Vocation Ministry Starts with Seeing the Need
Megan Peterson Features/Multimedia Editor
November 16, 2023
LOVES PARK—St. Bridget parishioner Debby Brown has seen firsthand the fruits of prayers for vocations — prayers that she is encouraging at her parish through the Vocation Ministry she recently began. 
Her son Thomas is a seminarian for the Diocese of Rockford. But it wasn’t her son’s call to the priesthood that inspired her to begin a vocation ministry. Instead, it was a shortage of priests at home. 
Pray with the
Vocation Ministry
The St. Bridget Parish Vocation Ministry is under the patronage of Our Blessed Mother. The team asks for prayers for her intercession for vocations.
Blessed Mother, pray for us! 
In an email to The Observer, Brown wrote, “My prayers for an increase in vocations to the priesthood began when I lived in the Diocese of Little Rock [Ark.],” where she saw the effects of too few priests at local parishes, including canceled Masses and dependence on much-appreciated but unfamiliar missionary priests. 
The Browns moved to the Diocese of Rockford in 2017 and settled at St. Bridget Parish. In October of that year, then-pastor Msgr. Daniel Deutsch invited Debby and her husband to attend the diocesan Hundredfold Workshop led by Rhonda Gruenewald at St. Rita Parish. 
That workshop acknowledged that dwindling vocation numbers, like Brown had experienced, had led to 3,500 U.S. parishes without assigned priests. Gruenewald challenged the attendees to create vocation ministries in their parishes to inspire adults and young people. 
But great need proved intimidating. Brown recalls that she believed the “lies” that “I was not equipped and did not know people at the parish  — so how could I begin this ministry?”
She kept praying. “In 2021 as I began to watch my own son discern his vocation, my prayer changed from just praying for an increase in vocations to the priesthood to also include prayers for courage in young men to speak to someone if they were feeling a call from the Lord. 
“At that time, I also began to pray and ask God for courage to begin a vocation ministry at St. Bridget,” she says.
As her son’s vocation took another step, so did Brown’s vocation ministry journey. 
In early 2023 her son was accepted as a seminarian, and he began studies at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Milwaukee, in June. In September, Brown began the St. Bridget Parish Vocation Ministry with 20 parishioners under the guidance of Msgr. Stephen Knox, pastor. 
The ministry’s first project is a traveling vocations chalice program, which started Nov. 4-5 for the parish and Nov. 9 for the school. Similar chalice programs have been fruitful in the Diocese of Rockford, including the 2015 diocesan Office of Vocations program and others at individual parishes. 
Brown hopes that “through this program, we can have parishioners, teachers, and students united in prayer” for vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Diocese of Rockford; and for each person as they discern God’s call for their vocation.
The program includes unconsecrated chalices, which will go to different homes weekly. One chalice for the school will travel from classroom to classroom; new classes receive the chalice at all-school Mass on Thursdays. The kits come with prayers and vocation resources.  
Matt and Staci Ambrose, whose family was one of the first to host the traveling chalices, “really jumped” at the opportunity to have the chalice in their home and set aside time at night to pray for vocations as a family.  
Their boys have taken part in diocesan discernment opportunities. Their oldest visited St. John Vianney College Seminary and their youngest went to an Encounter retreat day.  
“We feel that it’s really important for young people … our boys in particular … to pray for discernment about their vocation,” Matt says. He points to the traveling chalice as a helpful reminder to focus prayer time on vocations.  
Staci agrees that the chalice helps families focus on vocations. “I think it’ll … allow some intentionality. … We talk about vocations and we definitely pray for all of our priests, deacons, seminarians on a regular basis, but I think that this specific program with the specific prayers really will allow us to focus in” and pray for aspects of vocations, she says. 
Brown encourages other parishes and schools in the Rockford Diocese to join the effort. “Whether you are a priest, deacon, parishioner, parent or teacher, even the smallest things you do to promote vocations in your parish, school or home can make an impact and increase an awareness about vocations to the married life, priesthood and religious life. 
“Join us to promote vocations and invite the youth of your parish and school to discern God’s call in their lives.”
For more information, visit https://vocationministry.com/
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