The following is a message to the people of the Archdiocese of Detroit from Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Earlier this year, at the Vigil of Pentecost, we solemnly inaugurated a Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations in the Archdiocese of Detroit. At that time, I also shared with you a new pastoral note explaining the pressing need that we in the archdiocese have for an increase in priestly vocations.
In recognition of Priesthood Sunday in the U.S. Church, September 25, I would like to expand upon that pastoral note by reflecting on a few themes for our prayers this year.
Let us pray in thanksgiving for an abundance of calls. In our prayers, we thank God ahead of time for calling the sons of our community to be workers in his vineyard. We ask him to grant our sons, grandsons, cousins, and friends the strength and the courage to follow in the footsteps of their brothers whose stories are recorded in Scripture, the apostles who walked with Christ here on earth and now rejoice at his side in heaven.
Let us pray for men to hear God’s call. We know that God in His love for the Church will always call a sufficient number of pastors for our service, so there is no shortage of men being called. Rather, there is a shortage of men hearing their call. So, we pray that men called to the priesthood are able to set aside the noise of their busy lives so that they might hear in the silence an invitation from our Lord. We pray, as well, for God in his providence to send people into their lives to encourage their discernment and provide opportunities to explore life in the priesthood. It is profoundly difficult for a man to become a priest on his own, without the support of his community.
Let us pray for men to have courage. We hear at the Last Supper Christ’s warning to the apostles: “If you belong to the world, the world will love its own. But because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.” I have often noted that Jesus employed a rather strange recruitment strategy when calling his early disciples, stating they would be sent out “like lambs in the midst of wolves.” It is one thing to endure occasional disagreement from others. This is an experience shared by everyone. But it takes profound courage for a man to be willing to endure contempt, to be hated by the world, to live in such a counter-cultural way as in the priesthood. This is a courage that no man by his own strength could summon. This courage – this gift of the Holy Spirit – lives in the heart of Jesus and the hearts of those called by Jesus. This year, we pray for God to continue sending us courageous men with the Heart of Christ to lead the people of God.
Let us pray for our communities. We pray that we become effective instruments of assisting men who are called the priesthood – helping them to hear that initial, sometimes subtle whisper of invitation, to discern more deeply where the invitation leads, and ultimately to call upon the courage to follow after Christ into a vocation in the priesthood. At the same time, this Year of Prayer is a call for all of us – religious, deacons, lay men and women – to respond again to our own vocations, remembering that we, too, must be quiet to listen, to hear, and to be inspired.
Let us pray because the harvest is at stake. When we ask God for workers in his vineyard, we are asking for priests to preach the Gospel in order to build up the kingdom of God here on earth. War, violence, poverty, and other societal ills show us clearly the need for holiness and salvation in the world. We know the fields are ripe for the harvest. The world needs the kingdom of God, so the world needs holy priests. We pray because Jesus told us to, and as disciples of Christ we follow him so that the Father will be glorified.
Let us pray alongside Our Lady, always and everywhere. Our Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations appropriately began on the Vigil of Pentecost, the traditional day of priestly ordinations in the Archdiocese of Detroit. For the first time in generations, there were no men ordained for archdiocese this Pentecost, so we began our year of prayer humbly petitioning God for something that we did not have and could not produce of our own strength. Our prayers have continued in the weeks since Pentecost and will continue through the months ahead, a reflection of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the center of prayer with the disciples in the Upper Room between the Ascension and Pentecost. We continue to pray today, mindful that Our Lady, our mother and the mother of priests, is likewise at the center of our prayer for priestly vocations.
Let us pray with confidence. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus tells those around him that whatever they ask of the Father in his name, they will be given. We know, then, that God will give us what we need in the way he knows we need it. This may not come about in the way that we expect, but we know with certainty that our Lord hears and answers our prayers. So, as we continue our Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations, let us follow the example of Detroit’s own Blessed Solanus Casey in thanking God ahead of time for hearing our prayers and calling forth a new generation of holy priests for the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit