Almost exactly two years ago, in this column, I shared with you two goals that my leadership team and I had set for our diocese for the next five years. One goal centered around increasing the number of missionary disciples in our diocese and the other goal centered around increasing the number of seminarians. Brothers and sisters, there is some very good news to report about our vocations goal to call forth and form 30 seminarians to be missionary leaders in the priesthood by 2025. The Lord is hearing your prayers!
You may also remember that, on March 19, 2020, here in the Diocese of Green Bay, we began a year dedicated to St. Joseph. Before our diocesan Year of St. Joseph concluded, Pope Francis declared that 2021 would also be dedicated to St. Joseph as we recognize the 150th anniversary of his being named patron of the universal church.
Over the past 18 months, then, we have prayed our diocesan Prayer to St. Joseph. Among the intentions of this prayer is a request to St. Joseph for his assistance with vocations:
“With Mary, you raised Jesus the High Priest.
“You know our need for priests.
“Please raise up good and holy priests from our families to serve the people of our diocese.
“May our children and grandchildren hear and say ‘yes’ to the call of Jesus, just as you and Mary did.”
Has St. Joseph ever been at work in this last school year! Last year, five young men entered our new pre-seminary studies year in the diocese. They lived at the Holy Name of Jesus House of Formation at the former convent at St. Matthew Church in Allouez. During this “Kairos Year,” these young men spent time praying and living in community, learning to listen and respond to God’s call for them. I am pleased to report that all five of those men have decided to move forward and apply to the seminary. They have all been accepted and are now beginning their studies in the next few days! In addition, this year another seven young men are beginning their Kairos Year.
I have noticed over the years that St. Joseph always answers prayers so quietly and so completely that he often goes beyond our expectations. Since all of you started praying for an increase in “yesses” to the vocation to the priesthood, through the intercession of St. Joseph, a little over a year and a half ago, 12 young men are now engaged in seminary and pre-seminary studies, leaving us with a total of 17 men in formation! These men were not here before we started the prayer!
God is very much walking with us, and St. Joseph is hearing our needs and helping our priests to grow in holiness and in their care for you and for one another. I believe that he is also helping our fathers of families to grow in the understanding of their natural fatherhood over their family. All of this is great news and speaks to the power of prayer.
My brothers and sisters, here is the prayer to St. Joseph, just in case you may have forgotten to pray it or do not have handy access to it. We will complete the Year to St. Joseph this Dec. 8, so I invite you to continue to pray to St. Joseph. Now is also a good time to ask him for your personal intentions. We know he is listening!
Good St. Joseph, pray for us.
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.