ordination of our son Jakob, along with Fathers Sam Bass and Fernando Ricaud. Although the path to ordination was different for each of them, research indicates the journey to priesthood often begins before high school. Also critical to discernment of a vocation is direct encouragement from those involved in the young person’s faith journey, notably: priests, parents, parishioners and educators.

In May Bishop Joe Vásquez ordained Deacon Matthew Jewell to the transitional diaconate, and, God-willing, will ordain him to the priesthood in 2024. However, in 2023, for the first time in 20 years, there is no priestly ordination in the Diocese of Austin. This should give each of us pause. 

In our diocese, there are currently 32 men studying to be priests, and at least 15 more men will enter formation beginning in June. However, Vocation Ministry’s 2023 State of Priestly Vocations suggests that a diocese our size should be ordaining at least seven men to the priesthood every year.

The Vocation Ministry report says the main reason young people do not consider the priesthood or consecrated life is because they have never been personally asked. We know that prayerful discernment often occurs after one receives supportive comments identifying traits of a good priest or religious sister. Often the most effective encouragement comes from priests, who are fewer in number and busier than ever, so it is becoming even more difficult for our priests to get to know the young people in their parish well enough to foster and guide vocations. 

Over the last year, our diocese has deliberately focused on promoting vocations. Fruits of these efforts include new Vocation Ministries in many parishes, a three-fold increase in the number of young people identified in January during Called by Name as having “qualities indicating a possible vocation” and significant increases in attendance at vocation discernment events sponsored by the diocesan Vocation Office.

Certainly, most Catholics support vocations, but we are nearing a point where our support needs to move beyond words. What can the average Catholic do to support vocations?

  • Pray! Personal and communal prayer are critical to increasing vocations. Plan to attend the Diocesan Holy Hour for Vocations on June 10 at 10 a.m. at St. Louis Parish in Austin. 
  • Join! Your parish should have a Vocation Ministry starting or in place – if it doesn’t, ask your pastor what you can do to get one going.
  • Observe and encourage! When you see young people in love with their faith and serving in ministries, invite them to discern if God may be calling them to priesthood or consecrated life.

As lay faithful we are called to nurture the soil and plant the seeds. God will actively grow vocations in those he has called. Visit to learn more!

Emily Hurlimann and her husband Dan are active promoters of vocations at their parish, St. Vincent de Paul in Austin, and for the diocese. They also enjoy camping trips and other travel now that both are retired. Their older son Father Jakob Hurlimann was ordained a priest on June 11, 2022, and younger son Thomas lives and works as an engineer in Florida.