Vicariate vocation directors hope to foster discernment connections closer to home parishes

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The phrase “I am among you as one who serves,” Luke 22:27, is seen on the back of a priest’s stole in this file photo. The archdiocese has added three vicariate vocation directors to the archdiocesan Vocation Office to provide local resources to young men discerning a call to priesthood. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Young men who are discerning whether they are called to the priesthood should be able to find help closer to home with the addition of three vicariate vocation directors to the archdiocesan Vocation Office.

The hope is that the new additions to the vocations team can help reach out to parishes, high schools and colleges and invite young men to consider the priesthood, said Father Timothy Monahan, vocations director.

“This is brand new,” Monahan said. “Our whole strategic approach has been one of trusting that Jesus is going to raise up quality men to serve as priests and shepherds here. Our prayers are being heard, because we are getting good guys, but our numbers are not as reflective of the archdiocese as they should be.”

Pastors have told Monahan that sometimes it is difficult for them to invite parishioners to attend vocation events that could be an hour or more away, he said. It is just as difficult for Monahan to reach out to everybody who could use some encouragement to consider a religious vocation.

The new vicariate vocation directors joining the team are Father Arthur Bautista, also associate pastor of Holy Child Jesus Parish, for Vicariates I and II; Father Connor Danstrom, director of the St. John Paul II Newman Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago for Vicariates III and IV; and Father Michael Olson, associate pastor of St. Damian Parish, for Vicariates V and VI. Father Thomas Byrne, director of Chicago seminarians at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, also will be part of the team, focusing on Hispanic vocations.

Monahan said having men in parishes or on campuses in all areas of the archdiocese will help the Vocations Office build closer relationships.

“We will work in close collaboration,” he said. “There can be more communication with the priests and with the people. Probably the single biggest hurdle is the invitation: come to discernment events, come visit the seminary, meet other discerners. This will help us do that.”

Olson, who was ordained in 2015, doesn’t remember a particular invitation to discernment as much as he recalls the support he received once he started the process. He also remembers traveling every day from his home in Lake Zurich to Quigley Preparatory Seminary on the Gold Coast for high school.

“I took the 6:20 train every morning,” Olson said. “Then I’d get off the train and take a bus.”

Olson said he is looking forward to connecting with people on the South Side and in the south suburbs to encourage priests and chaplains, family members and young men themselves to consider whether they are being called.

He was surprised, he said, when he got a call asking whether he would consider working for the vocation office, but he is happy to take up the work.

“This is something that all priests should do, is to promote vocations,” Olson said. “Just because I never saw myself doing vocations work doesn’t mean I’m not called to this.”

The archdiocese previously had priests who were named associate vocation directors, Monahan said, but they were generally full-time associate pastors as well. The new vicariate vocation director position is structured so that the vocation office covers half the men’s financial support, he said.

“We restructured things to make sure we had room in our budget for this because we wanted to signal to the priests and the people that this is a priority,” Monahan said.

Members of the team will be meeting this summer share their ideas, but Monahan said one thing each of them plans to do is reach out to their priests in their areas.

“We want to let them know we’re here,” he said. “You have someone you think we should talk to? You want someone to come and do a vocations talk? We’re here.”


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