At the beginning of this month, I started a new ministry: director of vocations for the Diocese of Steubenville. The main goal of the assignment is finding men who God may be calling to the diocesan priesthood, and helping through the discernment process - then walking with them through seminary to ordination.
It doesn't seem that complicated on the surface: recruit new seminarians; but it's an intimidating assignment. We really do need priests. Parishes close, at least partly, because we don't have the priests to minister to them.
Fortunately, I am not in this alone. Enter: the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors and their institute for new vocations personnel.
I spent this past weekend at a hotel on Long Island hearing from experts - men and women who have spent significant time working in vocations offices across the country and who can teach someone (like me) just what it means to be a vocations director.
It will take me a while to really assimilate everything I heard at the conference (and I wasn't even able to attend the whole convention), but there was one lesson that stuck out. It came from Fr. Brett Brannen, former vice-rector of Mount St. Mary Seminary, former vocation directory for the Diocese of Savannah, and author of the fantastic book on the diocesan priesthood, To Save a Thousand Souls.
In the last conference, Fr. Brannen said: "Jesus loves the Church more than you."
He knows that the Church needs priests and he will provide them. We just need to do our part and trust him, never thinking that this is our work. It is all a gift from the Lord.
If there's anything I need to remember in this ministry, it's that this is not my priesthood or my Church. God will take care of His Church. I'm only responsible for trusting and following His lead.