National Vocation Awareness Week
November 5-11, 2023
“The way Jesus shows you is not easy. Rather, it is like a path winding up a mountain. Do not lose heart! The steeper the road, the faster it rises towards ever wider horizons.” St. John Paul II
RESOURCES FOR MASS
VOCATION-THEMED HOMILY IDEAS
HOMILY HELPS: People Love a Good Story
- Tell a story of a moment when you realized the value of your priesthood, perhaps during Confession or the Anointing of the Sick.
- Describe how you were inspired by the example of a priest, brother, or sister when you were younger.
- Recount a wedding you witnessed that stood out because of the love and devotion of the couple.
- Describe how you felt when you were ordained and celebrated your first Mass.
- Tell the story of how a family was blessed by having a child who became a priest, sister, or brother.
First Reading: Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10
In the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet sharply reproaches the priests and leaders of the Israelites for their laxity and indifference toward God their Creator.
The vocation angle: The “obedience of faith” is not just believing certain religious ideas are true, but shaping our entire lives in accordance with those truths. This gets very practical when applied to our vocations. If I give my whole life to God, what exactly does He want me to do? And if I am called to leadership in the Church, will I respond faithfully?
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13
St. Paul tenderly recalls his hard work in Thessalonica, and rejoices in the people’s response.
The vocation angle: St. Paul loved the Thessalonians “as a nursing mother cares for her children.” Celibate priests, sisters, and brothers do not live loveless lives! Rather, like parents, they are filled with love toward their spiritual children, rejoicing when they grow into maturity in Christ.
Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12
The Pharisees preach but do not practice, lording over those they lead. Jesus calls us instead to humble service: “The greatest among you must be your servant.”
The vocation angle: In the Christian life, there are different calls, but not different classes. The Father assigns differing roles, but has the same love for each of His children. Thus the question is not, “How can I rise above?” but “Who can I humbly serve?” In the best marriages, spouses put each other first. The best priests make parishioners their priority. The holiest nuns and brothers “do small tasks with great love.” The key to discovering one’s vocation is casting aside the quest for status and focusing on service. After all, one of the titles of the Pope himself is “the Servant of the Servants of God.”
PRAYERS OF THE FAITHFUL
During National Vocation Awareness Week, we ask the Holy Spirit to renew the Church with more vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. We pray to the Lord.
For Catholic educators, that they can inspire students to remain open to God’s call for their lives. We pray to the Lord.
That young men from our parish will respond to the Church’s tremendous need for priests. We pray to the Lord.
That young men and women in our parish will seriously consider making vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in religious life. We pray to the Lord.
That Christian parents, as they live their own vocations to marriage, will encourage their children to consider a priestly or religious vocation. We pray to the Lord.
For the priests and religious who have served our parish and have passed from this life, especially <names>, that the Lord grant them eternal happiness. We pray to the Lord.
Today begins Vocation Awareness Week
As Catholics, we firmly believe that God has a plan for our lives! He calls some to marriage, some to the priesthood, and others to religious life or to live as generous single people. Fully living our own vocations—and teaching young people how to discern God’s call—is a serious duty, but also a joyful one.
During this week, please encourage the young people in your life—children, grandchildren, students, and friends—to be open if God calls them to priesthood or religious life.
Everyone Has a Divine Vocation
“Jesus has a specific task in life for each and every one of us. Each one of us is hand-picked, called by name by Jesus! There is no one among us who does not have a divine vocation! Some are called audibly by God, but the usual kind of call is internal, through the inner working of the Spirit.” ~Homily by Pope Saint John Paul II
All-new for Nov 5-11 2023!
Inspirational stories, awesome photos, and solid info on vocations, giving Catholics in the pew a fresh perspective on the priesthood and consecrated life. Stories include:
- Vocations and student debt
- The 180-day discernment challenge
- Seminaries in the US
- Reaching teens about vocations
- 50 years of fatherly advice
There is also a DIGITAL VERSION of the bulletin insert for National Vocations Awareness Week.
Each order also comes with a free Priest Resource Page, which contains vocations-related themes for the readings, homily ideas, bulletin items, prayers of the faithful, and more!
RESOURCES FOR YOUTH
Vocation Curriculum Packet • Grades K-8
Equip Catholic schools and parish DREs with everything they need to effectively teach vocations in grades K-8. The packet includes worksheets for every grade plus other great classroom resources. Now includes The Unsolvable Problem by Mother Clare, CFR! Everything is presented in a sturdy 9×12 folder.
Vocation Curriculum Packet • High School
Robust vocations curriculum for Catholic high schools! Equip Catholic teachers (and parish Confirmation catechists) with everything they need to effectively teach vocations. Includes the Learn to Discern 40-page workbook for teens, plus several more resources. Everything is presented in a sturdy 9×12 folder.
ONLINE VOCATION LESSONS CURRICULUM
K-12 CURRICULUM FOR SCHOOLS & RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
If your diocese, parish, or school subscribes to Vocation Lessons, you’ll have access to age-appropriate material for every grade.
• Hearing God’s Call
• Christian Marriage
• The Priesthood
• Consecrated Life
Includes games, activities, reading selections, and much more. All 100% online. The goal is inspire Catholic students to appreciate each vocations and remain open to God’s call.
FREE DOWNLOAD – VOCATION WORKSHEET
Our Children’s Vocation Worksheets are used by hundreds of parishes and schools.
- Helps kids pray for people they know – priests, brothers, sisters, and married people.
- Includes a simple lesson plan for teachers on the back page.
- Original illustrations by fine artist Bernadette Carstensen
Or purchase grade-specific Vocation Worksheets for Pre-K, Grades 1-2, Grades 3-4, or Grades 5-6
ONLINE VERSION OF ‘VOCATION NIGHTS’
FIVE VOCATION-THEMED YOUTH MINISTRY MEETINGS
Access the newly-updated guide to help youth ministers lead easy-to-prepare but super effective meetings, including:
• Vocation Movie Nights
• Discernment Holy Hour
• Saint Stories
• Ongoing Discernment Groups
YOUNG ADULT VOCATION DISCERNMENT GROUPS
Discernment groups for young adults are the single most effective short-term method for ushering men and women into seminary or religious formation.
Consider partnering with nearby parishes to run a priestly discernment group for men and a religious life discernment group for women.
Both groups are structured as book-study groups, with excellent books and ready-made discussion guides. Seven meetings per semester help participants dive deep into a “diligent discernment.”
Many thanks to OSV for underwriting the entire cost of Melchizedek Project materials.
PARISH COMMUNICATION ON VOCATIONS
PARISH WEBSITE CONTENT
Consider adding a special page about vocations to your parish website.
THE VOCATION BASICS
“Vocation” means “call.” As Catholics, we believe God calls individuals to fulfill certain roles in the Church, both for their own holiness, and the good of the entire Body of Christ.
Holiness is Our Common Goal
Holiness is everyone’s primary vocation. Holiness means trying to be like Jesus. It means being a “whole” person: striving for virtue, avoiding sin, and living a life of love.
After the decision to follow Christ and seriously pursue holiness, your vocation is the most important decision in life.
Most people are called to marriage—to wholeheartedly love their spouses and to joyfully welcome children. The purpose of marriage is for a man and woman to help each other get to heaven, and to teach their children to do the same. Like any vocation, marriage must be discerned, not assumed.
Both men and women can join religious orders such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, etc. The life and work of religious orders varies greatly—some are primarily devoted to prayer; others work actively in schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc. Common to all religious orders are the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Priests bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus through preaching and the sacraments. Priests are very active as they counsel people, teach classes, prepare homilies, administer parishes, and much more. Many surveys show that priests are among the happiest people in the world! Deacons, too, share in the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Dedicated Single Life
Some people serve God as single people, without marrying or making special vows. While not a “vocation” in a strict theological sense, single people “contribute greatly to the good of the human family” (CCC 2231). “Some live their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion” (CCC 1658). There are many single people who serve the Church with incredible generosity.
“Each of you has a personal vocation which He has given you for your own joy and sanctity. When a person is conquered by the fire of His gaze, no sacrifice seems too great to follow Him and give Him the best of ourselves. This is what the saints have always done, spreading the light of the Lord … and transforming the world into a welcoming home for everyone.” ~
How Parents Can Foster Vocations
Imagine asking your son what he wants to be when he grows up, and he answers, “I want to be a priest!” What would your reaction be? Would you be worried or elated—or somewhere in between?
The truth is that God has a plan for each of your children; he wants them to be happy even more than you do! And their true happiness is found in discovering God’s plan for their lives—their vocation—and following it wholeheartedly.
So if you’re truly concerned about your children’s well-being, it makes sense to help them discern their vocations, whether to marriage, priesthood, or religious life. Here are some simple ways to foster openness to God’s call.
1. Snuggle up and read a story. Sometimes the simplest ideas are best! Add some books about famous saints to your bedtime reading. There are dozens of fascinating, age-appropriate stories of saints who were priests and religious. There’s even a comic book about St. John Paul II as a child!
2. Watch a better movie. When it’s time for family movie night, take a pass on Spy Kids 4 and check out A Mission to Love (the life of St. John Bosco). There are tons of other Catholic films that depict heroic and interesting priests and religious. The conversation afterwards is far more meaningful than which explosion was the biggest!
3. Set the record straight. Media depictions of dating and sexuality are often opposed to authentic love. So when a TV show sends the wrong message, set the record straight about what leads to real happiness. Especially around teens, defend the sacrament of marriage.
4. Play dress up! Just as children “play house” and pretend to be moms and dads, help them imagine the life of a priest, brother, or sister. A sheet or towel can serve as a sister’s habit. A Ritz cracker makes a good host for Mass. This kind of play normalizes what can otherwise seem to be an “other-worldly” vocation. Plus it’s a lot of fun!
5. Pray from the heart. In your family prayers, pray for more priests and religious. Let your kids hear you praying for their futures. “Lord, watch over Simon today and give him the grace to grow up to be a strong man of God. Keep him close to You, always in Your perfect will.”
6. Talk about vocations. Speak openly about vocations to marriage, priesthood, and religious life. From the earliest age, make it clear that happiness in life is following God’s plan. Tell kids that priests have an awesome job because they bring us the sacraments. Teach them that religious brothers and sisters make special vows to live like Jesus.
7. Befriend priests & religious. Invite a priest, sister, or brother to dinner at your home. Personal relationships are key. When kids are comfortable around Fr. John or Sister Margaret, they’re far more likely to be comfortable with the idea of a priestly or religious vocation when they grow older.
An Open Attitude
If your child expresses interest in the priesthood or religious life, be supportive. If you’re excited, don’t push too hard. If you’re apprehensive, trust in God’s plan. The best thing you can say is, “Whatever God wants for you, I want for you, too.”
Joy Mixed with Reluctance
Many Catholic parents have some reluctance about their children becoming priests or religious—at least at first. Typically, parents’ concerns fade as they witness their child’s vocation mature, and his or her happiness grow.
Parents Speak Their Minds
“When my little boy plays Mass, it brings joy to my heart. His older sisters play along, even though they’re trying not to laugh. Who knows if he’ll ever be a priest? It’s just great that his little heart is in the right place. I love that.” ~ Amanda C.
“It almost broke my heart when Julie joined the convent. But when I visited her a year later, I could see the happiness and joy just radiating from her. My sadness melted away in an instant. I knew she had found her way in life. In retrospect, I’m glad my plans didn’t work out. As hard as it is for me to admit, God had a better plan for her.” ~ Carl R.
“Our son joined a religious order right after college. We were happy for him, but then he left, saying it just wasn’t his call. But I think it was good that he explored it… He was peaceful when he went in, and peaceful when he left. His mother and I are fine with his decision either way.” ~ Salvatore S.
“I wanted grandchildren so badly. I hid my disappointment when Colin went to seminary, thinking his interest probably wouldn’t last. By the time his ordination came along a few years later, God had really worked on me. I couldn’t have been prouder. His priesthood has been the greatest gift God has ever given our family.” ~ Jenni P.
Young Catholics: The Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make
If you were about to make one decision that would dramatically impact the rest of your life, how would you go about it?
If you were contemplating a cross-country move, you’d probably learn everything you could about the new city. If you were choosing a career, you’d visit the career counseling office at your college. Heck, even if you were buying a new flat-screen TV, you’d do some serious research.
But there’s one decision that’s far more important than any of these. In fact, it’s so important that it can’t properly be called a decision.
We’re talking about your vocation—your God-given mission in life. God etches our vocations into our very souls, and thus a vocation is not just a matter of choice, like choosing a career, but rather more like a discovery. Finding your vocation is like realizing something about yourself that has been there all along.
But God plants your vocation so deep in your soul, sometimes it’s hard to see. In fact, many people—even Catholics—never even consider looking for it at all. Sometimes marriage is assumed to be the “default” vocation. But God calls some people to a different life—a life committed solely to serving God’s people as a priest.
Discovering your true vocation takes careful deliberation—a process the Church calls “discernment,” which is derived from the Latin word meaning to “sift through.” All vocations—marriage, priesthood, or the religious life—require a diligent discernment.
Here are ten tried-and-true ways to discern God’s calling for you:
- Pray and Listen asking the Lord daily to show you his will.
- Pray the Rosary asking for the intercession of Mary, Mother of priests.
- Pray a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament regularly.
- Attend Mass frequently (daily if possible) and receive Communion.
- Go to Confession on a consistent basis.
- Read Scripture and meditate on God’s Word.
- Talk to a priest you find approachable and ask for spiritual advice.
- Contact the Vocation Director.
- Talk to seminarians when they come home for the holidays.
- Become involved in your parish.
These are practical ideas that really work. You’ll notice that by doing these things, not only will you hear God’s voice more clearly, you’ll begin to grow in holiness–which is everyone’s primary vocation.
But the best thing you can do to discover your vocation is to simply be open to the will of God. Stop asking what you want out of life, and start asking what God wants. Remember that Jesus wants you to be happy even more than you do. And if He calls you to priesthood, trust that He will bring you fulfillment.
Discerning your vocation—the state of life that God is calling you to for the rest of your life—is truly the most important discovery you’ll ever make.
For men discerning the priesthood, the best book to read is To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood, by Fr. Brett Brannen.
For women discerning religious life, the best book to read is Discerning Religious Life, by Mother Clare Matthiass, CFR.
For men discerning religious life, the best book to read is A Living Sacrifice, by Fr. Benedict Croell, O.P., and Fr. Benedict Hofer, O.P.
Consider sending out parish-wide emails the first week of November.
Send: October 30
Subject Line: Sunday begins Vocation Awareness Week
Next week (Nov 1-7) the entire U.S. Church is focusing on vocations–specifically on encouraging young Catholics to seriously consider the priesthood and religious life.
Everyone acknowledges we need more priests and sisters. The question is how do we get them?
The only answer is to inspire young Catholics to develop a deep, authentic love for Jesus Christ and His Church, and then accompany them as they discern God’s will for their lives.
How can you help? Consider three things you can do this week (and beyond):
Talk to your children and grandchildren. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In healthy, normal conversations about the future, please encourage boys and girls in your family to remain genuinely open to a vocation in the Church.
Invite young people. If you see teens and young adults in our parish, encourage them! Don’t be afraid to say, “I’ve been noticing you around the parish, and I think you’d make a great priest/sister if God were calling you!”
Offer good information. We need to go deeper with young people, offering them “solid food” as they’re figuring out God’s call. Here are some excellent gifts for young people who need guidance.
Finally, please pray for vocations. In your regular daily prayer, please pray especially for the youth of our parish, both for their holiness and that some will become priests, sisters, and brothers.
God bless you!
Send: November 3
Subject Line: A story for Vocation Awareness Week
As we celebrate Vocation Awareness Week, here is a story that sheds light on why vocations are so critical within the Church.
Who Will You Bring to Heaven?
A priest’s vocation story
I grew up in a loving Catholic family, helping out often at my parish. I got tired of hearing everyone say, “You’ll make a good priest when you get older!” Everyone, that is, except my pastor.
But one day, as a senior serving one of my last Masses, just as the old monsignor and I were about to enter the sanctuary, he asked, “John, what will you be doing after graduation?” I thought to myself, “Oh boy, here it comes.” But I replied, “Monsignor, I’m thinking about studying medicine.” And he replied, “Good, good. And what will you do after that?” I said, “Well, I suppose I will marry and have a family.” The priest said, “Good, and what after that?” Not sure exactly where this was leading, I replied, “I guess I will grow old and eventually retire. And then I guess I will die and go to heaven.” The pastor nodded his head thoughtfully, then looked at me earnestly and asked, “And who will you bring with you into heaven?” Immediately, he rang the sacristy bell and we walked out to begin Mass.
I thought to myself, “How clever you are, Monsignor. How clever you are. Who will I bring with me to heaven?” I pondered that question for several years before answering it by entering the seminary.
Adapted from an anonymous priest’s vocation story as told in To Save a Thousand Souls
The lesson is clear: every vocation is about helping others reach heaven! This is every bit as true about marriage as it is about the priesthood. How are you helping others draw closer to Jesus?
God bless you!