Auckland Auxiliary Bishop Michael Gielen has called on people to support vocations through prayer, asking everyone to pray at least one Hail Mary every day for more vocations.
“As parents, grandparents and parishioners, we’ve got to pray for vocations. Pray hard. Especially, Marian prayers, asking the Blessed Mary to intercede for vocations. I ask people to pray one Hail Mary every day for vocations,” he said.
The bishop asked for prayers as Vocations Awareness Week approached. The week starts on Good Shepherd Sunday, April 25, and ends on May 1.
Bishop Gielen noted the low number of people discerning a priestly or religious vocation at present. He said that even secular society is finding it hard to attract young people to serve in altruistic enterprises, non-governmental organisations and similar fields.
“I’ve noticed that it’s a challenge for society in general, and also the Church,” he said. “So, it’s important that the Church supports people in serving where they are using their gifts to the best of their ability. Particularly, the Church needs good priests and religious who dedicate their lives in a unique way . . . a very specialised way, to the service of the Church. And obviously, we are not seeing that today.”
The low number of vocations, though, “does not mean that God has stopped calling people”, he said.
“Either we’re not hearing God’s call [or] we’re not presenting the invitation in a way that’s attractive, and that we’re not helping people to hear their call,” he said.
Bishop Gielen stressed that nurturing vocations starts from the home and the parish.
“The fundamental houses or homes of formation are the family and the parish. I grew up in a family that prayed every night,” he said. He said Pope St Paul VI referred to the family as the “domestic Church”. “[The home is] where you first experience what it’s like to be part of a praying community, part of a believing community,” he said.
Bishop Gielen said this experience was reinforced in the parish, which became his wider family. He said his parish was where he made life-long friends, and where he learned to be a faithful, mature Christian.
“This naturally led to me discerning to be a priest. I was naturally led in, and took up the call. I followed it and was encouraged by them,” he said. “Some of my best supporters come from Tokoroa. Even now, they are still being encouraging and support[ing] me. Because I was their son, one of their boys.”
To young people discerning their calling, Bishop Gielen said they (young people) should “start with allowing Jesus to look at you with love”. This was what Pope Francis suggested when he was asked the same question, the bishop explained.
“Sometimes, a sign of vocation is the very fact that it’s the thing I don’t want to do. I fight it,” he said.
“If this is something you’re running away from, then ask yourself, why am I running? Why would I run from love?,” he asked.
“There is no doubt there is a great need in New Zealand for men who are willing to say ‘yes’. Let Jesus look at you with love and be courageous enough,” he said.