LUDLOW, Mass. (NCRegister.com) — On Jan. 1, 2005, the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., initiated adoration for vocations in a chapel at Christ the King parish in Ludlow. The 350 people who signed up for 24-7 adoration were asked to pray specifically for vocations.
“When we started that program we had seven seminarians. Today we have 25,” said diocesan vocation director Father Gary Dailey. And four women have entered religious life. “I attribute our increase to the power of prayer in the adoration chapel.”
Because prayer for vocations does produce such results, some new initiatives to foster prayer for vocations are beginning, and already established programs remain strong.
The newest effort is the St. Michael Prayer Warriors in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. According to archdiocesan vocation director Father Kyle Schnippel, whose office is initiating this apostolate, it will be launched in September at its Call of the King Conference. But many individuals have already signed on.
The apostolate asks laity to pray at least one hour a month before the Blessed Sacrament for their archbishop and priests and for an increase in vocations to priesthood and religious life. Father Schnippel explained that while originally envisioned to be hours of Eucharistic adoration, St. Michael Prayer Warriors is flexible. Any group in a parish can pray together, and “it’s designed so it can be very easily used in families as well,” he stressed.
Members can get direction and prayer suggestions from the apostolate’s electronic newsletter, such as invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests. The vocation office offers Holy Hour programs with Scripture readings and Rosary meditations connected to vocations, adaptable for praying before the Eucharist or in the family setting.
“It’s not just one set hour of prayer, but also fasting and almsgiving that does it,” Father Schnippel explained.
One suggested fast for July was driving without air-conditioning and offering the suffering for the holiness of others. Another was for families to turn the TV off one night a week and spend time together praying the Rosary.
One month’s suggested almsgiving was a gas card for the pastor to use to visit the sick. Another was to give young people considering a religious vocation Catholic books and materials to help them discern.
Explaining the name of the apostolate, Father Schnippel said, “We wanted to have that conscious image of a strong character fighting the battle of faith, so we chose St. Michael the Archangel. He is the prince of the heavenly host, and we invoke his protection and guidance in the mandate to pray and to fight against the evil one in our world today.”
So good was the initial response, that the vocations office has sent information to the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors in hopes of seeing this apostolate spread throughout the country.
Programs of prayer are of the utmost importance, according to Father David Toups, associate director of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He pointed out the Dec. 8, 2007 letter from the Holy See’s Congregation for the Clergy and signed by its prefect, Cardinal Claudio Hummes. Titled “Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity,” it calls for perpetual adoration in every diocese worldwide.
The letter explains the intention of entrusting all priests to the Blessed Mother, the model of spiritual maternity, and calls for “a movement of prayer, placing 24-hour continuous Eucharistic adoration at the center so that a prayer of adoration, thanksgiving, praise, petition and reparation will be raised to God”— with the primary intention of awakening vocations to the priesthood.
Any woman, religious or lay, young or old, married or single, can become a spiritual mother praying for priests and vocations. The letter offers inspiring examples of spiritual motherhood, from saintly sisters (including St. Thérèse of Lisieux) to the story of the tiny rural village of Lu in northern Italy.
There, in 1881, mothers met one day a week to pray at adoration for vocations in their families. They received Communion on the first Sunday of every month for that intention. By 1946, 323 vocations —152 priests and 171 nuns — came from that village.
Father Toups said that Pope Benedict XVI, during his recent trip to the United States, “mentioned specifically the need to teach our young children how to pray, for unless they know the voice of the Good Shepherd through prayer, they will never be able to hear him calling them to a particular vocation in the Church.
“A starting point is helping our young people become disciples, to be young men and women of prayer to hear the call God has for their life,” said Father Toups. He added that the traveling monstrance blessed by Pope John Paul II for adoration for vocations is a proven program.
“The program was supposed to go on for a year but obviously it’s three years now,” said Anne McCormack of the USA Council of Serra International.
Serra has coordinated scheduling of the monstrance for the USCCB to dioceses requesting it since the program began in 2005. To date, the monstrance has traveled over 120,000 miles to 88 dioceses in the continental United States.
The Archdiocese of Detroit welcomed the monstrance in 2006 and again in May 2008. “We feel prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is very central in promoting vocations and opening hearts and minds to God’s call,” said diocesan vocations coordinator Jan DeFour. As for noticeable results, she said, “This fall we will have 13 new men studying for the archdiocese. This will be one of the largest incoming classes in many years.”
Some dioceses have their own traveling monstrance. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has the very last monstrance to be blessed by John Paul II for this purpose. Dick and Terry Boldin head the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate, the official custodian of this monstrance under the guidance of Archbishop Timothy Dolan. More than 30,000 hours of adoration have been logged since October 2005.
“Seminarians numbers were very low then,” Dick Boldin said. “We’re now in the 30 range. And devotion to the Blessed Mother has increased.” Next spring, six new priests will be ordained.
These monstrances blessed by John Paul II originally came from Adoration for Vocations, a worldwide campaign sponsored by Vocation.com. David Craig, a regional head for the website in Connecticut, explained how the group gave John Paul 160 monstrances as a gift for his 50th anniversary in the priesthood, to be blessed and then taken to different countries or dioceses.
Some went to individual dioceses, another to the USCCB, which put Serra in charge of it. The Ludlow parish has yet another. Craig noted that parish is planning to build a larger adoration chapel because the current chapel is too small for the numbers coming to pray for vocations.
Observed Father Dailey: “The people feel they have an intimate part in the diocese regarding vocations.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.
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