October 10, 2008

Planting a seed: Archdiocesan vocations office launches new Web site

A screenshot of the new archdiocesan vocations website, HearGodsCall.com

A screenshot of the new archdiocesan vocations website, HearGodsCall.com

By Sean Gallagher

When Father Rick Nagel was discerning a possible call to the priesthood, he often went to the Internet for information about that vocation.

“It was anonymous,” he said. “I didn’t have to commit to anything. I was curious, and God was kind of planting a seed. That was a way I could figure out what it would look like to become a priest.”

When Father Nagel ultimately became an archdiocesan seminarian in 2002 and started his formation at Saint Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, he met a lot of other men considering the priesthood who had followed the same path to the seminary.

“I was shocked at how many of my classmates said the same thing. They had started on the Internet,” said Father Nagel, the archdiocese’s associate director of vocations.

“Because of that, I think there’s a tremendous sense that it’s a tool today that our young people are using. The question is: How are we doing in providing them information and to be engaging in that?”

Father Nagel and seminarian Benjamin Syberg tried to provide a positive answer to that question this summer by working with archdiocesan Web site manager Brandon Evans to totally revamp the archdiocese’s vocations Web site. (Log on to www.HearGodsCall.com to see it and explore its many features.)

“We chose a name that would be memorable, that would be catchy and would engage someone to check it out,” Father Nagel said.

Visitors to the new site, which is linked to the archdiocese’s Web site, www.archindy.org, can watch interviews with many archdiocesan seminarians and priests, have frequently asked questions about discernment answered and learn about upcoming archdiocesan-sponsored vocations events.

If vocational discernment took place on the Internet nearly a decade ago for a priest like Father Nagel, who is now 44, then it is even more likely the case for today’s young men, who have grown up using online resources.

Just ask Syberg, a junior at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.

“For good or ill, that is where people are spending their time,” he said. “People in general spend so much time on the Internet and on computers that this is one major venue that we have to look at.”

That was the thinking of Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, who asked Father Nagel to oversee creating the new site.

“More and more young people I meet, whether college age or young adults, spend a lot of time on the Internet,” the archbishop said. “They grew up with it. They spend a lot of time there. And a couple of them mentioned that we could do better. That . . . motivated me to talk to Father Rick.”

Father Nagel said one feature of the Web site that might help men discern the priesthood is that it shows the breadth of the archdiocese’s seminarians.

“We’ve got all these seminarians and these 10 priests that each look a little bit different,” he said. “But God called each one of them to a special ministry. So hopefully. there’s enough diversity that [site visitors] say, ‘Gosh. That could be me.’ ”

Father Nagel said that visitors should regularly visit the Web site since he expects updates and additions to it in the future.

Archbishop Buechlein has high hopes for the way that the vocations Web site may encourage more young men to give God a chance as a seminarian.

“I hope that it will draw them in and want them to become part of what the seminarians are doing,” he said. “One of the ways to do that is to get them to know the seminarians—who they are, what they’re like, [that they’re] fun-loving as well as profound as far as their faith goes.” †

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