Imagine enough priests to serve every parish in the Diocese of Green Bay. There would be more opportunities to attend Mass, receive the Eucharist and other sacraments. Catholics could reach out to more souls and share the good news. Through the one by One campaign we are hoping to make this a reality.
By 2025, Bishop Ricken has set a goal to call forth and form 30 seminarians to be missionary leaders in the priesthood. Fr. Mark Mleziva, vocation director for the Diocese of Green Bay, and Fr. Adam Bradley, assistant vocation director, are an integral part of reaching this goal. They have created a vocation planning group that meets bi-monthly to discuss awareness and outreach. “It is everyone’s responsibility to grow vocations to the priesthood,” said Fr. Mark. “We need to plant the seeds. Help families to understand the importance of a vocation.”
With more than 180 worship sites in the diocese, almost 25% are served by international priests that come to northeast Wisconsin on loan from dioceses around the world. While blessed to have these priests serving in parishes, the diocese needs to plan for the future. “We need the Lord present in our communities. Souls need to be ministered to, nourished and strengthened by our Lord. We need men from our diocese to consider becoming a priest,” said Fr. Mark. “In order to make this happen we need to do things differently. We need to reach out in innovative and compelling ways.”
Fr. Adam spends time talking with students and parents in parishes, schools and colleges. “Parents have to give their sons permission to be open to priesthood,” he said, “freedom to follow God’s plan as he calls them to greatness. To let them do what God desires in their lives – to pursue priesthood.”
College is one of the most formative experiences in the lives of many young people. During these years, young adults explore new ideas, career options and make life-defining decisions about their values and their life’s journey, explained Fr. Adam. These formative years shape the future of young leaders and are opportunities for campus ministries to play a pivotal role in the discernment of young adults to a life of ordained service to the church.
For Fr. Adam, he realized his call to the priesthood while attending UW-Oshkosh and spending time in prayer at the Newman Center. He was “discipled” by the campus chaplain and this helped open his heart to the amazing plans God had for his life, he said.
“When a young man begins to discern a vocation, we walk with and support him on this journey. Through one-to-one conversations we get to know what is in his heart and if the Lord is calling him to priesthood. This can happen quickly for some, but for others it can take several years,” said Fr. Mark. “The men we walk with know they want to give their life to something, to lay down their life for something. God is calling them.”
The journey to priesthood is not easy, the vocation director said. A young man enters the seminary after completing his undergraduate degree in philosophy. While in the seminary, he serves in a parish, studies, prays and is being formed for ministry. Seminary costs about $38,000 per year for each seminarian. While the annual Seminarian Collection raises about $1 million each year, it is not enough to cover the expenses for 30 seminarians. “These men need our prayers and gifts,” the vocation director said.
“To reach our goal of 30 seminarians we have a lot more work to do. We have to strengthen our ability to attract, train and care for men discerning a vocation. Through the one by One campaign we are hoping to support this goal,” said Fr. Mark. “This campaign will provide our diocese with additional funding and greater opportunities to be present in the places where those who are considering a vocation live, study and pray.”
The vocation directors explained that the church is molded into a community of faith by those men who are called to ordained service to the church. Through support of the one by One campaign, Catholics ensure the ongoing financial support of those in priestly formation and the future of the local church, they added. To learn how to help today, visit the one by One campaign website at one.catholicfoundationgb.org.