Parishes wanting to start a Vocation Ministry can find a great resource in Rhonda Gruenewald’s book Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry and its companion website VocationMinistry.com, from which the article below is excerpted.
The main mission of any Vocation Ministry should be to help all parishioners discern God’s will in their lives regardless of the vocation—to call all people to holiness. If a ministry focuses on this goal, over time vocations will increase, including more seminarians, religious men and women in formation, and holier marriages.
Some ministries center their attention only on how many individuals from their parishes choose to become priests, monks, brothers, sisters, or nuns, but ultimately God calls those he chooses for this holy work. The work of the Vocation Ministry is to pray and to develop uplifting, encouraging, educational activities that create a fertile environment so that God can plant the seed and the Holy Spirit can water that seed in the hearts of individuals.
The expectation is that each ministry will start small and simple, and then grow in size and depth. Each ministry must prayerfully and logically assess its interest in and ability to tackle a particular event. For example, a Vocation Ministry that has three members and no budget will be limited to certain activities until the Holy Spirit provides more volunteers and resources. Another parish may have ample financial and human resources but still be a fledgling ministry; it, too, will have to be careful about which activities parishioners are ready to receive.
Perhaps the most influential factor, after prayer, in a ministry’s success is choosing which activities to initiate, and when. Each diocese, parish, and ministry will differ in size, age, maturity, inclination, interests, budget, and support.
The importance of the concept of doing this work in phases cannot be overstated. Understanding and accepting the ministry’s developmental stage is absolutely critical to the success of the program. Similar to a weekend athlete overextending himself and suffering an injury, a Vocation Ministry risks biting off more than it can chew. The result could be a setback with farreaching implications. Pay prayerful and careful consideration to the section on phases, and use the first-hand advice on how to choose the most appropriate activities at the most appropriate times in the ministry’s life.
The activities fall within four major categories: Prayer, Education/Awareness, Youth, and Affirmation. Prayer for vocations is first and foremost, and it will transform a parish in God’s time. Raising awareness and knowledge of vocations in both cradle Catholics and converts strengthens the ministry and broadens its reach. Certain activities specifically target youth, both in religious education classes within the parish and at the parish schools. Finally, time spent affirming those who have given their lives to the priesthood, religious, or married life shows appreciation and lifts their spirits. It also draws attention to their service and their joy in serving, which can inspire others to follow their worthy path.
The success of a Vocation Ministry should be measured over years, not months, so leaders and participants are encouraged not to rush to take on too much at once—and not to get frustrated with early roadblocks or with what feels like slow progress. Progress and transformation happen in God’s time; all the Vocation Ministry can do is focus on prayer and on educational, affirming, and inspirational activities, allowing God to bring the harvest.