From last year, me while fishing in Valdez

Over the Labor Day weekend, my family has a tradition of camping and fishing in Valdez, Alaska.  Normally the silver salmon run is in and we catch enough salmon to eat all winter.  This weekend was no different, except the salmon run did not come in.  Huge disappointment, but I still had a blessed time with my parents. 

Valdez also has a small Catholic community.  This past Sunday, there was a marked change.  They are now blessed to have an assigned priest.  Because Alaska does not have enough priests for each community to have at least one assigned full-time, if you get outside the three largest Alaskan cities –  Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks – the odds are good there won’t be a Sunday Mass.  This is especially true when you are in any town not on the road system.  In terms of religious, there are a number of religious communities who serve throughout Alaska, but the numbers are few. 

The lack of vocations has been felt in varying degrees throughout the United States.  Many parishes do not have a full-time priest to offer the sacraments.   Many schools, hospitals, and other organizations and institutions formerly filled with religious sisters are closed, or a religious are nowhere to be found.  I’ve heard so many stories from people whose lives were changed by an encounter with a priest or religious: a friend who was impressed with the cheerful, peaceful spirit of the religious nurses who cared for her as a child in the hospital that she eventually became Catholic as a young adult.  A man and his family who were comforted and blessed by the graces flowing from the anointing of the sick offered by a priest.  Stop for a moment and consider, how have you or your family been affected by the shortage of priests and religious?  How might your life be changed if the shortage continues?

For me, I am so grateful for the priests who guided my through RCIA and helped water the seeds of my religious vocation, and for the nuns and laity who pray for more vocations like mine.  God calls, but He loves to use us in planting seeds, watering, pruning, and harvesting.  God, in His loving wisdom, blesses each of us abundantly with gifts, talents, and treasures.  Why?  So we can follow the example of His son and discover the joy of giving it away for His glory.

In just a few short hours, at 1:00 a.m., I’m scheduled to depart Anchorage for sunny California.  I am excited and nervous at the same time.  Over the next few days, I will be meeting with Serrans, professionals, and other individuals to share my vocation story, about The Laboure Society and its mission to foster priestly and religious vocations by resolving educational loans of aspirants, and to invite others to support vocations by offering their prayers, treasure, and help in spreading the word about this growing need in supporting priestly and religious vocations.

Later this month, my classmates and I will pass the halfway mark of our class term.  So far, as a class, we’ve raised nearly $60,000 for vocations!  Vocations that would otherwise be delayed or lost due to educational loans.  But we also have a ways to go to meet our class goal of nearly $500,000.   So far this term, $3,570 has been donated in my honor.  This combined with past donations to Laboure Society, means I have $38,875 left to raise before December 31, 2012 to meet my individual goal of raising $45,000.

There are no easy answers to our shortage of vocations, but there is always hope!  Many of you have spent years praying for vocations.  I know many young people who are enthusiastic about their Catholic faith and, with a desire to know and do God’s will, are actively discerning priesthood and/or religious life!    Please continue to pray for vocations.  Please say a prayer for me as I travel and meet with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are committed to supporting vocations.  And, if you haven’t already, please consider whether God might be asking you to support vocations by making a donation to The Laboure Society or helping spread the word to your friends and family. 

Thank you again for your ongoing prayers and support.  Please know I remember you in my prayers and thanksgiving.

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