Parish Vocation Programs
“The Biloxi Serra Club & Knights of Columbus joined to “Create a Culture for Vocations”
By Terry Dickson, Gulf Pine Catholic
DIOCESE OF BILOXI – As with all dioceses, one of the things at the top of this diocese’s wish list, not only at Christmas time but year round, is an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
The Serra Club encourages and supports vocations in a variety of ways, including through a devotion called “The Elijah Cup.”
The purpose of the Elijah Cup, a consecrated chalice, is to focus on and provide an awareness of prayer in the classroom and in the home for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, the permanent diaconate and the religious life.
The Elijah Cup is so named after the prophet Elijah who visited a poor widow and her son who had little or no food. God in all His boundless wisdom blessed her with an abundance of prosperity and food accordingly to the writings of (1 Kings 17:8-15).
The devotion is simple to implement. During a school week day Eucharistic Celebration or Sunday Mass the celebrant will use the Elijah Cup as the precious blood cup. After communion and purification of the chalice designated as the Elijah Cup, the priest will call a classroom teacher, student, or family to receive the Elijah Cup. They will receive a blessing with instructions to place the Chalice in a place of honor in the classroom and/or family home. Each day for a designated time usually a week they are to pray for an increase and perseverance of religious vocations. The following week the sacred vessel is returned with gifts at the offertory and the process is repeated with another classroom or family for the following week.
In addition to daily prayer the devotion could be further enhanced by displaying a spiritual bouquet furnished by the Serra Club, which would allow each child to list the number of Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s or Masses and Communions offered up for vocations. At the end of the school year each school in the Diocese would total up the prayers and the school would present this to the Bishop in the form of a spiritual bouquet.
St. Alphonsus School in Ocean Springs doesn’t call their chalice the Elijah Cup, but has a similar weekly devotion.
“Each week at our school assembly after mass, we pass the chalice to one of our students. The student takes it home for the week following the prayers dedicated to vocations that accompany the chalice,” said St. Alphonsus principal Miriam Jones. “It’s returned Friday before the school Mass to be distributed again. Presently, I’m having it go home with my sixth graders; we’ll move to fifth grade families next. My students and their families have gladly accepted the cup with the commitment to pray for vocations.”
Dick Eckert, president of the Diocese of Biloxi’s Serra Club chapter said, “The Serra Club seeks an abundance of religious vocations so has taken this event to pray for priestly and religious vocation awareness in our schools and homes and asks for your help in spreading this prayer devotion.
He added, “The goal would be to have each Catholic elementary and high school in the Diocese have an Elijah Cup. This project would be implemented in each school for an open period one year or longer and evaluated after that to be continued or amended. Parishes with and without schools could also implement the devotion through family participation and pastor approval. The Serra Club would assist in every way possible in implementing this devotion throughout the Diocese.”
Immaculate Conception Parish in Laurel has an “Elijah Cup” that is passed among families on a weekly basis because, as is stated in the weekly parish bulletin announcement, “Praying for vocations is a responsibility and privilege of the laity.”
The vocations chalice was used at both Sacred Heart Parish in Hattiesburg and Our Lady of the Gulf Parish in Bay St. Louis prior to Katrina.
“We have not restarted it since the hurricane. The cup went the way of the hurricane. We may restart it again next year,” said Our Lady of the Gulf pastor Father Michael Tracey
“People were very receptive to it at OLG. Families volunteered to take the cup for a week and pray for vocations. All members of the family participated. Each family began the process at a Sunday Mass with a special commissioning prayer and service.”
Eckert is hopeful more people will participate in the Elijah Cup devotion
“There is a real and present need for priests in the Diocese of Biloxi. We have over 70,000 Catholics in 58 parishes and only 45 Diocesan Priests. Today, half are age 60 or older, in ten years; only 7 priests will be under the age of 60. Here in the Biloxi Diocese we are blessed to have 13 seminarians but over the next 10 years, we need 50 or more priests,” he said.
“We need to pray for more vocations and the Serra Club encourages the Elijah Cup devotion and the spiritual bouquet as a way of increasing religious vocations with our prayers so the children in our classroom today and/ or parish families will have a priest to celebrate Mass for them and their family’s of tomorrow.”
“The Biloxi SERRA Club & Knights of Columbus joined to “Create a Culture for Vocations” in our parish families was initiated recently at St. Alphonsus K of C Council 5654 in Ocean Springs. The chalice was given to a Knights of Columbus family at the 6:30 a.m. Friday Mass to take home and share their prayers for vocations to the ordained priesthood and consecrated religious life. The program, with the support of Father Dennis Carver, diocesan vocations director, will be expanded to all parishes and pastors who whish to participate. A chalice will be provided by a participating parish and a kit which includes a protective cover, a CD on the Eucharist and Vocation prayers will be provided to recite a family meals.”
For more information, contact a Serra member or Knight of Columbus in your parish for or call 228-875 -5233.
Something for the kids
Priesthood Sunday is just around the corner. Our club had a neat successful program. We distributed spiritual bouquet cards to our catholic elementary and religious education students . The card is front and back. (See link to this article for a copy.) It was distributed through our Director of Education for the Diocese who asks each elementary principal how many cards they want . Last Priesthood Sunday over 2,000 cards were distributed for under $200. I got the idea from my grandchildren who like to draw and have a vivid imagination. We like the program so much that we are going to add cards for adults to give to their pastor on Priesthood Sunday 2009.
We invite to use our Handbook for Parish Vocation Activity for additional ideas.
Our Catholic Bishops and others continue to report the increasing average age of our Diocesan Priests and the decreasing number of Seminarians. Soon, Priests will not be available to staff the existing Parishes in the Diocese. Other Religious Vocations such as the Deaconate, Brotherhood and Sisterhood, are experiencing similar numbers. It is critical that more of our Catholic Youth and Adults consider these Vocations.
Vocations is always a topic at meetings of The SERRA Club of the Diocese of Biloxi. It was noted that SERRA Members primary purpose is to conduct programs to promote Awareness and Prayer for Vocations. Other groups, such as the Knights of Columbus, conduct activities to help the Diocese with financial support. But, SERRA Members are few in number and represent several parishes across the Diocese. Coordination of program activities at the parish level is limited without dedicated members.
The members discussed several ideas to increase program support at the Parish Level. The decision was to encourage parishes to establish Parish Vocations Committees under the authority of each Pastor. SERRA Members would assist with organizational support and serve on the committee if appointed by the Pastor.
SERRA Members, Joe Goellner and John Mavar, took this idea to their Pastor, Rev. Bernard Farrell. At St Elizabeth Seton. After discussing the organizational details, Father Farrell endorsed the idea with enthusiasm. He said that he strongly supported the efforts of the SERRA Club Vocations efforts. He appointed a six member organizational committee to develop suggested Mission Statement, Goals, Objectives and Operational Procedures using the SERRA International Guidelines. Also, Father Farrell requested a list of twelve nominees to assist him in appointing the additional six members of the twelve person Committee.
At the first meeting of the new twelve member Parish Vocations Committee,
adopted the following Mission Statement, Goal and Objectives.
Committee Mission: To foster and affirm ordained and consecrated
leadership in the Parish and
Committee Goal: To foster and affirm Vocations to the Priesthood,
and Permanent Deaconate.
Committee Objectives: To call forth Priests, Sisters, Brothers and Permanent Deacons from among the faithful in the parish, and to affirm those who now serve the Church.
The Committee established Program Activities to be performed to achieve the objectives and be listed into four Categories as follows:
Prayer Activities: To petition God’s help in providing Priests and Religious.
Awareness Activities: To bring about religious vocation awareness
among candidates, families, peers,
and other support groups, and to identify and invite candidates to the Priesthood and Religious Life.
Affirmation Activities: To show love, respect, gratitude, and encouragement to those who have accepted the religious vocation call.
To help them avoid mental and physical stress and assist them as needed.
To promote religious life with a positive reference.
Support Activities: To assist seminarians, priests, or religious with personal involvement or by monetary means.
The Vocations Committee selected the following activities to begin our mission and to introduce our Vocations Program. All parishioners are asked be involved by serving on the various activity committees and/or participate in the activity. Let’s make it a total parish effort.
A. Promote the Thirty One ( 31 ) Club for Mass and Adoration Service Attendance by individuals or couples to pray for Vocations. Committee members will coordinate the planning and
implementation to the parishioners
B. Vocation Chalice Prayer Program to promote Family Prayer for Vocations. Families will be asked to volunteer to accept a chalice and promise to pray as a family during the selected week. Committee Members will lead the planning and coordinate the implementation with Father Farrell and parishioners.
C. Request prayer for vocations be included during Prayers of the Faithful during Mass. A member will coordinate the Prayer effort with the Liturgy Committee and Father Farrell.
D. Promote attendance at Group Prayer, Rosary and Adoration Services. Committee members will address various options with Father Farrell and Deacon Martin and develop an action plan.
A. Provide and maintain a Vocation pamphlet rack in the Church Vestibule. Committee members are to develop the implementation plan, cost of rack and Vocation information and seek the Pastor’s approval. After purchase, receipt and setup, the committee member should promote it to parish groups and parishioners.
B. Plan presentations to all Parish Groups such as CCD, Bible Study, Prayer
Groups, RCIA Classes, Fraternal and Youth Groups, and Parish Families. Committee
members are to develop
and implement the action plan.
A. Develop a plan to support our Priests and Seminarians
B. Contact Diocesan Vocations Director to discuss ideas for support and Invite Seminarians to visit St Elizabeth Seton Parish when available.
The organizational phase of the Parish Vocations Committee is complete. The
Committee will begin its First Operational Year on January 07, 2009 with the
election of a President, Vice President and Secretary. The status of all Program
Activities are to be reported at each meeting and documented in
the Meeting Minutes.
Father Farrell is very pleased with the success of the committee. He
encourages the committee to fully develop the current activities and encourage
the parishioners to participate and develop new activities. Also, the St
Elizabeth Seton Vocations Committee and Father Farrell invite other Parishes
in the Diocese to organize a Parish Vocations Committee. Let’s make it a Diocesan Goal.
SUPPORT VOCATIONS ACTIVITIES ------- ORGANIZE A PARISH COMMITTEE
St. Mary's Parish and SW Denver Team up for Vocations
A new vocation committee at St. Mary's Parish in Littleton, Colorado was
formed with the help of the SW Denver Serra Club.
The first two focuses were prayer for our vocation work to be fruitful and engaging the entire parish in prayer for Vocations.
1. Holy Hour Adoration for Vocations
2. Starting the whole parish praying through the use of the Vocations Chalice
1. Holy Hour. Attached you will see the prayer we use. We listed the names of
our parish priests, deacons and religious on the card and placed laminated
copies in the adoration chapel. Additionally, this prayer was said in a
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament this past Summer with our committee and
Father. This will be offered again for a night of Prayer this October 1st
inviting the entire parish.
Also, this Holy Hour prayer will be going out to the Homebound starting this
weekend. When they receive communion we are asking them to join us in this
prayer. We hope they say it often!
2. The Chalice program is just starting. In each Chalice will be a very short
Vocations Prayer that comes from the Mass. This will be printed on a lovely card
for the family to keep after the Chalice is returned.
Additionally, our wonderful Vocations Committee is always praying for
vocations! Each one of us has committed to at least once a month to make
confession and then give an Hour of Prayer for Vocations to include this
attached prayer, a rosary, meditation.
I thought it may be a helpful if I sent you background information regarding our new Vocations Committee, we started late last spring. And I thank you in advance for your help this coming weekend in implementing the Chalice program with us.
Our first two focuses were prayer of our Committee that our work be fruitful and engaging the entire parish in prayer for Vocations.
1. Holy Hour Adoration for Vocations
2. Starting the whole parish praying through the use of the Vocations Chalice
1. Holy Hour. Attached you will see the prayer we use. Each of your names are listed on the prayer. We now have 10 laminated copies of this Holy Hour Adoration Prayer in our Adoration Chapel and removed the old ones that while were great...did not specifically list our Priests, Deacons, Parish Staff, and School Staff, all the disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the Pope, Our Bishop. This new one does.
Additionally, this prayer was said in a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament this past Summer with our committee and Father Jaime. This will be offered again for a night of Prayer this October 1st inviting the entire parish.
Also, this Holy Hour prayer will be going out to the Homebound starting this weekend. When they receive communion we are asking them to join us in this prayer. We hope they say it often!
2. The Chalice program as you now know begins this weekend. In each Chalice will be a very short Vocations Prayer that comes from the Mass. This will be printed on a lovely card for the family to keep after the Chalice is returned.
Additionally, our wonderful Vocations Committee is always praying for you! Each one of us has committed to at least once a month to make confession and then give an Hour of Prayer for Vocations to include this attached prayer, a rosary, meditation.
Please feel welcome to provide thoughts, ideas. I'll do a better job communicating and inviting you to all our activities.
God Bless and THANK YOU for your service.
by Barbara Eckart, VP Vocations – Serra Club of SEKC, MO
Twenty-nine 6th, 7th & 8th grade girls attended the first Franciscan Spirit Olympics (FSO) Camp. The participants were from all over the KC area including girls who are home schooled. Camp FSO was held on June 28th at the Franciscan Prayer Center in Independence. MO.
There were 9 high school students who served a members of the Camp Staff. They were a great help with the festivities. The high school girls spent Friday night with the Franciscan Sisters so they would be ready to greet the campers at 7:00 a.m. for orientation and Mass.
Sister Connie presented the girls with suitcases, which contained a sister’s habit for each girl to model. Keith Jiron, Associate Director of the Diocesan Vocation Office, was on hand to take pictures.
An article in the July 18th issue of the Catholic KEY stated: 'Franciscan Sister Connie Boulch, diocesan director of the Office of Consecrated Life who served as camp director, said the event was not billed as a vocation camp.'
'We billed it as a spirit camp,' she said. 'Sometimes the words 'vocation camp' can scare a young girl off. We wanted to give girls a chance to have fun in a spiritual and educational way and let them learn a little about the importance of God in our lives.'
'After morning Mass, the campers and high school helpers changed into yellow Franciscan Spirit Olympics T-shirts and they and the sisters spent the day in fun and prayer.'
'Sister Connie said the Franciscan Spirit Olympics was begun years ago as a July 4th activity for the sisters. Each event is based on a saying of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder and patron of Franciscan religious orders.'
Our Club members prepared and served Lunch at noon. We served cold cuts, ham, turkey, roast beef, and three kinds of cheese, sliced tomatoes & lettuce for sandwiches, chips, cookies, and apples. The SEKC members, Phyllis White, Irene Sheehy, Catherine Kern, and Madonna Davis from the KC-North Club were the best helpers, so lunch went quite smoothly. The campers and the Franciscan Community members and staff were quite appreciative. In addition to providing lunch, the SEKC Club volunteers helped where assistance was needed. I believe we served about 85 all together. Sister Connie was quite happy with the turnout of the first FSO.
After lunch Sister Connie had prepared a scavenger hunt which was held in the dinning room. Two seminarians, Ben Kneib and Nick Roberts, also were at the event to help. They are living at the Franciscan Center for the summer and during the week; they are working at Bishop Sullivan Center. Several Benedictine Sisters also attended.
The following thank you letter was sent to our President, Roger Tilling and
the SEKC Serra Club:
Dear Roger and all the Serrans,
Peace and All Good!
......A great big thanks to all the Serrans for helping with the camp. The food was great and the service was even better. God knows what seeds have been planted and watered in the 29 campers and 9 counselors that day. When asked there was an overwhelming yes I would come again next year. You helped to make all that happen. Attached are a couple of photos. [One photo included with article]
Barbara Eckhart and the other women did a wonder job of preparing and serving the girls and the sisters. We got great compliments on the food and the women cooperation in the scavenger hunt was a wonderful addition to the day. Please pass my thanks and those of all the sisters and campers to everyone involved. God bless you all.
Sister Connie Boulch, OSF
Director of the Office of Consecrated Life
Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph
Below is the link the Catholic Key article:
Pray! Invite! Encourage! Affirm! Vocations
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