by Fr TIEN CAO
Every year, the vocations directors of all dioceses in New Zealand meet together at Holy Cross Seminary and, together with the staff there, we discuss, learn and plan with each other how we can best support and accompany our candidates to the priesthood in the context of the Catholic Church in New Zealand. We are all enthusiastic about this role and we take it seriously.
We are excited by the fact that many individuals and prayer groups in parishes around the country are praying for vocations to priesthood regularly. This is an indication that the Spirit of God prompts our hearts’ desire to pray for more vocations, and our praying reminds us that the Lord never stops providing us with shepherds after his own heart.
We are a priestly people; the Lord feeds and leads us by many means and many different pathways. As Catholics, we know that nothing and no one can replace the sacraments of Jesus. It is Jesus Christ who has instituted the sacraments in order for him to remain with us constantly, and to provide us with his life-giving graces.
From the sacraments, Christ bestows upon us grace upon grace. From the moment of our baptism into the new life in the Holy Trinity, to the moment of our first reconciliation, holy communion and confirmation, to ordination to the priesthood, the sacred vows of marriage and the anointing of the sick, Christ constantly nourishes us with his love and grace.
Being aware of the essential nature of the priesthood, the Catholic community never ceases to pray that God will give us ardent and gentle shepherds after his own heart. St John Vianney, the Cure of Ars (who is also the patron saint of diocesan priests and of all priests), reflects, “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus”, it is the core of his love and salvation for our faith community.
As the diocesan vocation directors of the Church in New Zealand, we are excited whenever a young man begins to say “Yes” to God in order to start the process of discerning if God wants him to become a priest for his people. On the one hand, it is a privilege for us to journey with these men, to nurture their discernment and to share the gift of our priesthood with them as they begin this journey. On the other hand, it is also their privilege that we are made available as God’s servants to accompany them on their lifetime vocational journey.
At our gathering in July, we also discussed the fact that our dioceses are faced with the challenge that men in our community of faith may not have heard deeply the invitation of Christ. For this reason, many of our current candidates for the priesthood at our seminary are from overseas (for example Vietnam and the Philippines).
We thank God for the dynamic of the universality of the Catholic Church for this providence; however, we also hope and pray that men of faith in New Zealand will take seriously the
invitation of Christ in discerning his call to the priesthood.
Our hope for the vocation to the priesthood in New Zealand is that, by our prayers, encouragement and regular invitation, men of faith will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and have the courage to respond.
We also hope that parishioners and parish priests throughout the country will continue to actively encourage, identify and invite men of faith in parishes to discern the vocation to the priesthood.
We vocations directors are ready to accompany them.