By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — When it comes to helping Catholics answer a call to vocations, “we can’t just keep doing what we’re doing and expect different results,” speaker Rhonda Gruenewald told a group of Catholics during a workshop Dec. 1. “We have work to do, but there is hope. We want to give you a little bit of hope here.”
Her audience included 80 parish representatives at the Hundredfold workshop at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. A bilingual presenter, Leticia Ramírez, spoke to about 15 Spanish-speaking participants in another meeting room. A few weeks earlier, Gruenewald spoke at the November Clergy Overnighter about creating “vocations-producing parishes.”
Gruenewald encouraged her clergy audience to invite people who might be interested in promoting vocations at a parish level to the Dec. 1 workshop. At both workshops she explained that promoting vocations is not the sole responsibility of a bishop, priest or diocesan vocations director. “Everyone is supposed to be doing their part for vocations.”
She told the parish representatives to pace themselves and start slow. She encouraged them to create opportunities for parishioners to pray for vocations. She also advised her audience to have resources available for individuals who may be considering a call to vocations, which include priesthood, the diaconate, religious life and marriage. Gruenewald’s instructional book, “Hundredfold,” is available in English and Spanish and has 67 ideas for parishes to promote vocations. “There are a lot of things that can be done. They don’t have to be costly or time consuming to make a big impact.”
An increase in people accepting God’s call to a vocation, especially priesthood, will not happen right away, she said. It’s about God’s timing; the job of a parish vocation committee is to “till the soil,” making it fertile. Young people in parishes should know that it is “normal” to think about serving the church.
In the afternoon, participants spent about 40 minutes in Eucharistic adoration before talking in their parish groups about ideas they might like to implement. As the workshop wrapped up, Gruenewald and Ramirez encouraged participants to talk to their parish priest and form a vision for moving forward with a vocations committee. “You want his help. You want him to be involved,” Gruenewald said. The most important question to ask the parish priest is, “What do you think?” If the priest is supportive, respond by saying, “That’s a great idea. I can’t wait to help you implement that.”
Once a vocations committee has been formed, Gruenewald recommends monthly meetings. The parish priest should always be invited, but his presence isn’t mandatory. He should, however, have a say on committee membership, she said.
Dan Hogan, a member of St. Mary Parish in Riverside, came away from the workshop with ideas for prayer and activities and ways to get parish groups involved in promoting vocations. He will meet with his pastor, Father Bill Roush and Deacon Derick Cranston to discuss ideas. “I hope to get some other people involved in vocations ministry,” Hogan said. “Many of the parishioners are generous with their time, “so I don’t think it will be hard to find other people to help with this.”
Nita Carlson, a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington and a religion teacher at Burlington Notre Dame, said the workshop was invigorating. “I came back all pumped up. … I’m anxious to get started. I came away (knowing) that this is a part of my vocation, to make sure my students know about vocations and that they have time to discuss, reflect and discern.” She has ideas for the school and parish that she plans to share with Pastor Father Marty Goetz.
“Beyond what we learned, for me it was motivating,” said Adrian Arellano, a member of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine who attended the Spanish workshop. “I left motivated to work in my parish, talk to my priest and propose projects that we can work together on. In the class they also offered us tools to be able to work in vocations ministry. I’m grateful to the diocese for giving us these learning workshops.”
By Lindsay Steele