Many opportunities to explore vocations
Youth need many chances to look at religious life
By Sarah Malcore
There are some great things happening in the diocesan vocation office.
"The key to recruiting priests is personal invitation to consider the possibility of priesthood," according to Fr. Doug LeCaptain, vocations director for the Diocese of Green Bay. "Continued encouragement and invitation to youth to explore what the church has to offer is critical to the future of the church. I try to get young people thinking by asking questions at weekend liturgies, talks at schools and religious education classes, and career fairs."
Fr. Doug will ask questions such as "Have you ever considered being a Catholic priest?" "Is college seminary an option on your list?" "You are good speaker and seem to relate well to others, you'd make a great priest. Have considered priesthood?" "Who will be the next pastor in your parish?"
Besides direct questions, Fr. Doug uses several avenues to invite people to think about vocations.
Steppin' Right With Jesus is a popular daylong retreat for middle school aged youth held each summer. This event gives youth an opportunity to meet and spend time with priests and religious sisters for the day. Small groups, led by a priest or sister, participate in a wide variety of activities throughout the day.
"The kids put on skits, have small group prayer, hear some vocation stories, play games with other groups, participate in a church search, eat good food, and wrap up with a liturgy which the families of the youth are invited to," said Fr. Doug.
For high school to college age men, there are monthly Project Andrew Dinners at Bp. Banks' house. Priests invite young men from their parish who might be interested in hearing more about priesthood to join them at the bishop's house.
The dinner gives the young men an opportunity to hear why some priests choose priesthood, ask the bishop questions and share in prayer with other men asking about priesthood.
Called by Name is a lunch opportunity for young men and women, ages 18-35. Parishioners are invited to submit names of people whom they think might make good priests or religious.
The young people are invited to a lunch with BP. Banks and priests and religious sisters where they can hear more about priesthood and religious life. Then Fr. Doug and area religious vocation directors follow-up with the young person based on their interest. Called by Name takes place every other year, but Fr. Doug welcomes names at any time. The next Called By Name luncheon will be in 2003.
After an initial introduction to priesthood or religious life though one of these programs or a parish or school presentation, Fr. Doug stresses the importance of follow-up.
"A young person must be invited and encouraged to stay active once they have shown interest," he said. "A guy interested in priesthood doesn't usually make the decision overnight. Most of the time, it takes two years. He may need to finish high school first, or maybe want to finish college and get some work experience."
Keep interest alive
The challenge for Fr. Doug is to keep interest alive during those years by providing opportunities to continue to meet and consider priesthood. Some of these opportunities include:
Seminary visits for young men interested in attending either St. John Vianney College Seminary or Mundelein School of Theology. Fr. Doug says these are a great opportunity to see the schools first-hand, join in prayer with seminarians and tour the campus.
Fr. Doug also offers a "free lunch" to young men interested in having an individual meeting with him to ask questions and learn about options within the church.
Discernment groups are held periodically. "These consist of several men who have expressed interest and want to discuss different topics relating to priesthood," explained Fr. Doug. "It's a nice opportunity for men to connect with other men who are also thinking about priesthood and to keep the thought alive."
There is also the Life Directions Retreat on April 5-7 at Mount Tabor Center in Menasha. (See related story, Which direction is life going?).
Fr. Doug also encourages other retreats and diocesan events as ways for men to come together for prayer, fellowship and retreats. A good example is TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) weekends.
As vocations director for the diocese, Fr. Doug is always working to come up with new and creative ways to reach young people about religious life.
On the air
"Our latest addition to the general recruitment program are radio commercials," he said. "We have made three new ones with the help of some seminarians. They will be run during Vocations Awareness Week" (Jan. 13-19).
Fr. Doug is excited about the work being done in the vocation office. "I feel that the future of vocations looks positive. There are some good men looking at the prospect of priesthood and at other serving opportunities within the church."