By Catholic News Service     11/7/2016

WASHINGTON — The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, November 6-12. This annual event is a special time for parishes in the U.S. to foster a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.

Pope Francis, in his homily at the final Mass of the 2016 World Youth Day in Krakow, encouraged the youth of the world to open their hearts to Jesus. “Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him!” said Pope Francis. “Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice.”

National Vocations Awareness Week, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, is designed to help promote vocation awareness and to encourage young people to ask the question: “To what vocation in life is God calling me?” Parish and school communities across the nation are encouraged to include, during the first week in November, prayer and special activities that focus on vocation awareness.

“Prayer for vocations is the responsibility of the entire Church. Often times we think that vocations will come from somewhere else, and yet God invites us to consider that he is raising up vocations to priesthood, consecrated life, and the permanent diaconate from within our own communities, even our own families” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, bishop designate of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “Our willingness to invite those within our own communities and families to consider that God may be calling them to Priesthood or consecrated life will bear abundant fruit in the Church and bring great joy and happiness to those called. We want what is best for our children; even more so does God desire their happiness.”

Research suggests that community encouragement plays an important role in the discernment process. “Following God’s will is the greatest adventure any person can experience,” said Fr. Luke Ballman, USCCB’s associate director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “Fear of losing something holds many people back from responding generously to God, and yet it is when we embrace the adventure wholeheartedly for ourselves or those whom we love that we experience joy unlike anything we have known thus far in our lives.”

Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. It was later moved to Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort.