2018 DPAA ‘unites us as a diocese in faith and service’

By David Cooley

Casey Guilfoyle, general chair of 2018 Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal (DPAA), and Matthew Zeck, leadership gifts chair, hope to keep the momentum going after a very successful start to this year’s DPAA. The first phase of the appeal, the leadership gifts phase, brought in $375,900 from 81 donors. That number was announced at two kick-off dinners, one in Cynthiana and the other in Erlanger, on Feb. 20 and 22, respectively, which began the public phase of the appeal. Last weekend, March 3–4, the DPAA video, which featured individuals giving testimonies on how ministries in the diocese have helped them in their time of need, was shown in parishes throughout the Diocese of Covington. Next weekend, March 17–18, is commitment weekend, or the “in-pew” phase of the DPAA, where parishioners will have the opportunity to make their gift or pledge to the DPAA at Mass. The theme for this year’s appeal is “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17), and the goal is $2.5 million.

According to Mr. Zeck, what makes the DPAA so special is how it helps so many different people in so many different ways.

“Each of these ministries [served by the DPAA] are catering to or trying to solve the need that they focus on, but if we only focused on one thing there would be so many other folks not being served,” said Mr. Zeck. “What I think is really special about the DPAA is the wide variety of ministries that it supports, ministries that are trying to help, collectively, a lot of the different situations that our people are in.”

Mr. Zeck believes that this year’s theme is very fitting.

“In Scripture, the word ‘zeal’ spoke about Jesus’ passion for the House of the Lord, but it can also be used for the passion we have for all these ministries and all the work that has to be done to take care of God’s people,” he said.

Mrs. Guilfoyle agreed.

“The theme has been awesome to work with. I think Bishop [Roger] Foys truly captured the depth of the zeal Jesus felt for the Lord’s house. In short, we are called to have the same sort of zeal, the same energy and whole hearted enthusiasm, for the ‘community of believers’ — the House of God in our day, right here in the Diocese of Covington. Supporting this year’s appeal is a clear opportunity for us to all to show our own zeal,” she said.

“Since I have been involved with this year’s appeal and have the benefit of working as leadership gifts chair on the 2016-2017 appeal, I’ve realized how much the DPAA supports our diocese. I’ve also had a chance to see up close and personal all the awesome work done in our diocese,” she said. “It truly unites us as a diocese in faith and service. It helps us all ‘keep the faith’ and also keep our service ministries so strong. … In short the DPAA gives us an opportunity to support the heart of our mission as ‘church’ with one appeal that sustains so many good works.”

A popular aspect of the annual appeal is the parish rebate program. One hundred percent of all gifts collected over a parish’s goal are returned as rebates to that parish for projects and ministry. This has been a very successful incentive for parishes. The Office of Stewardship and Mission Services reported that, as of February 2018, $778,965 has been returned to parishes through the 2017 DPAA rebate program. That number will continue to rise as donors fulfill their pledges.

One of the different aspects of the 2018 appeal has to do with gifts given by credit card. The Diocese of Covington is working with a third-party vendor to take credit card gifts. This is done through a safe and secure website that can be accessed through the “donate button” on the diocesan website, www.covdio.org.

According to Michael Murray, director, Office of Stewardship and Mission Services, this will be a safer procedure but also beneficial to benefactors of the DPAA.

“Once our diocesan faithful register one time through the third-party vendor, a company called VanCo, they will be able to conveniently give online whenever they wish, not just for the DPAA but for other collections, as well,” Mr. Murray said.

As the appeal moves forward Mr. Zeck said that the leadership gifts phase of the appeal went very well and that they are “ahead of the game.”

“One of the general ideas behind the leadership gifts phase is to give us great momentum going into the kick-off dinners. From that standpoint it feels like we are doing really, really well,” said Mr. Zeck.

“Most importantly, I would like to give an incredible expression of gratitude to those who have already given and to those who are considering it. … The generosity of our diocese has been fantastic in the past and we are relying on them to help support us again this year,” he said.

Mrs. Guilfoyle is hoping that everyone in the diocese will contribute something — no matter how large or small.

“Because the DPAA is an opportunity to unite us all as a community of faith to support the work of the diocese, I’d like to encourage everyone to give this year even if they haven’t given regularly in the past,” she said. “Even a small pledge and sacrifice, if given with the spirit and intention of supporting all the great things that make us Catholic here in the diocese, will be returned in abundance. It will be a way for you to connect with the entirety of God’s people here. The great works being done now will continue and grow and thrive and you will be a part of that.”

Memorial Mass for the Loss of a Child an opportunity to find peace and seek God’s healing embrace

By Laura Keener

At 22 weeks gestation William was stillborn. He had suffered from a condition known as hydrops syndrome — a condition that causes fluid buildup and William’s heart to stop. As he entered the world, family surrounded him, including his grandmother, Jackie Vezina, who held her third grandchild in her hand. Her heart was aching

Mrs. Vezina’s son and daughter-in-law were trying to start a family. The first two grandchildren were miscarried. Mrs. Vezina knows neither their name nor their sex. The couple went on to conceive and give birth to a baby girl who is now 18 months old. Mrs. Vezina is thankful to God for the gift of her granddaughter. She is also grateful for the gift of William and the other two babies in heaven. And, last year when she saw the notice for the Memorial Mass for the Loss of a Child in the St. Timothy Church bulletin, she knew she and her husband needed to go.

“I went specifically for William but the other two were also in my heart,” said Mrs. Vezina. “I think it brought me peace and made me feel closer to them. I didn’t get to know these children but they are dear to me.”

This year the diocesan Pro-Life Office is once again sponsoring a Memorial Mass for the Loss of a Child. The Mass will be held Thursday, March 15, 7 p.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington. Father Jeffrey VonLehmen, pastor, St. Patrick Parish, Taylor Mill, will be the celebrant. The Mass is for parents, grandparents, family members and friends of those who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, early infant death, illness, suicide, accident or any other reason.

Faye Roch, director, Pro-Life Office, said that the Mass has a two-fold purpose — to seek God’s healing embrace and to ask God to relieve the burden of grief for those who are suffering.

“It’s a beautiful Mass,” said Mrs. Roch. “It does touch people in different ways. I hope people feel they are welcome to come to be with others who are also suffering grief and that they will feel embraced by God.”

Feeling God’s embrace and the comfort of being in community with other people who share the same loss is exactly what Mrs. Vezina experienced.

“There were so many people there. You think its only affecting you, but its not. We were all together like a family,” said Mrs. Vezina. “I may not know what sex the babies were but they are my grandchildren. Being at the Mass is time set aside to be with them. I know they are in God’s hands and I felt his hands were there at the Mass holding all of us.”

At the Mass, participants are invited to enroll the name, if known, of the child that they lost into the book of the dead. The book is kept from year to year. Participants are also welcome to take a lighted candle and place it before the statue of the Pietà — an image of Mary holding the body of her dead son.

“That’s symbolic of Mary suffering great grief at Jesus’ death,” said Mrs. Roch. Mrs. Roch acknowledged that the Mass is taking place during the season of Lent — leading to the time when Mary was suffering the great loss of her son. “So, we look at Mary, our mother,” she said.

Mrs. Vezina said she was glad she attended last year’s Mass and is looking forward to attending the Mass again this year. “I felt peace and I felt closeness; it was an emotional and moving experience, but not in a bad way,” she said.

She also has found another way to keep her first three grandchildren close to her. “I wear three little precious feet pins, they are always with me, near my heart,” she said.


Memorial Mass for the Loss of a Child

Thursday, March 15, 7 p.m., Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington

Father Jeffrey VonLehmen will be the celebrant.

The Mass is for parents, grandparents, family members and friends of those who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, early infant death, illness, suicide, accident or any other reason.

No registration required.

Sponsored by the diocesan Pro-Life Office.

St. Joseph Parish, Cold Spring, hosts upcoming deanery event for the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations

By David Cooley

“The world looks to the priest because it looks to Jesus! No one can see Christ; but everyone sees the priest, and through him they wish to catch a glimpse of the Lord! Immense is the grandeur and dignity of the priest.

“Pray, therefore, to the Lord of the harvest, that he send harvesters into his harvest… Considering that the Eucharist is the greatest gift our Lord gives to his Church, we must ask for priests, since the priesthood is a gift for the Church. We must pray insistently for this gift. We must ask for it on our knees.”

These are the words of Pope St. John Paul II, often called a champion of priestly vocations, and, according to Father Andrew Young, vocations promoter, are great words to reflect on as the Diocese of Covington prepares for its second deanery event for the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations. The Holy Hour for Vocations and vespers is scheduled to take place Monday, March 19, 5:30 p.m., at St. Joseph Parish, Cold Spring. Everyone is encouraged to attend the Holy Hour to pray for an increase in priestly vocations, especially the faithful of the Campbell County Deanery.

“The idea is to try and pull those parish communities from that particular deanery together in a central location to pray for vocations,” said Father Young. “Vocations are a gift and we need to be actively praying for them.”

Father Young said that most, if not all, of the priest from that deanery will be present.

“One of the things that I have emphasized to our priests is that us, as priests, coming together to pray for the future of the diocese and leading our people in that movement of prayer can’t help but be effective, especially if there is a young man at that Holy Hour who is on the fence and thinking about entering the seminary,” Father Young said. “The visual of 20 or so priests praying for him as well as, hopefully, a large group of lay people is a visible witness of support. That is huge for somebody who is thinking about the priesthood and might encourage him to take that next step.”

Following the Holy Hour that will bring people together for Eucharistic adoration and evening prayer, men who are interested in learning more about the priesthood are invited to a dinner with Bishop Roger Foys and the priests. The Serra Club for Vocations, Northern Kentucky is providing the meal.

“This will be a relaxed atmosphere but I am asking a couple of the priests who are going to be there to give a short reflection on their ministry and their experience in priesthood,” he said.

“I hope these events keep growing. I thought the first one we held in Northern Kenton County was a good success, but I would love to see a bigger presence of our faithful at the Holy Hour.”

Father Young said that he hopes many will come to pray at this special event and also encourage those they know that seem like they may have a calling or would be good priests to come as well.

In the words of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, “It is important to encourage and support those who show clear signs of a call to priestly life and religious consecration and to enable them to feel the warmth of the whole community as they respond ‘yes’ to God and the Church.”

TMC Institute For Religious Liberty event discusses religious liberty legal cases and the impact on society

By David Cooley

In recent years, there have been a multitude of religious liberty legal cases reaching the Supreme Court, including the Hobby Lobby case, Little Sisters of the Poor case, and the Masterpiece Cake case, among others. As the list grows, some have come to believe that the “first freedom” is under attack, while others believe that these cases represent a search for “fairness to all.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued, Oct. 6, 2017, a memorandum that was addressed to all executive departments and agencies, putting forth both concise principles concerning religious freedom and, more specifically, providing guidance for how they would be applied in federal policy regulations and, above all, the law.

While this decision did not please all sides, it made it clear that this is an important time in the history for religious freedom, following a period of uncertainty and growing number of legal challenges since the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993.

In the midst of this historic setting, Thomas More College, through its Institute for Religious Liberty (IRL), hosted a program called “Religious Liberty at a Crossroads: Legal Perspectives,” featuring three of the country’s legal experts in the role of religion and society and recent religious liberty cases. Dean Kathleen Jagger, TMC vice president for academic affairs, moderated the event.

The keynote speaker was Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond School of Law, a graduate from Harvard Law School who served on the legal team representing the Little Sisters of the Poor. In that case the sisters were challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring them to provide health insurance coverage for sterilization, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions.

Responding to Mr. Walsh’s address was Frederick Gedicks, who holds the Guy Anderson Endowed Chair of Law at the Reuben Clark Law School of Brigham Young University. In contrast to Mr. Walsh, Mr. Gedicks focused on the justifications for limits on religious exemptions.

The third speaker and second respondent was Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow in Constitutional Studies for the Cato Institute, a public policy research organization dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace. Mr. Shapiro, who has filed over 200 “friend of the court” briefs in the Supreme Court, many of them on religious liberty cases, focused on the ever-changing view of the government’s role in civil society.

In his keynote address, Mr. Walsh provided the context for litigation that has occurred in the last 25 years since RFRA was enacted. He provided a quick overview of five Supreme Court cases in chronological order — the Hobby Lobby case, Holt v. Hobbs, Zubik v. Burwell (Little Sisters of the Poor case), the Trinity Lutheran Church case and the Masterpiece Cake Shop case — and explained that, in order to comply with RFRA, the federal government has an obligation to decide whether a law is going to be a substantial burden on the exercise of anyone’s religion. If it is they must figure out if there is another way they can accomplish their goal, without burdening someone else’s exercise of religion. In the case of Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor the government’s goal (the “compelling interest” of the HHS mandate) was to provide contraception to women through healthcare.

“When you think about how to think about religious liberty, follow the force — who is trying to use the coercive power of government to do what to whom? And as you are asking that question, look for the problem solvers; look for the people who are trying to figure out a way to get things done without having lawsuits,” he said.

Mr. Walsh said that while the claimants for religious liberty have won the big cases in recent years, they have lost, in general, by being involved in litigation at all.

“We ended up in litigation because something else has been lost,” he said.

According to Mr. Walsh, since RFRA there has been an erosion of the consensus across party lines on the value of religious liberty. The topic has become political and polarizing in a way that it wasn’t years ago.

In conclusion, Mr. Walsh told the audience to pray for vocations. The most important aspect of religious liberty is the people who exercise their religion, he said.

“You have to exercise it or else it goes away and you won’t have the government or anyone else to blame.”

Mr. Gedicks focused on what is commonly referred to as the problem of third-party burdens.

“The third party are those who are affected negatively by religious exemptions when they don’t share or practice that faith,” he said.

“The question is whether to relieve believers of obligations under general laws when those laws provide protections and benefits to those of other faiths or no faith at all. That’s a dimension of religious liberty, too, to be able to live out your life without being burdened by the religious commitments of others,” said Mr. Gedicks.

“Is it the case that religious liberty means people are entitled to an exemption that is going to burden other people? Is it really the case that people are entitled to exercise your religion at the expense of others who don’t share your beliefs about contraception or anything else?” These are the questions that Mr. Gedicks posed.

Finally, Mr. Shapiro, who described himself as “agnostic,” said that the idea of religious freedom cannot be separated from the concept of freedom as a whole. He said that the religious liberty cases being examined are “a microcosm of the constant tension between civil society and the overweening regulatory state.”

“While we can argue about whether it’s a good idea to require people to buy certain goods or services, whether they be contraceptives or otherwise, I think it is pretty clear that Obamacare does indeed force employers to do so. An exemption from that mandate is hardly coercive, and such an exemption would harm third parties only if we have a conception that those third parties have a right to force others to pay for goods or services that they want,” Mr. Shapiro said.

Mr. Shapiro argued that civil society in the United States is being smothered by an ever-growing administrative state that, in the name of fairness and equality, takes away rights in order to standardize American life from cradle to grave.

“These cases that have been discussed are just the latest example of the difficulties inherent in turning healthcare and, more broadly, our economy over to the government. It represents a larger, more destructive trend that has been enabled by the Supreme Court’s ratification of expansive federal power — reading the general welfare clause, for example, as a grant rather than a restriction of authority,” he said.

“The growing enforcement of centralized ideological conformity is the real innovation in the use of government power. The issue, then, is government forcing more mandates into what used to be private decision making. And this is a shifting boundary between the private and the public sphere. … The most basic principle of a free society, after all, is that government can’t force people to do things that violate their consciences.”

All the speakers agreed that pluralistic democracy in the United States is fragile and that faithful citizens must be vigilant in preserving it. They also generally agreed on the nature of the problems that stem from living in a pluralistic and free society, but they disagreed on the solutions.

David Armstrong, president of Thomas More College, in his welcoming address, said that programs like this are important because they provide an opportunity for quality dialogue, which is crucial for any civil society.

Following the presentations a question and answer session took place, in which the audience was given an opportunity to participate in the discussion.

Diocese of Covington’s largest contingent ever joins tens of thousands for March for Life

By Laura Keener

Before the March for Life, Friday, Jan. 19, Washington, D.C., Bishop Roger Foys celebrated Mass at St. Dominic Church with nearly 1,200 pilgrims who traveled from the Diocese of Covington — the diocese’s largest contingent ever. Pilgrims included priests — Father Daniel Schomaker, Father Ryan Maher, Father Michael Black, Father Michael Comer, Father Matthew Cushing, Father Michael Hennigen, Father Ross Kelsch, Father Michael Norton, Father Ryan Stenger and Father Andrew Young — seminarians, women religious, families (two busloads) and 22 busloads of teens from all nine Catholic high schools and middle-school students from St. Joseph Academy, Walton.

Bishop Foys began his homily quoting Jesus, “See that you do not despise these little ones because angels are watching over them.”

“We are here, again, to march for life,” Bishop Foys said. “If Jesus cared so much for those little ones in his midst, can you imagine how much he cares for those who are absolutely defenseless, who have no voice, those inside the womb who are at the mercy of everyone and anyone? It’s a horrible thing that for 45 years we have been fighting this fight.”

Bishop Foys told the pilgrims that he feels a personal connection with the pro-life movement because 1973, the year the Supreme Court decided the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion in the United States, was also the same year that he was ordained a priest. He has since used his priesthood to support the pro-life movement with the hope that one day, during his lifetime, the law would be overturned.

“One person’s efforts might not seem like a lot but if you put those efforts together with others it takes on new meaning,” he said. “So we are here again to speak for those who have no voice, to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, to stand up for what is right and holy and true.”

Referring to an article on the Life News website, “15 of the Greatest Pro-Life Quotes of All Time,” Bishop Foys said that the pro-life movement is not a political problem and it is not a Catholic problem — there are many people who support the right to life of all people from conception to natural death. But for people of faith, the first place to seek a solution is prayer and in our own lives.

“This is not a Catholic problem, sometimes we are led to believe that it is. There’s even a quote in there from Beyoncé, I came across it last night,” he said.

“This isn’t a political problem, it’s not a political issue, it’s a moral issue — it’s an issue of right and wrong. So, we do what we can, but the first thing we need to do is to pray and then to change our own hearts and change our own lives.

“There are so many people in our world, in our country, people we all know who are selfish, who think only of how things affect them. What’s in it for them? Is it a distraction? Is it infringing on my time? One thing that truthfully aggravates me is people who are selfish about their time — anything that’s going to infringe on their time, their free time, is bad. It’s a disease in our world, in our country, in our Church.

“We can start by being generous with our time and with our talents, by being willing to work for and serve others, to be willing to look after their needs — a change of heart, change of attitude, change of mind, change in our way of living. That’s part of why we come together, to stand up for what’s right and to say that there has to be a change in the way we live our lives.”

Bishop Foys ended his homily with a word of encouragement and gratitude for those attending the march.

“Thank you. Thanks to each one of you for being here today,” Bishop Foys said. “Don’t give up the fight, especially you young people — continue the fight, don’t give up. You stand up for what is right and true and just. If you stand up for what is right and true, in the end, trust me, you will be at peace. You can change the world.”

In a interview about the March for Life after returning home, Faye Roch, director, Pro-Life Office, and organizer of the March for Life trip, said, “For the last nine years we have started the day at St. Dominic Church with Mass with Bishop Foys and over 1,200 pilgrims from the Diocese of Covington. I can’t tell you how powerful and emotional this Mass is. To be in the presence of so many young people who have made a long trip to witness to the sanctity of life. At the march later in the afternoon, these same young people also get to be in the presence of hundreds of thousands of others who are witness to the same. The adults who make the trip, who have never gone before, are truly amazed at the presence and the witness of so many. Most are surprised at the joyful, peaceful and prayerful witness of such a large group.

“Each year my hope is that Roe v. Wade will be overturned and this may be the last,” she said.

DPAA — Raising money to raise ministries

By Laura Keener

The Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal (DPAA) began in earnest this week with the parish team orientation workshop and leadership gifts solicitors’ luncheon. Mike Murray, director, Office of Stewardship and Mission Services, held, Thursday, Jan. 18, at Bishop Howard Memorial Auditorium, Covington, the annual DPAA orientation meeting with parish staff. At the meeting parish goals were revealed and the DPAA calendar of important dates was shared (see box). Then on Monday, Jan. 22, Bishop Roger Foys and DPAA chairs, Casey Guilfoyle, general chair, and Matthew Zeck, leadership gifts chair, welcomed a dozen leadership gifts solicitors to a luncheon to share the goals and objectives of this year’s campaign and to distribute for solicitation the names of the top 200 donors to the DPAA.

“Many things in our lives are all about momentum and the DPAA is no different,” said Mr. Zeck. “We would like great momentum going into the kick-off dinners to start building that energy, building that excitement about the task before us this year.”

Mrs. Guilfoyle introduced the DPAA’s theme “Zeal for Your House will Consume Me” (John 2:17) and the goal, $2.5 million.

“I think the theme captures the missionary spirit of what we are about to embark on,” said Mrs. Guilfoyle. “The funds raised from the DPAA truly do support the very mission of this diocese in providing priests and strengthening schools and in all the service ministries it provides. So, I think the DPAA is something we can all embrace with enthusiasm and heartfelt zeal.”

Mrs. Guilfoyle said that the goal of $2.5 million is a lot of money but that “it is a needed goal because it does support the ministries of the diocese.” Last year’s DPAA, she said, raised $3.65 million, well above the diocesan goal of $2.5 million. She reminded the solicitors that all monies collected over goal are returned to parishes in the form of a rebate for parish projects and ministries.

“We have a theme and we have a doable, manageable goal, that’s an important and worthy goal. With that I think we can begin this year’s appeal with zeal and enthusiasm,” she said.

Mr. Zeck shared a comment made by Bishop Foys at the celebration event closing last year’s DPAA: “The DPAA is not about raising money, it is about raising ministry.”

“I remembered that comment, I wrote it down, because I knew I would be using it this year,” he said lightheartedly. Mr. Zeck then affirmed the comment saying, “The DPAA gives us a great opportunity to match those who are willing and able to invest in our ministries to pair with those who are able to serve those in need.”

In his closing remarks Bishop Foys said, “I want to thank each of you very much. This will be a successful year because of your efforts and because we have very generous people in our diocese. The faith is alive and well in the Diocese of Covington.”

DPAA 2018 important dates:

Feb. 20, Kick-off dinner, Prizing House, Cynthiana

Feb. 22, Kick-off dinner, Receptions, Erlanger

March 3–4, Announcement weekend

March 17–18, Commitment weekend

April 14–15, Follow-up weekend

Bishop Foys announces Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations

By: David Cooley

Bishop Roger Foys has announced that he has designated the coming year as the “Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations.” The year will officially begin with solemn vespers at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, on the solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 26, and conclude on the same solemnity in 2018.

Bishop Roger Foys is asking the faithful to continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life, but especially to the priesthood during this special year.

While a primary focus throughout the year will be prayer within family life there will also be a strong emphasis on prayer for vocations within the diocesan schools.

Bishop Foys, Father Andrew Young, vocations promoter, and other diocesan priests will visit every one of the high schools, celebrate Mass, and spend an extended amount of time with the students, focusing on vocations. These events will be called “Vocations Day.” Father Young will also be visiting the diocesan grade schools.

In each of the five deaneries, throughout the year, there will be “Deanery Discernment Events” that will include Holy Hours, presentations, dinner, social time and other group activities. Throughout the year, there will also be special articles featured in the Messenger, giving readers insight to the vocations of many of the priests currently serving in the diocese. The same prayer for priestly vocations will be prayed at every parish during each weekend Mass. This prayer will be prayed either as a conclusion to the Prayer of the Faithful or at the end of the Mass.

“The whole year has a dual purpose,” said Bishop Foys in an interview with the Messenger. “First, the purpose is to pray for vocations; and, second, to raise the consciousness of our people about vocations and the need for vocations in order for them to make that vocation culture a part of their life.”

Bishop Foys said that he is very excited about this upcoming year. What’s great about it is that everyone can pray for vocations and raise awareness of the need for priests and vocations, he said.

“The faithful can begin by praying as a family for vocations and they can also encourage, not only their children and grandchildren, but also the people in their parish whom they might believe have a vocation to the priesthood, religious life or the diaconate. Encouragement is sometimes all these young people need,” he said. “It is important to also support the seminarians we have now. Our people are very generous with their financial support, and our hope is that they are also generous with their prayers. A parish that has a seminarian stationed at their church should also do their best to encourage him.”

Bishop Foys said that when he goes on school visits and talks with the students or when he talks to the confirmandi and asks the young men if they have ever thought about being a priest, more often than not they’ll say, “Yes.” Moreover, when he asks the children before their confirmation if there is anyone in their class who would make a good priest they all, invariably, point to one or two young men.

“So, these things are in their thoughts and consciousness,” he said.

Bishop Foys has been heard to say, often, that God, of course, is still calling but people aren’t listening and God’s voice is drowned out by many other things.

“It is our culture in general — the secular society has become so engrained in people,” he said. “The Church at one time was the center of people’s lives. Now, we live in a different time. In this age, the priority of priesthood and religious life doesn’t often rise to the top.”

Bishop Foys said that another issue is that the visibility of the numerous priests and women religious at the schools interacting with the children has extremely declined.

“I look at the history of our schools here and, at one time, they were staffed by almost all priests and religious sisters and brothers,” he said. “It was unusual to have a lay teacher.”

Bishop Foys said that he believes the Year for Prayer for Priestly Vocations is, at the very least, a step in the right direction.

“Prayer,” said Bishop Foys, “should be the first step, when it is time to make a decision or if there is some kind of need. It is the first step, not the last step — we should put whatever it is in God’s hands first.”

Aware that, these days, people are very busy, Bishop Foys said that the faithful should take at least 10 minutes a day to pray.

“Go off by yourself somewhere; read the Scriptures,” he said. “The hope that goes along with that is if you take that small amount of time, eventually you will want to do more.”

Bishop Foys said that the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations is a time to reflect on the importance of priests in society and in the lives of God’s people.

“A priest is another Christ,” he said. “The priest is called to minister to God’s people. The priesthood is a life of serving. The priest, through the Mass and the sacraments, brings the Lord to people and the people to the Lord. He is a conduit.

“If someone asked me at the end of my life, how would I determine if it was a success or not, I would say that if I brought just one person to Christ, for me, that would be a success.”