On December 20, 2022, Bishop Cote appointed me as vocation director for the Diocese of Norwich. Since that appointment, I have been busy trying to get up to speed with the details of our men in formation, with particular emphasis on those three men who are approaching the end of their Third Theology year, which typically culminates with ordination to the transitional diaconate.
I began by meeting with each of our seminarians to see how they were doing in the four areas of formation — human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral — and to see how the challenges of COVID affected their journey over the last few years. I was pleased to hear that our seminarians were doing well and continuing to grow as they follow Our Lord on this journey.
The next step in getting up to speed involved making a trip to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, to evaluate the seminary itself and hear reports on each of our seminarians. The Mount, like all seminaries around the world, is preparing to implement a new program known as a Propaedeutic year, which will be required going forward as a year of prayer, discernment and preparatory human formation prior to beginning formal academic studies, which involve two years of Philosophy and four years of Theology. I was very relieved and greatly assured by this visit, as the Mount seems to be doing exceptionally well in guiding men on behalf of their respective dioceses.
I have been praying extensively for our seminarians and those who are being called by Our Lord today to follow Him in this sacred service. Over the course of many Holy Hours before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, I have discerned a critical need for prayer going forward. I am asking for your help in this necessary work. It has become clear to me that we must pray for the pastors of our parishes throughout our diocese. Each pastor seeks to be a shepherd of Christ to those souls entrusted to him. As such, each pastor is the vocation director of his parish. I simply work with those candidates who are referred to me from the parishes.
Many priests have been fatigued by ever increasing administrative demands in addition to the weight of the spiritual needs of the parish. Pastors with multiple churches are trying their best to tend to every spiritual need of their parishioners but there are only so many hours in a day. I encounter many priests who, like many parents, are just tired. A little worn out. An exhausted priest might be so focused on what they have to do next, that they don’t notice the young man called to the priesthood or young woman called to religious life. I am asking you to strengthen them with your prayers and sacrifices offered to our Lord on their behalf. There will be many steps on our journey to strengthen our Vocations Program. I ask you to take this first one with me and to pray with the passion and zeal of the countless saints that have preceded us. May God bless you abundantly for your faithful response of prayer!
By Father Kevin M. Reilly