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Imagine a small fishing boat floating upon a vast sea that stretches as far as the eye can see.
The boat is filled with fishermen working together to cast their nets into the waters. The sun has almost receded beyond the horizon, and the fishermen have been working relentlessly since dawn.
As if they are unaware of the darkening sky, the fishermen continue to cast their nets in hope that a few more fish will find their way into their nets. Their strong arms haul the nets back aboard the ship, but they see that only a handful of fish are caught in the worn net.
Yet the fishermen are content knowing that, through their hard work and dedication, their mission has been successful.
“I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19). This simple statement spoken by Jesus to his first Apostles is the foundation of the ministry that deacons, priests, and religious brothers and sisters are called to perform.
Since the Holy Spirit was bestowed upon the Apostles, religious men and women have toiled ceaselessly to continue Jesus’ mission. Just as fishermen gather fish into their nets, religious men and women gather people into the Church.
Religious brothers and sisters represent the nets cast into the sea that catch the fish. Through the charitable acts and the service that the religious brothers and sisters take part in, they spread God’s benevolence.
Brothers and sisters travel the world as missionaries, gathering the poor and lowly into the Church. They also reside in our own neighborhoods, influencing the youth as teachers or volunteering at service foundations. God calls brothers and sisters to demonstrate God’s love by assisting those who are in need of compassion.
Priests and deacons answer the call to become the strong hands that draw people into the Church as fishermen drag their fish-filled nets into their boat. As pastors of parishes and workers in dioceses, priests and deacons symbolize a tangible form of leadership in the Church.
By celebrating the sacraments, priests and, in some cases, deacons provide an opportunity for people to grow in their relationship with God. Priests and deacons also seek to assist laypeople to overcome spiritual obstacles through mentoring and prayer.
Priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters are willing to work from dawn until dusk to spread the promise of eternal life to all believers. They answer the call of God and are following the vocation established by Jesus 2,000 years ago.
Through perseverance and faithfulness, priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters draw people into the boat heading toward eternal life.
(Melissa Schopper and her parents, Mark and Mary Schopper, are members of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg. Last spring, she completed the 10th grade at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, and is the 10th-grade division winner in the 2008 Indianapolis Serra Club Vocations Essay Contest.) †