Vocations director encourages prospective priests to become ‘Men of the Hearts’

Archdiocese’s Office of Priestly Vocations announces relaunch of website, renewal of mission to help men discern a heroic priestly life

DETROIT — The Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Priestly Vocations is undergoing a cosmetic and spiritual makeover Church leaders hope will encourage more young men to consider devoting their lives to serving “the heart of Jesus.”

The bold, new direction under Fr. Craig Giera, director of priestly vocations for the archdiocese, seeks to address the underlying reasons behind a well-publicized shortage of priests and re-evaluate the strategies behind helping young men hear and answer the call to the priesthood.

The relaunch includes a facelift for the Office of Priestly Vocations’ website, detroitpriestlyvocations.com, and a new motto: “Men of the Hearts.”

“The Lord Jesus is calling us to redouble our efforts to share the gift of the ministerial priesthood,” Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron wrote in a letter to archdiocesan priests Dec. 8. “We love the priesthood, and we know how badly the Church, indeed the world, needs more priests on mission. Christ wants us to work diligently to identify and assist those men he is calling to form the next generation of priests.”

The new logo and motto for the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Priestly Vocations, “Men of the Hearts,” encourages men to look to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary as they discern a vocation. 

The archbishop emphasized the role of current priests in helping men answer God’s call to the priesthood positively and wholeheartedly. In surveys of priests asking about the biggest influence in their own vocations, large majorities cite the influence of priest-mentors along with family encouragement as primary factors. 

“We are Christ’s instruments, and must cooperate wholeheartedly with his work in our lives and the life of the Church. But the work is His, and so He will bring it to fruition,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote. 

The archbishop cited statistics that the Archdiocese of Detroit currently has 249 priests serving its 216 parishes. According to a 10-year projection, the archdiocese estimates it will have just 172 priests by 2030 — a 28.3 percent decrease. 

Despite the seriousness of the projected decline, Archbishop Vigneron remained hopeful in his letter, challenging priests to encourage vocations by living a dedicated, priestly life, regularly offering the sacraments, encouraging men as they explore the priesthood, and equpping families to encourage discernment. 

The relaunch of the vocations website and reassessment of the Office of Priestly Vocations’ mission on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, was no accident, Fr. Giera said.

Fr. Craig Giera, seen here at a “Taste of Faith” event at his prior assignment at St. Ephram Parish in Sterling Heights, now serves as director of priestly vocations. Fr. Giera said he’s dedicated his new work to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He said that the intercession of Mary is the safest and surest way for men to hear and answer the call to the priesthood. (Dan Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

“I personally have dedicated the whole vocations office to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as well as all of its workings and all of the men in the Archdiocese of Detroit who truly do have a vocation to the priesthood, to her heart,” Fr. Giera told Detroit Catholic

Fr. Giera said Mary was influential in his own calling to the priesthood and that many other priests have said their mothers — whether Mother Mary, Mother Church or their earthly mothers — played an important role in discerning their vocations. 

“I think she is the surest and safest way to lead men to their vocation,” Fr. Giera said. 

This new dedication to the heart of Mary is reflected in the vocation office’s new motto: “Men of the Hearts,” with the idea that priests and seminarians should unite their hearts to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

“(The logo) is an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, and as their two hearts beat as one, we are called to be led by them,” Fr. Giera said. “Mary leads us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; Mary can bring these men to Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where they learn to be formed as a priest.”

Since becoming director of priestly vocations in April, Fr. Giera has spent his time prayerfully designing a new strategic plan for the department, assessing what does and doesn’t work. The decreasing number of vocations was something he and the archdiocese couldn’t ignore. 

“Now is the perfect time with where we are at in the Church and what is happening,” Fr. Giera said. “As the archbishop said, we need to ‘redouble our efforts,’ and make a commitment to look for men who truly have the characteristics of a good priest and to invite those men, saying, ‘I think you are called, and I am going to be here for you and walk with you on that journey,’” Fr. Giera said.

Fr. Giera said the act of accompaniment is critical to the success of any vocations effort, and he’s encouraging families and parishioners to walk alongside young men considering the priesthood, along with their parish pastors. 

Also in the works are discernment groups and the “Barnabas Brotherhood” — named for St. Barnabas, who faithfully accompanied and encouraged St. Paul — a group that will encourage priests throughout the archdiocese to walk with young men in discernment by offering spiritual guidance and inviting them into fellowship with other priests and seminarians. 

“(These men) really need someone to be there for them and to help them understand and discern, praying for them and answering questions,” Fr. Giera said. 

Fr. David Bechill, pastor of Christ the Good Shepherd Parish in Lincoln Park, celebrates Mass. Archbishop Vigneron said Christ is calling on the archdiocese to “redouble their efforts” to help identify and guide men toward a priestly vocation. (Naomi Vrazo | Detroit Catholic)

Along with the new direction, Fr. Giera is encouraging the faithful to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary for an increase in vocations in the Church. 

It’s important to let young men know a vocation to the priesthood is an option, Fr. Giera said, something he himself had to learn despite having grown up in a faithful Catholic household. 

“At my ordination, right when all of the different priests laid their hands upon my head, it was just the most powerful moment of knowing that I belong to this brotherhood, and we have the common purpose of saving souls, of bringing Jesus to others,” Fr. Giera said. “It gave me purpose. It gave me meaning. It gave me joy. It gave me the fulfillment that nothing else in this world was doing.”

Office of Priestly Vocations: ‘Men of the Hearts’

To learn more about priestly vocations in the Archdiocese of Detroit, visit detroitpriestlyvocations.com