Published August 16, 2007
Seminarians were very much on the minds and in the hearts of those in the Archdiocese of Atlanta within the past couple of weeks. Recently I had the pleasure of installing Father Luke Ballman as our new Vocations Director at a Mass at Ignatius House, where most of our seminarians were on retreat. A number of our Atlanta Serrans were also present to support Luke and to encourage our seminarians. We are so fortunate to have a first-class group of young men who are seriously considering serving as our priests. We are equally blessed to have so many Serrans here in Atlanta who provide a prayerful source of encouragement for those who are studying for the priesthood or are thinking about entering consecrated life, as well as those of us who are already there!
Last week Serra International held its convention here in Atlanta, and this gathering brought nearly 600 Serrans from around the world to our city along with scores of priests, sisters, brothers and more than a dozen bishops to focus on the work of promoting and sustaining vocations to the clerical and religious life. Not only was Atlanta a congenial site for this convention, the archdiocese itself was a model for many of the participants of what seems to be working in the promotion of vocation strategies that are successful.
Father Ballman was quoted as saying that Atlanta has one of the strongest vocation programs in the United States. It is a tribute to Father Brian Higgins (former director of vocations), to Luke, to our priests, and to the Serra community, which has taken such a high-profile involvement with our seminary students, the director of vocations, and with our priests and Religious.
Serrans tell our seminarians by their interest and support that they want virtuous, wholesome, joyful and zealous priests for themselves and for their children. Serrans tell our students that the well-being of the priesthood is an important concern for the laity and that they have high expectations of these men. In addition to all of the interest and investment in our seminarians, the Serrans pray for these young men and for those of us who are already their Religious and clergy.
Prayer and personal involvement on the part of our Serrans have combined to provide a powerful source of encouragement for the ministry of vocations here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
In spite of our good fortune in terms of candidates for the priesthood, the future of our Archdiocese depends not on numbers of candidates but upon the quality and caliber of these young men. One healthy, bright, energetic and zealous candidate is worth more than a dozen less qualified or problematic students. We have recently lived through a time when we all know the sorrow that unhealthy Church ministers can inflict upon the heart of a local community.
I have informed Luke that his new ministry is one of the most important responsibilities in the Archdiocese. He must keep his standards very high; he must challenge these young men to be truthful, candid, holy and generous; and he must not hesitate to make a difficult decision but always with the best interests of the Archdiocese of Atlanta at heart. He understands the importance of his service in this new assignment. Fortunately, he is building upon a solid foundation, and he has lots of support from the Serrans, the priests and deacons of our Archdiocese—and I believe from all those who are reading this column at this very moment and who will offer a prayer for all of our seminarians, priests and for those young men who may be thinking about the priesthood for themselves. After all, it’s an investment in our tomorrow that is essential for all of us.