With our focus last week on our beloved dead and the political drama enveloping our nation, National Vocations Awareness Week, November 1-7, slipped off our radar. This week is set aside by the U.S. Catholic Church to focus on the important vocations of the priesthood, the diaconate, and the consecrated life of both women and men. We are blessed to have been served by men religious, Jesuits and Franciscans, since the founding of the parish until September 1. Now the parish is led by diocesan priests. We are
blessed to have a permanent deacon in the parish, Deacon Steve Andrews, and his wife, Lois. We are invited to encourage vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life as these vocations are vital to the health and vitality of the Church. While the week went by due to other priorities, I ask you to pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life. One of the reasons the Franciscans withdrew from the parish is a lack of vocations. Many religious orders are facing the same challenges. We are in need of more young men to explore a vocation to the priesthood and for families to encourage their children to consider vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The number one reason a young person considers this type of vocation is because someone invited them to do so. It requires sacrifice, a generous heart, and a love for the Lord and His people. Those who have responded to the call and have served in this way tell us that it is a very rewarding life. I know this to be true because it is true for me.
Next Sunday, November 15, I will celebrate my 40th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. It is hard to believe I have been sowing and plowing the Lord’s field for four decades. The time has flown quickly and I have experienced more joys than I can recount. It has had its challenges, certainly a low point being the scandal of the sex abuse crisis, but I have no regrets serving the Lord and His people for 40 years. I have had experiences I could never have imagined on November 15, 1980 when I was ordained by Bishop Gossman in New Bern at Centenary Methodist Church, the church next door to my parish church (which only seated 200 people). Perhaps being ordained in a Methodist Church was a harbinger of things to come. Among the many adventures I have had and horizons I have been invited to pursue, the privilege of shepherding a parish in building a new church and middle school, earning a doctorate, teaching at a worldclass university, and becoming an international expert on the RCIA stand out.
Because of COVID-19, I will not be celebrating a special Mass of Thanksgiving on my anniversary this year. Hopefully, I will be able to do something in November 2021. I am grateful for your prayers next Sunday and look forward to serving you as I begin my 41st year of service to the Lord and now the people of St. Francis of Assisi.