May 11, 2011|The Long Island Catholic Vol. 50, No. 6 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. As I prayed during that day for all the mothers of our diocese, I had a special experience of parental love at Our Lady of Grace Parish in West Babylon. It was my privilege to give First Holy Communion to three youngsters and to confirm nine young people, all of whom have special needs. There is such an intense atmosphere of mutual love at occasions like this. For their parents these children were unexpected gifts. While there always are challenges in raising children, there is a return of love for love that is so palpable that I felt blessed simply to be there. Msgr. Vincent Rush, the pastor, and his catechists have worked with the parents and these young people to make the day a glorious one in which God poured forth His life and His Spirit into the hearts of one and all. How blessed we all are by this meeting of divine and human love in the sacramental life of the Church!
There are many unexpected gifts for us as men and women of faith. Our families, our friends, our Church are all blessings that constantly shape and enrich our lives. For them we must always be grateful. One of the unexpected gifts that enrich a family is the gift of a vocation to priesthood or religious life. When I was young, there was an upsurge of religious and priestly vocations across the United States. It was common for families to pray regularly that God would bless that family with a daughter who would enter religious life or a son who would become a brother or a priest. I recall in my own parish a statue of the Blessed Mother that went from home to home. When she arrived at your house, the whole family gathered to pray the rosary for vocations.
Today that may not be as common as it was 50 years ago. However the need for vocations is as great or greater today as it was in the past. While the majority of sisters and brothers of apostolic life in our country used to be in education or hospital work, today they have expanded their apostolic endeavors into every aspect of Church and societal life. They are as much a blessing to the Church of today as they were to the Church of yesterday. In a sense they become more precious because they are fewer. Yet who could deny that an increase in their number would do anything but bring greater benefit to the Church and to society as a whole?
Next Sunday is the annual observance of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In his message, which can be found on the Vatican website, www.vatican.va, Pope Benedict tells us that we find “a radiant source of inspiration” to pray and encourage vocations in Jesus Himself who spent the night in prayer before calling His disciples to follow Him. “He invites them to become His friends, to listen attentively to His word and to live with Him. He teaches them complete commitment to God and to the extension of His kingdom in accordance with the law of the Gospel …”
The example of the One who instituted the priesthood on the night before He died should inspire us to become men and women who pray for vocations to priesthood and religious life, who encourage young men and women to consider the possibility that God may be calling them to the great spiritual adventure of a life totally dedicated to God in lives of loving service to His people, His Church on earth.
From the beginning our diocese has always had many more lay faithful than the number of priests needed “for the preaching of the Gospel and the pastoral care of the people.” We have been blessed that so many priests from Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America have volunteered to come here and work in this vineyard of the Lord. However, every local diocese should be able to cooperate with God’s plan in such a way that native priests might come from the families of the local Church. As one who has come to know the goodness of the persons and families of our diocese, I cannot believe that there are not more vocations to priesthood and religious life among our young people and within our families in the parishes of Long Island.
That is why I do not hesitate to join the Holy Father on this coming Sunday, World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to ask every person and every family to pray for vocations to priesthood and religious life for this Diocese of Rockville Centre. We have an exceptional vocation director in Father Brian Barr, who is assisted by the four priests who are chaplains in our three diocesan high schools and St. Anthony’s High School. We have the example of religious brothers and sisters in the other Catholic high schools, all of whom are dedicated to encouraging vocations. We have a seminary system, beginning with the college residence of the Immaculate Conception in the Brooklyn Diocese and continuing with the major Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington. The Holy Father has instructed me and my brother bishops “to foster priestly and religious vocations as much as possible.” Whenever I meet with confirmation candidates I always urge them to consider a vocation and be open to God’s call. I pray daily for vocations and promise you I will never cease to do whatever I can so that the People of God of this diocese will be served by faithful, loving men and women of God.
Pope Benedict reminds us that “the ability to foster vocations is a hallmark of the vitality of a local Church.” I urge one and all this Sunday and every day of the year to join me in a constant prayer of vocations to priesthood and religious life for the good of our diocese to the glory of God and the pastoral care of you, the beloved people whom God has called into this Church of Jesus Christ.
In this month of Mary, turn to her and ask her intercession. Learn from her in her faithful and constant openness to heed the call of God. Ask her to help young people to have the courage and the generosity to say “Yes” as she did. And show to our priests and religious, our young men and women, members of our families and our parishes, that a vocation to serve God by serving His people is a gift we all treasure, an unexpected gift that brings new life and new love to all who share in the blessed wonder of His call, “Come, follow me.”