Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 11, 2002
Vocations director builds relationships
Hero creates climate conducive to vocations
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
As vocations director for the Edmonton Archdiocese, Father Stephen Hero's job is to promote vocations for the priesthood and religious life.
What's his approach? "For me the priority is to build relationships with young people, to get to know them and to let them know me," he says.
And that's what the 32-year-old priest has been doing since he was appointed to the position six months ago-meeting young people where young people are and creating a climate that is conducive to vocations.
When Hero is not at his Pastoral Centre office doing paper work or talking to young people, he is speaking at parishes, schools, youth groups and different youth events.
He asks young people to consider the priesthood and religious life as an option and encourages them to pray because prayer takes us closer to the Lord and helps us to discern his will.
The idea, he says, is to help young people realize that "everyone has a vocation from God and is called to holiness."
To effectively promote vocations, "You have to be where young people are," he says. "When you get to know them, you can design programs that suit their needs."
Hero, also associate pastor at St. Albert's Holy Family Parish, replaced Father Sylvain Casavant as vocations director last August.
An effective vocation promotion program currently in place in the archdiocese is the Called by Name program. Hero said it is effective because it involves the community in the search for the best priesthood candidates.
The program basically operates on tips. If somebody knows of a person who has the right qualities to become a priest or a nun, they contact the vocations office or the archbishop, who usually writes the prospective candidate a letter.
The archbishop has sent about 70 letters to candidates whose names were sent to him in the last two years. Twenty of those letters went out last year.
"This is very effective because it encourages lay people to be on the lookout for good candidates," Hero said. "The good thing (about this program is it gets people involved. I've been approached by (lay) people who have asked me to talk to some young people (whom they think have good priestly qualities)."
Another effective way to attract candidates is to talk about vocations at the dinner table and to pray for vocations as a family, Hero said.
Several parishes in the archdiocese are doing that through the Elijah Cup program, a program in which families pray for vocations for a week using a chalice given to them by the priest during Sunday Mass. They return the chalice the following Sunday and the cup is then given to another family.
Praying around a cup used by a priest at Mass helps families and children to understand that the Eucharist is central to Catholic life and "for the Eucharist you need priests," Hero said.
Ineffective ways to promote vocations include coming on too strong and putting pressure on young people who have expressed interest. In a recent gathering of vocation directors, Hero learned of cases where one candidate has received offers and information from every religious order in town.
"That's the wrong approach. We are not desperate to take just anyone," the priest said. "We have to make sure they have been called by God and that they have a gift. If you come on too strong, they might run away before they are ready to answer that call."