By Liz Christy
They accompany us during life’s most joyful and difficult moments, provide access to the sacraments, boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel, share with us the beauty of the Church, and so much more. They serve in our parishes, schools, hospitals, and prisons. We call them pastors, shepherds, spiritual fathers, and friends.
They walk with us on our journeys, but are we walking with them?
This year, I was honored to be a co-chair on the Parish Missionary Discipleship Subcommittee for the Real Presence Real Future initiative in our Diocese. It gave me an opportunity to see a glimpse further inside the lives of our priests and parishes. I’ve had many enlightening conversations with some of our priests both here in our diocese and beyond. I’ve enjoyed hearing their stories and learning about many of their joys and struggles. These men have answered the call to their priestly vocation with an honest desire to serve the Lord and bring people to Christ.
Several years ago, I read the book Praying for Priests by Kathleen Beckman. At the time, I was searching to make sense of my own grief and suffering as I grappled with recurrent pregnancy loss. Through the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance, I felt God working in unimaginable ways through many priests to help me heal. I experienced deep compassion and love, and I felt called to pray for them in return. Reading this book opened my eyes to the spiritual battles our priests face, both spoken and unspoken. I realized that we all have a critical role in supporting them through our prayer.
The fruit of this prayer has continued in my life. In my work as Director of Evangelization and Discipleship at Seton Parish, I am given the opportunity to walk with and provide support for priests. This year we celebrated with our pastor as he retired after 45 years of priesthood, welcomed a new pastor and newly ordained associate, had the excitement of watching a young man from our parish enter the seminary, and said goodbye to a dear friend as he traveled back to his home country to be ordained. It is a true joy to walk with these men and be able to pray for them and their vocations.
At the beginning of summer we received results from the Disciple Maker Index for our parishes and Diocese. One thing that stood out to me was the low percentage of people who said they regularly invite someone to consider the priesthood or religious life. This result, combined with the priest shortage, gives me reason to believe that as the laity we must take action to encourage vocations and cover our priests with prayer and support.
I want to close with some simple action items that we can do to support our clergy:
- Pray – I set an alarm on my phone that goes off each day at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to pray for priests and vocations. Find a group of seven parishioners and have each one commit to praying one day a week for your pastor and new vocations. Spend an hour a week in adoration praying for priests and vocations.
- Discussion – Talk with the young men in your life about priesthood, ask them to pray and listen to see if God is calling them to be a priest.
- Help – Ask your pastor how you can help and where you can serve in your parish. We often ask them to do things for us, but when we offer our assistance to them, we give them time to focus on things they need to protect, such as their personal prayer life.
As we continue with the Real Presence Real Future initiatives in our Diocese let’s commit to praying for our priests and for new vocations. Our future depends on it!