"Called by Name" creates vocation culture

By  Sara Loftson, The Catholic Register
  • February 25, 2007
TORONTO - It’s hard to find a seat at the 7 p.m. Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas chapel next door to the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre. That makes the students and young professionals who make up the bulk of the congregation ideal candidates for the annual Toronto archdiocesan-run vocations awareness program.

Called By Name gives parish communities an opportunity to pray for vocations, single out those with gifts and potential for leadership and encourage these parishioners to consider becoming a priest, deacon or religious.

Fr. Pat O’Dea, pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas chapel, spearheaded the program in Toronto more than a decade ago. The concept originated with the Serra Club in Chicago. It was originally called I’m Waiting to be Invited.

“I thought it would be good for Toronto because it really encourages the whole parish to get involved and the whole diocese,” said O’Dea, who was vocations director at the time. “Even if they are not called it gives them a chance to see how they can serve the church.”

After studying similar programs in other dioceses, O’Dea concluded that the ones that succeeded covered all vocations including religious life and the diaconate. 

O’Dea invited Sr. Pat Boucher, CSJ, and Ed Curtis, a seminarian at St. Augustine’s Seminary, to give testimonies for two consecutive weeks in February as part of the program.

Curtis, once a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas, said from a very young age he wanted to become a priest.

When he was vocations director for the archdiocese of Toronto O’Dea remembers getting a call from Curtis as a young boy, asking if he could make a retreat at Serra House, a vocations discernment house for men in downtown Toronto.

While at first O’Dea thought it was a prank call, he soon realized this young boy was very serious. The prompting of vocations starts at a very young age and we must not forget that, said O’Dea.

This program is about creating a vocation culture, said O’Dea.

“Even if it doesn’t mean someone’s going to come forward after a homily, something might resonate, seeds are being planted.”

The archdiocese will host a day of reflection for men and women thinking about a religious vocation on April 28 at Blessed Trinity parish in North York.

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