Fathers Mark Tobin and Kenneth Cavara offer the final blessing for Mass — their first as new priests — following their ordination at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, May 18, 2021. (Sarah Webb)

From holy hours to “holy hoops,” the Philadelphia Archdiocese will mark National Vocation Awareness Week (Nov.7-13) with a full schedule of events inviting young people to heed the call to religious life.

“We have a lot of great things planned,” said Father David Friel, director of the Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood. “I’m hopeful this week will be an opportunity for everyone in the archdiocese to renew their interest in promoting vocations to the priesthood.”

Father Friel will kick off the observance with an opening 12 p.m. Mass on Sunday, Nov. 7 at St. Eleanor Parish in Collegeville. Over the successive days, he will preside over additional liturgies, holy hours and talks at a number of area parishes, joined at various points by several of the 149 current seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

On Nov. 12 at 7 p.m., Father Manuel Flores, parochial vicar at St. Stanislaus Parish in Lansdale, will lead a Spanish-speaking holy hour for vocations at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Cornwells Heights.

The following day, seminarians will tip off at 10 a.m. for a “holy hoops” match against the CYO basketball team at Holy Rosary Regional Catholic School in Plymouth Meeting.

The game, part of an ongoing series, will help raise vocation awareness among “an audience we don’t normally reach,” said Father Friel.

Simply promoting the option of a religious vocation is “a huge step” in helping young people discern their place in God’s plan, said Father Friel.

While it prevented the seminary from hosting its “come and see” weekends, the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions actually helped some young men “slow themselves down and listen for the Lord’s voice,” he said.

“Several men have said they really only began thinking about the priesthood at the outset of the pandemic,” said Father Friel.

Beneath the frenetic pace of daily life, “young people are definitely seeking, and mainly what they’re seeking is the truth,” said Religious Sister of Mercy Gabrielle Mary Braccio, archdiocesan delegate for consecrated life.

In particular, said Sister Gabrielle, young adults want to know “where to the find the truth regarding their lives.”

That journey must be centered in prayer, which she described as “essential.”

While her office does not directly sponsor vocation awareness events, she encourages young adults to attend holy hours and discernment weekends offered by various religious congregations, whose way of life offers “a commitment (young adults) can believe in” amid a society in flux.

“We are in an age where everything is disposable,” said Sister Gabrielle. “You like it today and you keep it; tomorrow you don’t like it, and you throw it out. But young people are searching for something worthy in their lives, whether it’s religious life, consecrated virginity, or even just being a good Christian.”

And while the number of those entering priesthood and religious life in the U.S. has decreased over recent decades, Sister Gertrude remains hopeful.

“Our strength is not in numbers; it comes from heaven,” she said, quoting 1 Mac 3:18-19. “If we have 10 that are strong and faithful, we can live the Gospel and be able to proclaim the Gospel to those who want to hear.”

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The Vocations Office for the Diocesan Priesthood will host the following events for National Vocation Awareness Week (Nov. 7-13). For more information, visit HeedTheCall.org or call 610-667-5778. 

For information about vocations to the diaconate, please contact the School of Diaconal Formation at 610-664-2213.

For more information on vocations to religious life, please contact the Office for Consecrated Life at 215-587-3795 or visit the office website.

Archdiocese of Philadelphia – National Vocation Awareness Week 2021 Events

Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021 – 12 p.m.
Opening Mass for Vocation Awareness Week
St. Eleanor Parish
647 Locust Street
Collegeville, PA 19426

Father David Friel, Vocation Director, will be the main celebrant & homilist.

Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 – 7 p.m.
Holy Hour for Vocations
Nativity of Our Lord Parish
605 West Street Road
Warminster, PA 18974

Father David Friel will be the main celebrant.

Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 – 6:30 p.m.
Mass for Young Adults at the Catholic Center for Young Adults
St. Stanislaus (Upper Church)
242 Fitzwater Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

A seminarian panel and dinner will follow the Mass. Father David Friel will be main celebrant and homilist.

Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021 – 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Vocation Awareness Day
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
100 East Wynnewood Road
Wynnewood, PA 19096

Students in Grades 7-12 enrolled in classical schools or homeschool families/co-ops will learn about a call to vocation.

Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 – 7 p.m.
Holy Hour for Vocations (in Spanish)
St. Charles Borromeo Parish (Bensalem)
1731 Hulmeville Road
Cornwells Heights, PA 19020

Father Manuel Flores will be the main celebrant.

Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021 – 10:30 a.m. — *Note new time and location
Vocation Basketball Game – Holy Hoops
Greater Plymouth Community Center
2910 Jolly Road
Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462

All are welcome to watch the seminarians play the local CYO teams.