This year the fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, was my fourth observance of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life as your diocesan bishop.
In celebration, we held our annual Mass and iRace4Vocations 5K run and 1.3 mile walk at Washington Lake Park in Sewell. It is estimated that about 1,300 people joined us throughout the day, enjoying the park, the outdoors, the company, food and drink, and a free T-shirt with the iRace4vocations and Diocese of Camden logos boldly displayed on them.
What’s the point of all this? What is achieved? This gathering of families, young people and senior citizens from around the diocese gets the message out LOUD and CLEAR that our diocese needs diocesan priests and that religious communities of women and men need candidates. The Gospel for Good Shepherd Sunday this year referred to hearing and following the voice of the Shepherd. My message at Mass was that the Lord continues to call men to the priesthood and women and men to the consecrated life. His voice and invitation to follow need to be heard.
You can help the voice of the Good Shepherd to get through to young men with a simple question like, “Have you ever thought of becoming a priest?” Of course, your prayers are very much needed, but so are your encouraging words. You can help. We can no longer do nothing about vocations to the Priesthood for our diocese. We need diocesan priests. Let that message be heard by young men and may it move them to seek the priesthood of Jesus Christ. There is no church without the priesthood and there are no parishes without parish priests. Each of us can help to get this message into the lives, hearts, minds and consciences of young men.
Give them the name and phone number of our diocesan vocations director, Father Michael Romano (856-583-2864) who will assist them with the necessary discernment. Or, encourage them to speak with a priest of the diocese who will readily share his vocation story. Our seminarians are also available to speak about their realization that God might be calling him to the priesthood.
I thank the organizers of iRace4Vocations and I ask them to continue their good work. This is the largest inter-generational event in our diocese. We need the publicity that it generates for vocations. So, shout it from the housetops, from each parish, school and social service agency of the diocese…WE NEED PRIESTS.
I am convinced that priestly vocations are there. There may be noises in society that make it difficult and confusing for young men to hear and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd to a joyful life of service as a priest of the Diocese of Camden. We can help them hear a different voice about the Vocation of a parish priest who is privileged to be with people at times of crisis and on occasions of joy and celebration; who leads women and men to God in the ordinary circumstances of daily life; who prays with the people and speaks to them of God; whose very presence keeps them connected to God and assists them to grow in our faith.
Our people need shepherds, parish priests. Let’s get the message out across the six counties of our diocese so that young men will hear it and be moved to come forward with the confidence that God is calling them to be priests of Jesus Christ for the Diocese of Camden.