October 24, 2014

With United Catholic Appeal funds, donors help ensure quality vocations throughout the archdiocese

By Natalie Hoefer

The United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope (UCA) annual effort seeks to raise funds for three primary purposes throughout the archdiocese: providing charity, proclaiming the word of God, and celebrating the sacraments.

While each person plays some role in all of these areas, the archdiocesan Vocations Office is tasked in a special way with promoting the last of those three goals.

Archdiocesan vocations director Father Eric Augenstein is out of the country working on a project, so The Criterion spoke with Elizabeth Escoffery, associate director of vocations, about the office’s mission and how that mission is aided through donations made by members of the archdiocese to the annual United Catholic Appeal.

Q. What is the goal of the Vocations Office?

A. “Our goal is to have a visible presence and to always put the question of, ‘How is God calling to give your life for him?’ at the forefront of Catholics’ minds. Knowing that ‘man cannot fully find himself except through a gift of self’ (“Gaudium et Spes,” #24), we want to assist all Catholics in grappling with the often difficult questions of vocation, and equip priests, parish leaders, parents, teachers and others to encourage vocations as well with those they minister to.

“We are excited to offer the archdiocese a new vocations curriculum called Vocation Lessons that is available for grades K-12 [in parish catechetical programs], schools and families, and have been spreading the word about this exciting material that is comprehensive and engaging, focusing on the vocations of marriage, priesthood and religious life, as well as the topic of discernment.”

Q. What are some of the other ways the Vocations Office promotes vocations?

A. “In terms of vocation promotion, we put on the Called By Name program twice a year in the spring and fall, traveling among the 11 deaneries in the archdiocese. This program focuses on asking parishioners to nominate people in their parish and to invite them to consider a priestly or religious vocation.

“We are in the midst of preparing for our fall Called By Name dinner [which was held on Oct. 21 at St. Agnes Parish in Nashville]. The archbishop generously joins us for these dinners. More than 225 people were nominated as having the characteristics that would make good priests, religious brothers and religious sisters. Can you imagine the gifts each of these people will bring to the Church?

“This spring’s Called By Name program won’t focus on a particular deanery, but rather place an emphasis on our Catholic high schools and campus ministry programs on the college level. High school and young adult parishioners who may attend public schools or be in the workforce will also be included. There will be two dinners, one for men and one for women, in April [of] 2015.

“In addition to Called By Name, we also offer a Day of Discernment program at the archbishop’s residence during winter break for men 18 and older [who are] open to the possibility of priesthood. This year, it will take place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Dec. 20. (Related: Called By Name program connects those possibly having religious vocations)

“This program took place for many years, went on a hiatus, but now is back for the second year in a row. Four of the participants from last year’s Day of Discernment are now in seminary for the archdiocese, so this program is bearing visible fruit by bringing men the chance to have camaraderie with seminarians, the archbishop and other discerners, hear talks on discernment and priesthood, and have some silence and prayer amid the busyness of life.

“We also make an effort to be present at events that are already taking place such as the Bishop’s Bash, ICYC (Indiana Catholic Youth Conference), NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference), Theology on Tap, Senior Retreat for high school students, college campus Masses, Bishop Bruté Days, Catholic Schools Week events, and other events where young Catholics gather.

“We enjoy a strong relationship with the [Indianapolis] Serra Club and their initiatives to foster vocations in our parishes as well as with parish vocation committees, of which we are seeing an increase in number. It’s exciting to see the laity take on a strong role in praying for and supporting vocations on the parish level.”

Q. How do you reach out in regard to other vocations besides the priesthood?

A. “Although much of our focus is on priesthood and religious life, we support the work of the Office of Pro-Life and Family Life in whatever capacity we can because there is a clear complementary connection to the vocations.

“Out of holy marriages and families come priestly and religious vocations. Those who are priests and religious serve families and witness by their lives to the unity that God wants with each one of his children. So our work very much supports and fosters all vocations with a special emphasis on diocesan priesthood and religious life.

“As a side note, we meet quarterly with the vocation directors of religious communities in the archdiocese to collaborate on programs such as the annual Indy’s “Got Sisters” event, which will be on Feb. 20-21 [2015]. This is a 24-hour experience to meet, pray and serve with the sisters who live and minister in Indianapolis.

“We are also looking forward to being involved with the Year of Consecrated Life [set for 2015, as declared by Pope Francis] on the local level.”

Q. How do donations to the United Catholic Appeal help in your mission?

A. “The United Catholic Appeal funds are critical for two important arms of our ministry.

“First, they allow our seminarians to receive the highest quality education and formation for the Roman Catholic priesthood from the three seminaries that we send men to: Bishop Simon Bruté [College Seminary in Indianapolis], Saint Meinrad [Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad], and the Pontifical North American College [in Rome].

“We are blessed to have 26 men in formation. Between their education, room and board, and summer experiences such as summer language study, CPE [clinical pastoral experience] in a hospital, and the Institute for Priestly Formation [in Omaha, Neb.], this is a large financial undertaking. The United Catholic Appeal makes this possible.

“Secondly, we are able to host our discernment events and have as many attendees come as are interested.

“It’s not necessarily true that young people interact with priests and religious on a daily basis, so to have events where men and women can meet and interact with priests and religious that have different interests and personalities is crucial.

“Young people need to have the ability to envision themselves as possibly having a call to the priesthood or religious life. Many times, we also have parents of high schoolers attend our events, which helps vocations become an ongoing topic of conversation in the daily life of these families.”

(For more information on the United Catholic Appeal, log on to www.archindy.org/uca or call the Office of Stewardship and Development at 317-236-1415 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1415.)

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