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November 11, 2020

By Darcy Fargo

OGDENSBUG – It’s all about vocations.

The weekend of Dec. 13, the Diocese of Ogdensburg Vocations Office, working in cooperation with other diocesan offices and parishes, is hosting a series of connected events aimed at praying for, discerning and educating about vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

“we’re very excited about this,” said Father Christopher C. Carrara, director of Vocations and Seminarians. “We’re very pleased with the fact that Youth Ministry, Vocations and Faith Formation are working hand in hand to bring a number of initiatives to the parishes at a time when getting around and hosting events is so difficult. I’m excited to see how it’s going to unfold.”

The event will kick off with a Holy Hour at a parish in each deanery at 2 p.m. on Dec. 13.

“The first aspect is to do what Scripture tells us and to pray for vocations,” Father Carrara said.

Holy Hours will be held at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg, St. Mary’s in Massena, Notre Dame in Malone, St. Alexander’s in Morrisonville, St. Patrick’s in Watertown, St. Bernard’s in Saranac Lake, St. Peter’s in Lowville, and St. Bartholomew’s in Old Forge. Due to a scheduling conflict, Essex Deanery will hold its Holy Hour on December 6 at St. Patrick’s in Port Henry.

While the Holy Hours will be open to the public with appropriate COVID-19 protocols in place, an online option will also be available for those who are unable to travel to one of the participating churches.

“We’ll be livestreaming the Holy Hour at the cathedral with Bishop (Terry R.) LaValley,” added Catherine Russell, Vocation coordinator. “Some of the participating parishes may also decide to livestream.”

Father Carrara also noted that other parishes are welcome and encouraged to hold Holy Hours to correspond with the event.

After the Holy Hour, a confirmation retreat will be held from 3:15 to 6:30 p.m.

“The retreat will be led virtually, but we’re asking parishes to gather their confirmation students in a group – with all the safety protocols in place – at their locations,” Russell said. “The retreat will start with ice breakers to get them warmed up. Next, there will be a meditative prayer experience on the life of Jesus. That experience will include breaking into small groups so the students can have discussion and community. After that part of it, there will be a session on what God is calling you to do now with what you’ve learned.”

That last portion will lead into the third component of the event, a Zoom-based question-and-answer (Q&A) session with Bishop LaValley, Sister M. Gregory Munger, vocations director for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Watertown, and three Diocese of Ogdensburg seminarians.

“Each of the presenters will share a short reflection on their own vocation, and Bishop LaValley will give a short presentation,” said Father Carrara. “We’ll also have the Q&As. Some of the questions will be submitted by the classes ahead of time, and some questions will be asked live.”

As an extension of the vocations event, a handful of diocesan seminarians will go out to diocesan parishes to speak about vocations while home for their winter breaks.

“A number of our seminarians will be home in January,” said Father Carrara. “Bishop has approved having some of the more senior seminarians go out and speak in parishes where they haven’t had a seminarian speak recently. Parishes can request seminarians to speak at Masses in early January. Our goal is that between the weekend of December 12 and 13 and the time the seminarians go back to school in January, a good number of our parishes will have had vocations events, visits, prayer and reflections.”

Russell noted that the Faith Formation Department has been encouraging catechetical leaders to have their confirmation students participate in the retreat and vocations events. She noted, though, that participation in the Q&A is not limited only to confirmation students.

“Anyone who may be interested in learning more about a vocation or who is actively discerning a vocation is encouraged to participate,” she said. “If there’s someone interested in participating who isn’t a student, they can talk to their pastor or contact the vocations office to get the link for the Q&A.”

Both Russell and Father Carrara said they are excited to utilize the available online platforms to pray for and discuss vocations during these challenging times.

“We’ve always had events like Operation Andrew dinners, and we just can’t do those this year,” said Russell.

“We had to come up with new ways to bring people together to have these conversations about vocations and to pray together.”

“Gathering together and getting out to foster vocations in person is a big challenge during this pandemic,” added Father Carrara. “But it’s not a challenge to pray. We should be doing that first and foremost. We wanted to give people an opportunity to pray together for vocations and opportunities to safely gather – even if it’s from all different locations. This also builds on our efforts to give the Vocations Office more of a virtual and digital presence.”

“We’ll see how it all goes,” concluded Russell. “We’re trying new things, and we’re preparing as much as we can, but we’re still learning as we go.”

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