This is a speech given at this years Ordinandi Dinner hosted by the Serra Clubs. There were just over 1,800 of us there this night:
Eight years ago, I stood up at this podium and delivered my Ordinandi Dinner speech. It marked me. “You’re the priest that used to be a bus driver”. Anyone who remembers me that way, remembers me from that dinner [not from being on my bus] – thank goodness for that!
The people of Mississauga are safe from at least one less crazy bus driver now!
My job takes me to many places throughout the archdiocese where I hear this. People remembering me this way shows me just how important this dinner is in connecting people to our priests.
I’ve been speaking as your Vocation Director for the past 6 years. Tonight, I want to share some insight and wisdom from these years of experience – my message is for everyone here!
My fellow Vocation Directors.
Please don’t tune out, I am addressing each and every one of you; not the priests and bishop only! You! I was appointed to this work by the Cardinal, but in directing vocations your work is as important, and maybe in some ways more important than my work!
My fellow vocation directors, first of all, we must seek for the Lord, quality over quantity. It would be nice to have a couple hundred seminarians, like years ago: but that’s not our reality. AND please don’t believe there’s a vocation crisis! The Church is NOT desperate for more priests. If we worry, we won’t be looking for the best men, men like these deacons we will hear from tonight.
We need to look for men with servants’ hearts, who love God & connecting with God through prayer & service, who love people, who love life, men who are positive, energetic and who want to do great things & see the good in the Church and the world and make it better. Every one of us here know men like that.
Second, pray for this. Cardinal Collins always reminds us to pray when he speaks on vocations: “pray to the Lord of the harvest, that He may send labourers into the harvest”. The Scriptures are full of vocation stories, every one of them founded in prayer. Our Lady is remembered for immediately answering the Lord’s call but could only do that in communion with God through prayer.
And if you want to pray with others, join the Serrans who’s very important mandate to pray for vocations has brought us all together tonight. Prayer works!
Third, don’t sit back and wait for someone else to plant the seed in someone else – you do it. Reinforce it with reasons why you think he would make a good priest or she would make a good religious sister. Don’t undervalue your place as a Disciple of Christ to call other Disciples.
That’s for each one of us! I remember nearly 20 years later, all of the people who planted the seed & said “Chris, you ever thought about becoming a priest”. Who said, “this is why I think you should be a priest.”
Sure, he or she will need the support of their pastors and in time, the appointed vocation director – but you are all a very important, I might even say essential part of an increase in good & healthy vocations! And the more of us that do that, the more chance we have of giving those whom the Lord calls the strength and courage to take that leap.
And remember, my fellow vocation directors: a healthy increase in vocations is up to us all! Vocations come from the pews you sit in and that we clergy and religious here used to sit in.
They don’t come from someplace else. We’re blessed to have shared the pews with many of you! There were hundreds of faithful men and women, dedicated Catholics and even struggling ones who had a very important part to play in my formation.
If we are good priests, it’s because of the people in the pews who shared their faith with us, who prayed for us. We cherish and value Priesthood, yes because it’s a gift from God but because it’s important to you – the people that we serve. And finally, my fellow vocation directors: we’ve got work to do!
There are nearly 1,900 of us here tonight, many of you have been to more than the 15 or 16 Ordinandi Dinners that I’ve been to. Friends, I ask you this: this is my challenge for each one of you:
- Think of those you know who’d make good priests and good religious sisters – spend some time thinking about it, then invite them to think
- Tell them why they would be good priests or religious
- Tell your priests and parish staff, so they too are aware of who and what you see
If we all invite even 3 or 4 people through a lifetime – just imagine where the Church we all love and give our life to – will be.