New efforts under way to help educate Catholic youths and young adults about vocation awareness in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and nationwide have started to foster more callings to the priesthood in recent years. According to the Catholic World Report, in 2015 there was a 25 percent increase in ordinations to the priesthood with 595 men being ordained, up from 477 the previous year.
In the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Fathers Steve Davoren and Samuel Ward of the archdiocesan Office for Vocations have noticed a rise locally in vocations.
“We’ve seen an uptick in trends in Los Angeles for the last five years,” said Father Davoren, director of vocations for the archdiocese. “Juan Diego House and St. John’s Seminary average 20 men a year.”
God is calling men from all walks of life to the seminary, he said. Recent high school graduates, college students and men who have had successful careers are answering the call to the priesthood. Some seminarians have left behind lucrative careers in air traffic control, the music industry, nursing and even writing for the Hollywood entertainment industry, to name a few.
“There is great hope for men entering the seminary,” said Father Ward, associate director for vocations. “There are a lot of people who are on the bench ready to serve.”
Fathers Davoren and Ward, both of whom spoke with Angelus News, concurred that men interested in discerning priestly or religious life are being guided by the Holy Spirit.
“They are ordinary men who are called to an extraordinary life,” explained Father Ward. “They love Christ and Our Lady. They are men of faith.”
The archdiocesan Office for Vocations has implemented several new programs in recent years aimed at helping increase vocations.
“We have expanded the nets to young adults, in general, with speakers, praise and worship programs. We have planted the seeds,” said Father Davoren.
BEACON is a program that invites young men to visit the seminary. The visit includes a vigil Mass, dinner and praise and worship service, inviting men to grow in faith and, possibly, consider a vocation.
Another tool the archdiocese is using to help both young men and women examine a calling to the priesthood or religious life is through discernment groups. The discernment groups each meet once a month in all five pastoral regions of the archdiocese: Our Lady of the Angels, San Pedro, Santa Barbara, San Gabriel and San Fernando.
“The monthly discernment group is an opportunity for people to come together for meals, reflection, prayer, support and adoration,” said Father Ward.
In addition, the Office for Vocations worked with the department of Catholic schools to implement FOCUS 11, which is intended to help open the minds and hearts of elementary school and high school students — specifically those around age 11 and those in 11th grade — to the concept of vocation. Research indicates that youths in these age and grade groups are especially open to considering priestly or religious vocations. The inaugural FOCUS 11 activities were held earlier this year.
The archdiocese is also working with campus ministry programs at Catholic high schools to promote vocations, and with Newman Centers at Catholic universities. In addition, the annual Religious Education Congress offers a Youth Day for youths and young adults interested in learning more about their faith.
Lastly, the Office for Vocations has designed a Parish Vocation Plan for all archdiocesan parishes to begin a dialogue about vocations within their communities and how to identify young men who may have the potential for priestly vocations.
Parish vocation resources for confirmation coordinators and youth ministers are also available online at www.lavocations.org.