January 11, 2008

Religious Vocations Supplement

Casting our nets

By Fr. Eric Johnson (Director of the archdiocesan Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations)

“As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ ” (Mt 4:18-19).

At this invitation, the two brothers immediately dropped their nets and followed him.

Thus began a relationship in which these first disciples came to know Jesus. They learned from his teaching, witnessed his miracles, participated in his ministry and came to recognize him as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. This relationship led the disciples through the experience of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, and reached its culmination when he commissioned them to go forth and make disciples of all nations.

At the center of this relationship was the promise of that first invitation. Just as Christ had called the disciples that day on the shore, so they were to call others to Christ. They were to become fishers of a different sort, casting their nets for people, drawing all people to Christ.

The call to fish for people continues to lie at the center of the Church’s mission. It stands behind the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel, gives substance to its prayer, informs its teaching, and shapes its life and ministry.

The following pages are filled with stories of men and women who have embraced the call to priesthood, the permanent diaconate and the religious life. They, too, are stories of a relationship, stories of learning from Christ, witnessing his miracles, participating in his ministry and coming to recognize him as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Though each story is different, all are united in the desire and commitment to draw others to the love of Christ.

To some degree, the purpose of this supplement is to celebrate the unique ways in which the vocational call to fish for people is lived out by priests, permanent deacons, and religious brothers and sisters.

But these stories also afford us an opportunity to gratefully acknowledge the gift their response to God’s call is to us as the Church. They provide us with an

occasion to remember with gratitude those men and women who helped us to listen, to see Christ’s miracles, to share our gifts in ministry, to acknowledge God’s presence and to encounter his saving love.

It is important that we do this. Through their celebration of the sacraments, countless prayers, preaching, counseling, teaching, works of charity, ministry, community, presence, and joyful witness to faith and hope, priests, religious brothers and sisters and permanent deacons draw us closer to the love of God offered to us in Christ Jesus. They cast their nets, and we and the Church are richer for it.

Perhaps most of all, priest, deacons and religious remind us of our own call to be fishers of people. In the ways we seek to love others, forgive, nourish, challenge, support and witness to our faith with joy, all of us are called to draw others into a relationship with God.

Such a call begins with an invitation, and I have come to believe that part of this call involves

personally inviting men and women to consider embracing a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. We need their witness. Such an invitation nourishes their gifts, and affirms the importance of these gifts to the life of the Church so that all of us can more faithfully cast our nets. †

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