By VERONICA VARGA, CNS | Published July 1, 2004
“It takes a community to make a priest,” Archbishop Basil M. Schott of the Byzantine Archdiocese of Pittsburgh told more than 500 Serra club members from around the world gathered in Pittsburgh.
He said that families, parishes, dioceses and eparchies as well as the universal church have a responsibility to raise men to become priests and deacons, and men and women to join religious life.
The archbishop made the remarks in his homily during a Divine Liturgy celebrated June 24 at the hotel where the 2004 convention of Serra International was being held June 24-27.
The congregation included men and women from Scotland, England, Italy, Indonesia, Mexico, Spain, Thailand and the United States who are committed to raising awareness, appreciation and support of vocations.
The liturgy was the first one of the convention and the only liturgical service during the meeting to be conducted according to the Eastern Catholic tradition.
He told the gathering that at the recent bishops’ meeting in Englewood, Colo., the No. 1 need cited by members of the hierarchy from across the United States was for vocations, for “priests and deacons and religious to serve and help in the process of leading people to Jesus Christ.”
Citing the Byzantine Catholic Church’s observance of the feast of the birth of St. John the Baptist that day, Archbishop Schott noted that St. John the Forerunner was the first to proclaim the Messiah publicly and point to Jesus Christ.
“But before he could do that, he went out into the desert to leave all the noise and the crowds and the hurry behind,” he said, “and that’s what today’s Gospel is telling us.”
“We also have to calm down all the noises in our lives, so we can be in silence and listen to what Jesus is saying to us,” he said.
In a statement issued prior to the liturgy, the archbishop said it is the obligation of everyone in the church to support vocations “through personal prayer, individual encouragement and conscious efforts to counter a culture that increasingly devalues sacrifice and sanctity.”
“We must do that in our hearts and in our homes, in our parishes and in our communities so that those whom God calls have every opportunity to hear him and respond,” he said.
The Byzantine Archdiocese of Pittsburgh is currently developing a strategic plan for vocation awareness and support. Beginning this fall, parishes also will be asked to participate in a special vocations effort involving a specially commissioned traveling vocation icon. As part of the program, families in each parish will take turns keeping the icon in their homes for one week of special prayers.
Archbishop Schott thanked members of all the Serra Clubs around the world for all that they do for the universal church.
The objectives of Serra International are to foster and promote vocations to the priesthood and to develop appreciation of the priesthood and all religious vocations in the church.
There are more than 800 Serra Clubs in 37 countries. They have a total membership of more than 20,000 lay men and women and deacons.
The theme of the 2004 international meeting was “A Confluence of Culture,” and Archbishop Schott noted that it was appropriate to convene at the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers come together to form the Ohio River.
“We, too, must take all that we do, all our energies, and all that we are and come together in Jesus Christ,” he said.