By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published October 12, 2006
Creating holy priests for the archdiocese is not only the responsibility of the archdiocesan vocations director, but also that of the entire Catholic community of North Georgia.
That is the message that Father Brian Higgins, vocations director, hopes to relay to parishioners of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. And as the vocations program in the archdiocese is projected to receive the greatest dividend of funds from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, the people in the pews have an opportunity to participate in a direct way.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory recently announced the launch of the 2007 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. The appeal has a goal of $6 million, which is needed to support the diverse ministries of the Catholic Church in North Georgia. Archbishop Gregory chose the theme “We Are His Hands” for the appeal.
The Office of Vocations, led by vocations director Father Brian Higgins, is slated to receive a large percentage of the funds raised through the appeal—$1,643,139. With 53 men studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the funds are used to sponsor and educate the seminarians and to facilitate the ongoing discernment process for those interested in becoming candidates for priestly formation.
The funds from the annual appeal are used first and foremost, Father Higgins said, to educate the seminarians.
“We always say that you get the seminarians you pray for, and you get the priests you pay for,” he said.
The funds also go toward formation, such as retreats and other events, and toward advertising, Father Higgins said.
Advertising is an area of which many are unaware, the vocations director said. Advertising to recruit new seminarians is in the format of holy cards, posters and ads in The Georgia Bulletin.
“We have to remember what generation we’re dealing with,” Father Higgins said. “This is truly the MTV generation. They are constantly bombarded with commercials and sound bites. We have to go where the people are.”
The prayer cards that are left at parishes and other Catholic buildings remind the Catholic community of their role in the vocations process.
“People ask me all the time about the success of our vocations program. I tell them that it’s not me. It truly is the people. With their dollars they are literally helping to build up the kingdom of God here on earth. I am so thankful for the number of seminarians we have, and right now we have more people from our own archdiocese who are discerning than I have witnessed in the last five years,” Father Higgins said. “I really believe that is the power of prayer. The people in the Archdiocese of Atlanta are generous not only with their wealth, but they are generous with their prayer.”
In addition to the holy cards, the “31 Club” offers people the opportunity to pray for specific seminarians. Each day of the month, two seminarians are specifically named for prayer offerings. The schedule can be found on the vocations Web site located at www.calledbychrist.org.
“The 31 Club really helps the guys to know that they are not alone. That is the biggest battle in the seminary. You are giving up your life to serve the people and to serve the Church, but you are wondering ‘is anyone supporting me? Does anyone really care?’”
Several ongoing and new programs will also play a part in recruiting men and women to the priesthood and religious life.
In November, Father Higgins plans to start a monthly holy hour to be held at parishes throughout the archdiocese. The Blessed Sacrament will be displayed in a special monstrance blessed by Pope John Paul II before his death, and Father Higgins will bring the monstrance and set up the holy hour himself each month.
The St. Theresa Club, a discernment group for high school girls, will begin in January 2007. The group will be led by Father Ricardo Bailey, assistant vocations director, and Heather Triggs, director of religious education at Holy Spirit Church in Atlanta. The monthly meetings will be held at Holy Spirit, where Father Bailey is a parochial vicar.
Father Bailey will also lead a monthly discernment group for adult men, to complement the ongoing Vianney Club discernment group for high school men.
Triggs will also begin a discernment group for women ages 18 and older.
Father Bryan Small, chaplain of the Catholic Center at Emory University, is leading a monthly vocations discernment Mass at the Catholic Center, for men and women.
Finally, a new vocations support group, Alter Christus, will be geared toward those who are homebound or ill. The group “doesn’t cost a dime” Father Higgins said, but is based solely on prayer.
“Pope John Paul II often spoke of the prayers offered by the infirmed and how those prayers are so powerful,” Father Higgins said.
The group will complement the already well-established efforts of Serra Atlanta and the Knights of Columbus.
“I want everyone—from infancy through the golden years—to help us with vocations,” Father Higgins said. “Everyone plays a part.”
Pledge envelopes for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal can be found at all parishes in the archdiocese. Pledges can also be mailed, with checks made payable to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, to P.O. Box 105290, Atlanta, GA 30348-5290.
Those who wish can also have their bank automatically deduct their monthly pledge from their checking account. Donors can visit their bank’s Web site and set up their account to automatically transfer funds from their account to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. Donors will need to inform their bank of the appeal’s mailing address.
Pledge forms can also be obtained by calling (404) 885-7277.
For more information call (404) 885-7277 or visit www.archatl.com/offices/development.