November 1, 2019

2019 Vocations Awareness Supplement

Promoting priestly and religious vocations is the work of all the faithful

By Fr. Eric Augenstein

This fall, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson announced a restructuring of the Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. After serving as director of vocations for more than six and a half years, I have transitioned to a new role as director of seminarians, while a new team of priests has been appointed to oversee vocations outreach, promotion and discernment.

In looking back over my time as archdiocesan vocations director, I have recognized several lessons that I have learned about the promotion and formation of vocations, especially to the priesthood and consecrated life. I’d like to share some of those lessons with you.

First, many of us in the Church have a hard time understanding what we mean when we use the word “vocation.”

While vocations are often associated with priests and consecrated religious, the term is much broader, speaking to the call we have all received to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Within that universal call, many of us are then called to a particular vocation: marriage, priesthood, diaconate, or consecrated life. But vocation, first and foremost, is a call from God.

Second, when it comes to promoting the particular vocations of priesthood and consecrated life, I have learned that priests beget priests, seminarians beget seminarians, and religious beget religious.

In other words, the best way to help young people discover if God is calling them to the priesthood or consecrated life is to spend time with priests and religious. I have especially seen this with our seminarians.

When young men spend time with our seminarians, they discover that they are regular guys who take their faith seriously and are trying to follow Jesus. Visiting a seminary or a religious community is one of the best things a young person can do to see if that might be their call.

Third, we have a great challenge in our Church of calling forth new priestly and religious vocations from different cultural communities, especially the Latino community. The ethnic makeup of our seminarians and priests does not match the ethnic makeup of the people in our parishes. There is much work to be done to call forth vocations from these communities.

Fourth, the best priestly vocations resource we have in the archdiocese is Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis. The wisdom of the late Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein in founding this seminary has opened the door to so many more young men actively discerning the priesthood here in our local Church.

We are blessed with two great seminaries in our archdiocese—Bishop Bruté and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad—and I believe we will reap the fruit of these seminaries for a long time to come.

Finally, if there is one place where we should concentrate our efforts of vocations promotion, it is on college campuses. There is some great ministry happening on college campuses these days, and also great potential for listening and discerning God’s call, even in the midst of many competing voices.

We as a Church, and as those who promote priestly and religious vocations, need to be connected wherever young people are, but our college-age young people especially are thirsting for God and for meaning in their lives—and we would do well to accompany them on that journey.

So there we have it—some lessons from a half-dozen years of full-time ministry promoting priestly and religious vocations. And as a final reminder—this is not the work of one person or one office. We are all called to assist the Harvest Master who never ceases to bring forth laborers for the harvest.

(Father Eric Augenstein serves as pastor of Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Parish in Indianapolis and as archdiocesan director of seminarians.)

See more stories from our 2019 Vocations Awareness Supplement

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