How to Organize a Parish Vocation Committee

By Noli Nolasco

        When Virginia Thompson asked me to make this presentation, my first impulse was to say NO because really I do not have enough experience to be telling people how to organize a group much less a vocation committee. So I would like you to look at my talk more like me relating of what we went through starting a vocation committee rather than giving you advice on how to start one.

        Early this year, we managed to set up a Religious Vocation Committee at St. Bernadette. Thanks to the efforts of a handful of committed people. It was a long process.

        This all started for me sometime in the late 90's, when I volunteered to be one of the chaperones for our servers to a Serra Club picnic for altar servers held at St. Mary Seminary on Memorial Drive. This was my first contact with the Serra Club.

        Although I have brought my sons to previous Altar Servers picnics, I wasn't really aware of the people behind the event. A good friend, Deacon Bob Rumford, was our head chaperone and he suggested to me that maybe I should consider joining the club and get our parish represented. Suggestion like that is difficult to ignore because God might be speaking to you through the good Deacon and you are saying NO? Beside I thought of it as one good unique way to serve the parish and make a difference. So I joined the Bay Area Serra Club.

        At Serra Club, I met and came to know a bunch of people who are extraordinarily enthusiastic about promoting religious vocation (sometimes much too enthusiastic!) With these people inspiring you, how can you not do your share of promoting Vocation? I then thought of initiating a Vocations group at St Bernadette. One parishioner who responded warmly to the idea was a good friend and a pious lady who we all know, Ms. Virginia Thompson. She became a Serra member through my invitation.

        Fast-forward to October '03, Virginia (who's also was a member of the Pastoral Council at St. Bernadette) and I tried to bring together a handful of interested parishioners for an informal discussion meeting. Unfortunately individual schedules and some other reasons did not allow this to materialize. After several tries, the plan just slipped away.

        One year later, in October 04, Virginia and   I revived the effort. This time we were lucky with a new set of 10 potential collaborators. We gathered for several discussion and brain-storming meetings. You could see enthusiasm in each session. Our Pastor was made aware of every meeting we had and knew what was happening. In January 05, we presented to him our program. After a few meetings with him and some mandated revisions, he approved our plan and recognized us as a legitimate parish ministry. He got the Carmelite Order's Director of Vocation for the Midwest (resident in Houston) to be our adviser. A very smart move! He needs to serve the interest of his order, too.

        Talking about ‘God's timing, Not our timing': The creation of our committee jived in with the start of the Archdiocese Campaign on Vocation for Priesthood and Religious Life. No wonder we could not get it started much earlier; God wanted it to start at the same time as the Archdiocese campaign.   This way, we could avail of the workshops it offered and provided us additional boost for this fledgling project.

        There were eventually eight active members of what we finally designated to be the Religious Vocations Committee of St. Bernadette (One member is the chairperson of the current Pastoral Council and two are previous members). Each get to choose a particular activity or part of the program closest to his or her heart and be responsible for it. We meet every third Monday of the month.

        The programs that have been approved for us to undertake are in a spreadsheet . Some are already existing and some are in the works.

The Prayer Program

  • Making available special laminated individual vocation prayer sheet available at the church at all times;
  • Mention of vocations at daily and weekend masses;
  • Mention of vocations in Eucharistic Adorations;
  • Prayer for vocation at all levels of CCE; and
  • For family prayer, we were going to copy St. Hyacinth's model of the Roving Chalice program; something that was shown us by Rodney Preuit, where volunteer families bring home for one week a special chalice and pray for vocation but we were disapproved because of the logistics involved. However, we might still bring it up again once when we have proven ourselves;

The Education Program

  • Religious Panel Presentation—we are in the loop of Serra's program of Religious Panel presentations. We had two last year;
  • Resource Library. Aside from resource materials for vocation to Priesthood and Religious Life, we are also making available materials promoting holiness in the family; and
  • We are looking at using the Boy Scout Religious Emblem Program as part of the effort to promote Vocations.

Promotion and Awareness

  • We make available posters and brochures at the church' vestibule and other strategic places around the church both from the Archdiocese and from Religious Orders;
  • Parish Bulletin articles—we make use of short attention-grabbing quips and bumper-sticker wordings which we try to make available in weekly edition of the bulletin. Things like—

    • Simplify your wardrove, consider the priesthood
    • Fight evil, wear a cape—consider the priesthood
    • The priesthood doesn't pay much but the retirement benefits are out of this world
    • The Lord expects great things of you! consider the priesthood

Encouragement, Sponsorship, and Invitation

  • Identification of people adults and kids who have leaning toward consecrated life and praying for them. An example is the Pray-over Book-box
  • Organizing tours of seminaries and novitiates
  • Children Essay Contest
  • Altar Servers' Picnic
  • World Youth Day
  • Explore for Boys
  • Insight for Girls
  • Life Awareness for Adults
  • Andrew & Mirriam Project

Support and Affirmation

  • Our priests are greeted and given gift on their special days as a show of the parish's appreciation

Annual Events

  • National Vocation Awareness Week
  • World Day of Prayer for Vocation.

        Our committee has full support of the parish hierarchy and enthusiasm is there.   That's what I think keeps everybody inspired and keep us going.

        Our mission is to foster a Culture of Vocation in the parish. This means we do not only promote priesthood and religious life, but also the other vocations God is calling us to: Holy Family Life and Life as a Holy Single Person. In doing this, we will create an environment in the community which will make priesthood and other consecrated life an attractive proposition to people young and old alike.

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