Thursday, December 7, 2006

A ‘Culture of Vocations’ Brings Vitality to Saginaw Diocese

Bishop Robert Carlson’s success in developing priestly vocations in the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., received national attention, and now he’s doing the same thing in Saginaw, Mich.

Seminarian Rich Budd, 25, knows exactly how to reach Bishop Robert Carlson if he has any questions or concerns. “On my cell phone — on speed dial — is the bishop’s cell phone number,” said Budd. “And there’s definitely been nights where I’ve had to call him.”
He noted that seminarians elsewhere are unsure if their bishop is as accessible. “We have a real personal relationship,” Budd. “Not every seminarian has that gift.”
Budd is one of 19 men from the Diocese of Saginaw who are discerning a call to the priesthood. That’s a big increase from just three years ago, and given Bishop Carlson’s emphasis, that comes as no surprise to Budd.
But he already had a reputation as being a bishop with a successful approach to vocations. When he became bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1995, the average age of priests in the diocese was 60. When he was appointed to Saginaw in 2005, that age had dropped to 48.6. By then, Sioux Falls had 25 seminarians, while Saginaw, with about the same number of Catholics at 135,000, had four.
Bishop Carlson has inaugurated a program to invite young men to consider the priesthood. Named after the first apostle that Jesus called, Operation Andrew holds dinners to allow young men a chance to discuss vocations with the bishop over dinner.
“We ask a priest to host a dinner. And we ask other priests in the area to invite any young men who are interested in attending,” said Mark Graveline, associate director of vocations for the diocese.
There have been three such dinners this year, one in the college town of Mount Pleasant, one in Midland and another in Saginaw. The diocese plans 12 such dinners for 2007.
[...snip] National Catholic Register

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