Summary of today’s show: Vocations are everyone’s business and Fr. Dan Hennessey joins Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor to talk about vocations to the priesthood, including the many opportunities coming up for men to discern their call and for the people of God to pray for more vocations. Plus three steps every parish can take to increase the number of vocations from their community.
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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s guest(s): Fr. Dan Hennessey, Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Boston
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: Vocations to the Priesthood
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show and noted that there are less than two full days left of Pope Benedict’s papacy. Fr. Chris O’Connor said it’s an amazing time and he’s waiting to see what’s going to happen, like the rest of the world. Whoever is chosen tells us what the cardinals think the Church needs in the days and weeks ahead.
Both Scot and Fr. Chris will be in Rome during this time. Fr. Chris is going with a pilgrimage from St. John Seminary and the Theological Institute to go to Krakow, Poland, and Rome. He noted that during the conclave, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums will be closed, but being in Rome for a conclave is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
They also discussed how Pope Benedict changed the rules for how the conclave will work, including letting the cardinals choose to begin earlier. Scot said he thinks that the conclave will start on March 8 or 9, but it could be as early as March 6 and as late as March 11. Fr. Chris said he was intrigued by the pope’s choice of 8pm to end his papacy and it turns out that it’s when the Holy Father goes to supper at the end of the day. He’s very humble. We also found out that the Holy Father will retain the title of pope, as pope emeritus and he will continue to wear the white cassock.
Scot said The Good Catholic Life will provide coverage. Beginning on Thursday, Greg Tracy will be posting blogs on our website with video and audio interviews of pilgrims. It will be different from what you might get from TV networks giving the bigger picture, while TGCL will give a faith-based perspective from a Bostonian point of view.
Fr. Chris reminded everyone to pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten the hearts and minds of the cardinals and to pray for whoever the next pope will be because his life will change forever. He said right off from the Sistine Chapel is the Room of Tears, where the new pope vests, referring to the weight of the world that will descend on him.
Scot asked today’s guest, Fr. Dan Hennessey, to reflect on this transition and on the effects of Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul as the supreme vocations directors in the Church. He said that he remembered hearing about the pope resigning and how long it took to sink in. It’s an exciting time and a grace-filled time, but also a sad time in losing the Holy Father.
Scot asked the impact of the massive focus of the world on Rome during the papal transition. Fr. Dan said it does lead to more men entering the process of entering seminary because it brings the events to the forefront of the mind. In 2005, many men were caused to reflect on his love, his witness to the priesthood, and his love for the youth. Many priests and seminarians called themselves of the John Paul II Generation. Fr. Chris said in Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope John Paul II set out the vision of how the Church identifies seminarians and the identity of the priest. He added that World youth Days have had a profound effect on men when they’re in their teens.
Scot compared the long papacy of John Paul II and how he was pope for the entire life of some seminarians to the eight-year papacy of Pope Benedict. Fr. Dan said Pope Benedict has had many beautiful nuggets of reflection directed right at seminarians and priests about the priesthood. Fr. Chris spoke of the apostolic visitation of all American seminaries under the pontificate of Benedict XVI, which was a big reform.
Scot said another contribution will be his emphasis on the reform of the liturgy. Also, his nonstop reminder of how secular our culture has become in the dictatorship of relativism, and the need for our priests to be formed in good thinking with good philosophy. Fr. Chris said in John Paul’s papacy there was a lot of talk of what is right and what is wrong, especially with the culture of life. We needed to hear that. With Pope Benedict, the emphasis has been on the beauty of the Church and the personal encounter with Christ.
2nd segment: Scot noted that in the middle of the events going on in Rome, Fr. Dan is going to have a big vocations retreat, which had already been postponed from the recent blizzard. Fr. Dan said he trusted in God’s providence when he had to re-schedule and now it might occur in the midst of the conclave or right after. It will be on March 15, 16, 17. They had to request all priests to send in the names of men who had been invited to the old date so they can be re-invited. They had 65 men signed up for the last retreat, but now they had over 80 invited to this new one.
The retreats follow two tracks based on age of the men. Men 18-40 are going to be on the retreat at the Betania II Retreat House in Medway. Transportation from St. John Seminary will be provided. It goes from Friday evening to Sunday morning when they drive back to St. John’s for the Sunday morning Mass. For men 40 and older they go on retreat at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon where they enter into the life of the seminarians.
The talks in Medway will be done by Msgr. Jim Moroney, rector of St. John’s. On Saturday afternoon, they will have a seminarian panel of 4 to 8 men to talk about their lives. They will also learn about how to apply to the seminary, how to discern a vocation, and the four pillars of formation. There will also be a time for recreation. They also will have more time this year for individual time with the vocation directors.
Fr. Dan said the cardinal is planning, if he isn’t in conclave, to Skype/FaceTime in to the retreat. Scot related how Cardinal Sean was the first person to FaceTime him on his new iPhone and how he told him that it was way better than Skype. He said it will be very exciting to hear from Cardinal Seán when there’s a new pope.
Fr. Chris said the best advertising for St. John’s Seminary are the seminarians they already have.
Scot said on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, will be another St. Andrew’s Dinner, which is for high school boys who come with their priests or campus ministers to St. John’s Seminary to join the seminarians for Vespers and then dinner in which they mingle with seminarians. They then pack them into classrooms for vocations witness talks. They are focusing this time on Catholic schools.
He said also in March the Pope John Paul II Vocations Monstrance will be in Boston and over 9 days there will be Eucharistic Adoration with it in 9 different schools, religious communities and parishes, each of those each day. Fr. Chris said prayer works and these parishes will produce vocations. He said the most productive parishes for vocations have Eucharistic adoration. Fr. Chris also talked about a program at St. Andrew’s in Billerica in which they have a vocations cross that passes from family to family, which they then pray with. The parish even has a vocations committee. Fr. Dan talks about how just the existence of the committee raises awareness and elicits a response from young men.
Fr. Dan said there are a number of different ways a parish can focus on vocations: Praying for vocations from that parish at the Sunday Mass in the Prayers of the Faithful; Eucharistic adoration; Holy Hours for vocations; praying Cardinal Seán’s prayer for vocations at the end of each daily Mass.
He said the reason why we pray so much about it, is because the prayer changes us and our attitude toward vocations.
Scot asked Fr. Dan how people should invite young men to consider the priesthood. He said the priests above all should be first to invite young men to consider the life he is already living. But everybody has a role in inviting. Scot said he was in the seminary for two years. The reason he was there was that after having just moved to Norwalk, Connecticut, a local DRE saw him in church and asked him to teach religious education. Over the next couple of months, five people he didn’t know asked him if he’d thought about the priesthood. It was after the fifth invitation that he began the discernment process. Fr. Chris talked about a similar experience.
Fr. Chris said about 75% of men who enter the seminary today make it to ordination. They tend to be a little older and are leaving lucrative careers so they’ve done the gut check already. Discernment is done by the person, the Church, and God. The Church isn’t just the seminary or the bishop but all the people of God who they’ve encountered in their formation who assent to their ordination.
Fr. Dan said anyone interested in being part of a vocation team should ask their pastor first if there is one or to contact Fr. Dan to help them establish one. He noted that there has been an increase in interest among younger men for the priesthood. So on Sat. March 23, at the cathedral, they will gather together with interested high school boys and continue to meet after.