Discerning a priestly calling is not just the work of a person who believes God is calling him.
It’s also the responsibility of the whole Church to pray vigilantly for him and for those who are helping him discern.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight likened this responsibility to Jesus’s parable of the servants who are awake and ready upon their master’s arrival from a wedding (Luke 12:35-40).
“The signs of a vocation must be evident to the Church, especially to those in authority who are responsible to make sure that priestly vocations are authentic,” the bishop stated.
“And this takes prayer, lots of prayer on the part of the candidate, but also on the part of the Church,” he said. “This discernment also takes a lot of patience and active preparation.”
He called to mind the many laypeople who spend time at all hours of the day in Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in chapels throughout the diocese.
“Among the many needs and desires they pour out to the Lord, the need for more priestly vocations is very common,” he said. “We would do well to remember how dependent we are upon God and the prayers of the good people of His Church, for us to be here for this rite of admission to candidacy.”
Bishop McKnight offered the Aug. 6 Saturday evening Vigil Mass in St. Andrew Church in Holts Summit, during which he formally admitted seminarian Jacob Hartman to candidacy for Holy Orders.
The Rite of Admission to Candidacy is a pivotal step in the journey to ordained Priesthood. It is celebrated when a seminarian has reached a maturity of purpose in his formation and has demonstrated the necessary qualifications for ordination.
In the presence of the bishop, the seminarian publicly expresses his intention to complete his preparation for Holy Orders and his resolve to fully invest himself to that end, so that he will serve Christ and the Church faithfully.
There are currently eight seminarians studying for the diocese this year: three at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas; three at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio; and two at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago.
Mr. Hartman and fellow seminarians of this diocese, each preparing to return to his studies and formation after spending the summer here, assisted the bishop during the Mass as servers and in various other roles at and near the altar.
Mindful that the world needs good Catholics, and that Catholics need priests to support, nurture and lead them, Bishop McKnight reminded the seminarians of their “fundamental obligation to preserve the apostolic communion of the Church in what we believe, in how we pray and in how we live as disciples of our Lord.”
That communion, he told them, must be resilient in the face of the mystery of evil that continually besets the world.
“Christ’s apostolic mission to crucify sin and death and to bring forth the new life of the resurrection has continued down through the centuries through the work and ministry of His Apostles and their successors,” the bishop noted.
“And despite the wounds inflicted upon the Body of Christ in the twin crises of clergy sexual abuse and the abuse of power by the hierarchy, Christ continues to break the chains of slavery to sin; He continues to heal the broken-hearted; to nourish the hungry; and to bring glad tidings to the poor,” he insisted.
The bishop reminded Mr. Hartman that in presenting himself as a candidate for Holy Orders, “you are manifesting your internal intention to join in this apostolic work” and becoming “a public person for the sake of the Church’s mission.”
After a thorough process of testing and discerning a candidate’s aptitude, the candidate is called to ordination, “which will mark him with the singular seal of the Holy Spirit for the ministry of God and the Church,” said Bishop McKnight.
“When the time comes, he will serve the Church and build Christian communities by the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments,” he said.
The bishop instructed Mr. Hartman to cultivate his vocation more fully, “using especially those means that can be offered to you as help and support by the ecclesial community entrusted with this task.”
“On the part of all of us, trusting in the Lord, we will assist you with our prayers,” he said.
The bishop asked everyone to continue praying for Mr. Hartman and all of the seminarians.