Guest article by Seminarian Brian H. Baker, S.T.B. for Monsignor David’s column :
Forming a Culture of Priestly Vocations
When praying together as the Universal Church for the guidance of the Holy Spirit among our Cardinals in Conclave, we are fulfilling a fundamental duty as co-workers in the vineyard: to pray for the needs of the Church. The Lord affirms for us that, “the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few,” and then he exhorts us to “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Lk 10:2).
Accordingly, this parish community’s heartfelt prayers for vocations to ordained ministry have been heard by the master of the harvest and he has responded by sending us laborers. We already joyfully boast of the number and quality of our permanent deacons, making our parish a shining witness to the renewal of this stable ecclesiastical ministry that dates back to earliest Christian community, as seen in the Acts of the Apostles. We have most recently celebrated the ordination of Deacon Tom Sandusky. And now, we are about to be blessed even further with a very unique privilege.
In three consecutive months, our parish community will celebrate the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders as the three ranks that comprise this Sacrament will be conferred on three of Saint Brigid’s very own. In April, our beloved pastor will receive the order of bishop, making him a successor of the Apostles. In May, yours humbly will receive the order of deacon as a transitional ministry leading to priesthood (next year), and in June, Deacon Dennis Jr. will receive the order of presbyter and become a priest of Jesus Christ for eternity. This is a rare and special situation to have happen in one moment in the same parish community, but it is no mere “coincidence” that comes by way of random chance. The Lord teaches us that, “by their fruits you will know them” (Mt 7:20). This beautiful harmony of events is nothing less than the fruit of the prayers and devotion of this community, so dedicated to supporting vocations to ordained ministry.
“I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will shepherd you wisely and prudently” (Jer 3:15-16)
We can always be certain that the blessings we receive are unmerited and gratuitous gifts from God’s loving initiative. But we must also be aware of our duty to ask for and cooperate with his grace. The Lord has promised that he will send us shepherds, but he charges us with a duty to pray for this blessing and he will never circumvent our role. This truth is especially pertinent today as we continue to suffer as a Church from the lack of young men responding to God’s call to be his priest. Saint Brigid has been responding to the Lord’s mandate. Our reverent celebrations of the Holy Mass, the large and growing attendance at daily Masses, our perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and our well-run Elijah Cup ministry are just a few examples of the prayer life at Saint Brigid that supports ordained ministry. Thus, we are blessed with two “home-grown” seminarians while many parishes have none. But our work has only just begun as there are many boys and young men in this community who have been given a priestly vocation by God and need our encouragement and prayers to discover and respond to that call.
God calls his priests from the moment of their creation at conception (see Jer 1:5) and he never changes this call because in his perfect wisdom, he knows the perfect vocation for each of us. Yet, any seminarian or priest will tell you that he was not able to find his vocation to the priesthood without being encouraged personally to listen for God’s call and then receiving many prayers in order to hear and respond. We must continue to talk about priestly vocations openly and pray for them fervently. While we are doing a good job of this at Saint Brigid, our work thus far in the vineyard of the Lord and the fruit that this work has already born is only evidence of the richness of the harvest that awaits. This work takes great effort and dedication on behalf of everyone. On the part of families with young boys and young men, this takes great courage and trust in the Lord.
Each of us can help to create a culture of priestly vocations by our prayers for, and encouragement of, boys and young men. If we do so, we can be sure that the master of the abundant harvest will send us an abundance of laborers.
The opportunity to write this article for Msgr. David’s column allows me also to share with you some joyful news. As I alluded to above, Archbishop Gregory has called me to be ordained as a transitional deacon on May 25 of this year at the Cathedral of Christ the King! My first diaconal service at Mass (including my first homily!) will be Sunday May 26, here at St. Brigid, at the 10:45 AM and 5 PM Life Teen Masses. I want to personally thank all of you of St. Brigid parish as you have truly become my family in Christ. I would not have been able to get to this point without your prayers and love. In the same light, please continue to pray for me. I need those graces now more than ever before as I prepare to receive Holy Orders. Please know that you all remain in my prayers daily.