A vocation is a gift of divine mercy

Father Michael M. Romano speaks at last year’s iRace4Vocations. Photo by James A. McBride
Father Michael M. Romano speaks at last year’s iRace4Vocations.
Photo by James A. McBride

In his message for the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations this Good Shepherd Sunday, Pope Francis writes that a vocation is a gift of divine mercy. “Each vocation in the church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus,” he says.

That compassionate gaze moves us to conversion. “Conversion and vocation are two sides of the same coin, and continually remain interconnected throughout the whole of the missionary disciple’s life.”

The Holy Father’s message clearly coincides with the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. I know that I must make sure that the pope’s words ring true in my own life. However, I also have the privilege of witnessing it so often with the young men in our diocese discerning a potential call to the priesthood. These men speak freely and openly of the Lord’s merciful gaze on them. Fortunately, their journey of conversion continues through their years in the seminary and we hope it will remain an integral part of their lives, whether or not they become priests.

The beautiful thing is that they are not afraid to share their story of mercy and conversion, nor do they keep their experiences to themselves. On most Tuesdays during the school year, the Office of Vocations posts a new blog entry from one of our seminarians on our website (www.camdenpriest.org). These blog posts are called Our Journeys of Faith, for they highlight the common journey that our seminarians are on while also pointing out different dimensions of discernment, seminary and formation. The seminarians know what questions and fears potential seminarians have, so their entries are intended for those young people in particular. They hope to encourage those discerners through their blog posts. I invite you, too, to follow along with them.

While the website includes exciting entries such as seeing Pope Francis during his visit to the United States or life in the seminary, a common trend this year has been articles surrounding the theme of mercy and the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Our seminarians’ most immediate encounter with mercy may be in the sacrament of reconciliation, but they also see that mercy is something they do as well as something they learn and experience from others.

As we celebrate this annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I share with you some of those entries on mercy or discernment from both our newest seminarians and those closest to ordination.

A seminarian’s journey of faith also influences his own family, evidenced beautifully by an article written by our transitional deacon’s mother as she reflects on his years in the seminary and prepares for his upcoming ordination to the priesthood. This supplement further includes an article from one of our women religious and one of our permanent deacons on their own journeys of faith. And, a teacher from one of our Catholic grammar schools shares about the Vocation Clubs she has started at her school, encouraging her students to listen for the Lord’s call in their lives.

As you read the articles in this year’s Vocations Supplement, I hope you will find hope in all that is taking place in the Diocese of Camden and will share that news with others. The pope encourages all of us to take an active role in vocational promotion. In his message, he writes, “I urge all the faithful to assume their responsibility for the care and discernment of vocations.”

Let us heed the Holy Father’s words and each play a part.

A great way you can participate in this work and both pray for and support vocations as a family is by joining us all for our fifth annual iRace4Vocations this Sunday at Washington Lake Park in Sewell. This day is a wonderful event that both prays for and promotes priestly and religious vocations in our diocese. Even if you have not yet registered, you can do so that day. Please, join us for Mass, for the walk/run and some food and entertainment!

May this World Day of Prayer for Vocations during the Jubilee of Mercy remind us all of the compassionate gaze of Jesus who calls us to conversion and to follow his will for our lives.

Father Michael M. Romano is the Director of Priestly Vocations for the Diocese of Camden.