Fr. James Baron
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Forming vocations within our homes

By Father Jim Baron

Once upon a time in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, there were only two seminarians studying for the priesthood. Whenever a young Catholic male expressed interest in learning more about a vocation to the priesthood, there was great rejoicing in all the land, even if he never applied to the seminary. Ordinations were rare but joyful occasions. The likelihood of a priest shortage seemed more real as more and more priests neared the age of retirement.

But over time, thanks to the faithful service of many priests, the support of Catholic families, a few successful altar server programs, and many, many prayers of vocations teams and parishes, things started to change. More and more men heard the call and decided to respond. And now, in June of 2023, we see even more abundant fruits of the labor of many in the field of vocations. Just in the last month, three men were ordained to the transitional diaconate and one was ordained to the priesthood. Next year, God willing, our diocese will have three men ordained to the priesthood!

This fall, we may have up to 17 (!) men in seminary formation for the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Almost a fourth of those men in their first year. Praise God! We have been blessed with so many men, most of them sons from our very own parishes, responding with generosity and courage to serve the Church. We also thank their families, pastors, and fellow Catholics in helping encourage their discernment. With the quality of men in seminary formation, there is great hope and a bright future for the Church in our diocese. These men, God willing, will continue the selfless and sacrificial work of the many priests who have served before them. Thanks to the generosity of such men, who have given all to follow the Lord, we will continue to have the Gospel preached, souls joined to Christ in baptism, sins forgiven in reconciliation, the Eucharist given at Mass, the sick anointed, the faith preached, parishes shepherded, and Christ proclaimed, all right here in our diocese.

It is no secret that we need the gift of the priesthood. Especially in these years of Eucharist Revival, we are humbled by the fact that the greatest gift ever given to the Church, the Eucharist, passes through the hands of a priest. If we don’t have priests, we won’t have the Eucharist. And so we not only rejoice in the vocations God is calling forth from our diocese, but we also recommit to fostering local priestly vocations so that our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren can receive the sacraments. We are a growing diocese and the needs of the worldwide Church remind us that our task of nourishing the openness to God’s call in each of our children’s hearts is never done. Each of us must be generous and intentional in cultivating the soil that can yield many priestly vocations.

How can we do this? The first place is in the family. A seminary is a place where a priestly vocation is discerned. But a vocation is first formed in the home. The family is a pre-seminary. There are three key things a family can do to help their children discern God’s call to any vocation. The first is to be intentional about family and personal prayer. Parents must both model and teach their children prayer that is both intimate and personal. The second is to develop habits of family service. Have common works of mercy that the family does together. This helps develop a sense of Christian responsibility for others. The third is to offer hospitality to others. Invite other families, the clergy, neighbors in need, into the home and love them through simple hospitality. A lot of good comes from moments like these.

On a parish level, never be afraid to ask a young man if he has ever considered a vocation to the priesthood. Let him know you think he may be a good priest someday and that you are praying for him. Maybe offer to join a vocations team at your parish. Or encourage boys to serve at the altar. The St. Serra Club is also a wonderful organization dedicated to supporting vocations.

Of course, encouraging a man to discern God’s call to the priesthood is the crucial first step. But then comes actually applying for and entering the seminary. But as a local church we have a responsibility of stewardship to help make sure these young men are financially able to pursue this vocation. That is why our diocese places a high priority on seminarian support. Through the Diocesan Ministry Appeal and the upcoming Vocations Appeal, you can provide immediate support to seminarian formation, or long-term support through the Honoring Our Bishops Seminarian Support Fund endowment. Go to giving.diocs.org or contact the Office of Stewardship and Development to find out how you can support these men in their vocational discernment and formation.

Vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life, much like happy and holy marriages, are the fruit of a healthy Christian community. If we are faithful to the Gospel, which includes helping young people be able to prayerfully and willingly discern God’s call, then we should not be surprised when we see vocations. If we do not see vocations from our communities, we should pray for the necessary graces to cooperate with God’s call.

The Lord has a big job for his Church in our world today. And this job needs parishes and families up to the task. But these parishes and families will need the pastoral guidance and sacramental support of priests. In this month of the Sacred Heart, please be sure to pray for an increase in vocations from our own families and parishes. And pray that the men God is calling to serve him at the altar will have the trust and courage to answer that call!

(Father Jim Baron, who previously served as Director of Mission and Strategic Planning for the Diocese of Colorado Springs, was recently named Coordinator of Intellectual Formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, effective July 1.)

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