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 | Monica Bonfe Erickson

Bringing Christ to the Youth of the World

Youth Ministers, Faith Formation Directors, Deacons, Priests, Religious Sisters, and people from all around the Diocese of St. Petersburg gathered recently at the Bethany Center for a Vocations Summit.  In attendance was Monica Bonfe Erickson, Youth Minister at St. Patrick Parish, Tampa. She wrote this reflection on how we as a Church can build a culture of vocations.

Caption: Youth spend time in prayer.

October 10, 2022 |Spend the day with people who believe that bringing Christ to the youth of the world has never been more important? Yes please!  On Saturday, September 24th I attended the Vocations Summit led by our Director of Vocations for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Father Chuck Dornquast, alongside Sam Alzheimer from Vianney Vocations. The primary focus of this day was to teach and empower people to build a “culture of vocations” in our Diocese. What is a culture of vocations?

In the Church as a whole, the news about vocations to the priesthood is not always encouraging. The decline in the numbers of vocations of men to the priesthood, women to religious life, and couples to holy marriages are much lower than we should ever be willing to accept. The truth and percentages are difficult to hear, but in order to build a culture of vocations, you first have to begin with what is happening currently. Then it is possible to move forward with hope and fresh vigor to inspire the youth of our Church to live out their ‘Great Commission.’ But how?

 As a Youth Minister, it is a focus and passion of my heart to do whatever I can to help youth develop a relationship with Jesus, a love for the Sacraments, and to find their path to real happiness in holiness. But if you have not noticed, the world is getting noisier by the second. So many distractions and roadblocks.

The problem is that the call is not on your cell phone or a notification from Alexa, but it’s something much more quiet and subtle. The Lord is still calling saints this very day… we just can’t hear Him!

It is our job as the Church to amplify the call!

What if becoming a priest or a religious sister was included as an option to the “what do you want to be when you grow up” question with our little ones alongside a fireman or astronaut? A culture of vocations is a culture where the call to discipleship is taught both in the home and in the Church. It is a culture that supports that call with encouragement, testimony, and tools to empower our young people to not just live, but truly thrive as the person God has called them to be using their talents to glorify Him. It is a culture that teaches discernment tools to our young people in our Youth Ministry programs in order to help them make courageous and holy decisions and discern the next steps on their path. It is a culture that provides opportunities to learn discipleship through service to the Church and to the community can help unlock a vocation. It is a culture that encourages our youth to run to the Eucharist, the Sacraments, Adoration as they seek out their vocations. It is a culture that makes use of the various materials and websites available on vocations to spark ideas on what might work at our parishes to foster and encourage vocations. Most importantly, it is a culture that prays unceasing for vocations to the priesthood and religious life every day.  We help amplify the call that the world tries so hard to muffle.

This beautiful day included Mass with Bishop Gregory Parkes, and concluded with a commissioning to all in  attendance to go back to our parishes and make it known that God needs all of us. He needs all of us to intentionally use our gifts and talents to build a culture of vocations in our parishes and invite young people to consider a religious vocation. How will you make it known? St. John Vianney, patron of priests, pray for us!

Father Chuck Dornquast speaks to a crowd gathered at the Bethany Retreat Center for the Diocesan Vocations Summit on September 24, 2022. Photo by Jasmine Pujol.

Bishop Gregory Parkes joins parish leaders to discuss creating a culture of vocations in our Diocese. Photo by Jasmine Pujol.