May 11, 2022, address to the Serra Club of St. Louis, an international Catholic organization that foster’s vocations.
I want to thank you for this invitation and opportunity to be with you and speak with you today. I am truly honored to be here and to spend this time with you in prayer and fellowship.
For 87 years, this organization—your Serra Club—has been a prayerful and helpful force for what is best in and for our beloved Catholic Church. You have been a witness that our individual and collective growth in holiness is essential and imperative in nurturing and fostering faith and vocations with future generations. It is so true that our love, hope, and joy for Christ, for our faith, for our Church, and for our vocation and lives of prayer and service are the best and only gift we have within us to give and to inspire the world.
There is no doubt that we face great challenges in our world and in our Church. It always gives me solace to know that every age of our world and church has confronted similar or even greater challenges than we have today. Our ancestors in the faith showed us time and time again to address challenges by holding fast to prayer—to stay united with one another, to be devoted to truth, and to be zealous and generous in our service and proclamation of the good news.
The motto of your patron, our patron St. Junipero Serra, “Always forward, never back,” is more needed today than ever before in the history of our world and church. I believe we are living in a very exciting time in the Church. The call of the Holy Father to be renewed as a people of synodality is about listening, discerning, and sharing with one another to create a vision for moving forward with faith, hope, and love.
I have been a Vincentina for 45 years and a priest for 36 years. I have served as the Provincial Superior for the Vincentians in the Western Province now for two years. My leadership position has given me a “bird’s eye” view of the critical challenges we face as a Church: lack of mission effectiveness, the proper allocation of resources, and the shortage of vocations and personnel.
In my own Congregation in the western USA, our unique missionary vocation will literally be extinct in the next decade. I will admit that we had become complacent in our efforts to encourage vocations to our congregation. However, I am happy to say that we have made vocation recruitment and initial formation a priority in our province. Soon after being elected Provincial in 2020, I met with my Provincial Council and said we are life fishermen who hope to catch fish but are never near any bodies of water, we do not have fishing poles or any bait to catch fish, and we wonder why we are not successful in getting new vocations.
In the last two years, my congregation has made the following commitments for fostering vocations:
- Houses are praying daily our unique Vincentian prayer for vocations.
- We have dedicated two full-time vocations directors with a clear strategy for discernment and recruitment.
- As Provincial, I routinely visit our missions, schools, and parishes and intentionally speak with men and invite them to consider joining our Congregation. I am happy to say that we now have two men that I personally invited in regular dialogue with our Vocation Directors about joining us.
- We made a decision to bring our initial formation program back to our ancestral home of St. Louis. (The Vincentians first came to the USA in 1818 and settled in Perryville—our first novitiate was the Old Cathedral.) Last year, we purchased a house (on Lafayette, off I-44 near Grand) in Midtown St. Louis near our parish, St. Vincent’s, where we do some direct service to the poor, near our provincial headquarters on Forest Park and Spring. The St. Louis location gives us easy access to our first foundation and motherhouse at St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perryville, where our wonderful elderly priests and brothers live. We want our future seminarians to know and learn from our elders. Also, the new formation house in St. Louis will allow seminarians to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (a special Marian devotion for us Vincentians) and come to know and love our Blessed Mother.
Our new formation house in St. Louis is named the Vincentian Mission House. We anticipate our new formation to be opened in January 2023, and we are hoping to welcome three seminarians in 2023. Early in 2023, we plan to have a blessing and dedication of our new formation house. I want to personally invite you, the Serra Club, to participate in dedicating our new formation house.
Again, thank you for this opportunity to be with you. It is my hope and prayer that our time together today will be the beginning of a renewed and long friendship between the Serra Club and the Vincentians.
Thank you for your friendship, support, and prayer. May God bless you and your families.