By RENEE WEBB
With National Vocation Awareness Week just around the corner, the diocesan vocations director emphasizes the role everyone can have in promoting vocations.
“Promoting vocations not only ensure that there will be future ministries for the church, it also helps young people find their deepest sense of fulfillment in God’s will for their lives and the vocation to which he has called them,” said Father Shane Deman.
National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations. NVAW began in 1976 by the U. S. bishops and this year it will be held Nov. 5-11.
During NVAW, Father Deman said the Sioux City Serra Club helps to distribute posters and bulletin inserts to all parishes, which highlight diocesan seminarians.
“We also provide free online vocations lesson plans for all Catholic schoolteachers and faith formation catechists, for all grades,” he noted. “I also encourage the priests to focus on vocations in their Sunday homilies, particularly sharing their own vocation story.”
Families could mark the awareness week by praying a rosary together or spend time in eucharistic adoration.
“Promoting vocations is the work of everyone in the church,” the vocations director said. “It takes all of us working together to help young people discover the gifts they have been given and recognize how those gifts can be used for God’s glory and the good of the church.”
He stressed the fact that prayer is essential.
“Please storm heaven asking the Holy Spirit to instill in our young people a desire to serve in the church,” Father Deman said. “Secondly, if you see promising qualities in someone who would make a good priest or religious, please tell them so and encourage them in their discernment.”
Having recently attended a national conference on vocations, he learned dioceses across the country are facing similar challenges when it comes to vocations particularly “as young people find it difficult to make firm commitments.”
However, Father Deman noted, there are certain trends across the nation regarding successful vocations recruitment.
“These include the presence of joyful priests and religious, young people who have been taught how to pray and who listen to the voice of the Lord and frequent availability of the sacraments of Eucharist and confession,” the vocations director said. “When these elements are in place, young people are in a good position to respond generously to the call of Christ.”
Father Deman pointed out the current seminarians are strong men who are willing to give generously for the good of the church.
“They know with our diminishing priest numbers, a great amount of work will be expected of them,” he added. “Nevertheless, they are following the Lord with joyful hearts and seek greater holiness, despite any of the challenges that may come.”
Given the advent of Ministry 2025 diocesan pastoral planning, Father Deman has been impressed it has not discouraged the young people with whom he works and it appears they recognize “now is the time to respond with courage and generosity.”
To help spread vocations awareness, the diocese hosts some programs/events every year.
Project Andrew dinners continue to be offered every year. They are arranged by the vocations director and a local pastor to encourage young men to think about the priesthood.
“In recent months, the Vocations Office hosted a Quo Vadis Discernment Retreat for young men in Okoboji,” Father Deman said. “This retreat will become an annual event and had 18 enthusiastic participants in our first year.”
Also new this year has been the establishment of Diocesan Discernment Days for Women.
Two women religious serving in the diocese – Sister Madeleine Miller, OSB, and Sister Esther Mary Nickel, RSM, – volunteered to facilitate discernment days for young women aged 17 to 35 who may be called to religious life. The first day was held in September in Sioux City and one is planned for Oct. 29 in Fort Dodge.
“I believe that an increase in women religious vocations is essential to an increase in priestly vocations,” Father Deman said. “These vocations complement each other in mutual encouragement of total dedication to God.”
Coming up on Nov. 4, young men will have the opportunity to attend a state-wide gathering, Thinking of Priesthood Day that is sponsored by the four Iowa dioceses. It will feature guest speaker Father Jonathan Fassero, OSB, of St. Meinrad Archabbey.
“Father Jonathan will lead the discerns through a number of reflections that help them better understand what God is asking of them and what seminary is actually like,” said Father Deman. “This event has often been a catalyst in helping a man thinking about the seminary take the next step in asking for an application.”
Intended for juniors and seniors in high school, this discernment day will be held at St. Cecilia Parish in Ames. If interested in attending, contact Father Deman in the Vocations Office at (712) 233-7523.