Children attending the Vocations Mass at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Moquah gather for a photo with Dcn. John Grek, far left, and Fr. Jerome D’Souza, Sr. Phyllis Wilhelm and Sr. Grace Rabideaux on the far right. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

The Knights of Columbus Council 832 sponsored a Rosary for Vocations prior to the Mass for Vocations held at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Moquah on Sunday, June 27. All children attending the Mass received a gift card to Dairy Queen or Little Caesars.

Children were encouraged to stay close to Jesus and listen for his call in their life, seeking to do his will.

During the Mass, Fr. Jerome D’Souza’s homily included a message on the importance of families as the first place where faith is instilled.

Family life as the foundation

Commenting on the event, Fr. Patrick McConnell, priest for the Diocese of Superior and member of the Vocations team, encouraged these types of events as a regular part of parish life.

“It’s very clear that vocations come from families first,” Fr. McConnell said, noting the life of prayer and devotion in the family is a hard-to-replace foundation. The model and witness of parents’ living of the faith and sacramental life plays a primary role in their children’s understanding of God, their openness and desire to know God, love and serve him and others.

“Necessarily, a family is the best place for a vocation to be nurtured,” he added and affirmed the “beautiful connection with the church itself as a place for the family to be supported.”

While parents have this irreplaceable role, they also need to offer and provide opportunities for their children to experience the faith outside of their household.

“There’s gotta be a moment where it’s not just the faith of their family,” Fr. McConnell said.

He explained the equally important experience of faith alongside a young person’s peers, for them to see it lived by others to whom they can relate. To practice and engage with the faith away from home is key for maturing in the personal choice for faith.

The diocese offers many of these experiences during middle and high school years. However, it falls to again to parents to ensure and help their young adults connect with strong faith communities as they move onto college and working lives.

Fr. McConnell concluded, “There’ll be a moment when children leave their homes. Parents, set them up with connections to solid Catholic communities.”

After the work through child-raising years to build a solid foundation, the priest hopes parents understand the importance of having Catholic peers and communities to support them, especially as the seeds of many vocations don’t sprout and become clear in earlier years.

Intentional invitation

St. Andrew Dinners are opportunities the Vocations team tries to offer once or twice a year. The name comes from Scriptures – when the apostle St. Andrew invites his brother to meet Jesus, which leads to Jesus’ invitation for both Peter and Andrew to follow him.

These are, Fr. McConnell said, “Opportunities for young men to encounter Christ alongside other young men – to share a meal, to pray in front of the Eucharist and hear priestly testimonies.”

He said the ideal is when a pastor invites young men from his parishes to join him.

Parents are also invited and strongly encouraged to attend.

“One of the reasons why many young people choose not to discern or be open to the priesthood is because their parents discourage it,” Fr. McConnell noted. “One of the reasons parents discourage their children’s vocations to priesthood is because they don’t understand it.”

With priests and parents of priests there to share, answer questions, accompany and pray together with participants, the gatherings offer clearer understanding of the priestly vocation and the discernment process.

Holy Rosary Parish in Medford is hosting a St. Andrew Dinner on Sunday, Aug. 15, from 5-8 p.m. Contact a priest or Fr. Patrick McConnell for more information, or 715-748-3336.