To her family, Rhonda Gruenewald is a devoted wife and mother. For the Church, Rhonda is a woman who has said “yes” to an ever-growing need to find a solution for the worldwide vocation crisis. Rhonda is passionate in her desire to provide parishes and dioceses with effective, impactful tools to begin a groundswell of support for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Today, I’m pleased to share my conversation with Rhonda, the author of Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry.
Congratulations on the important work of Vocation Ministry. How does your own faith journey connect to this beautiful calling to serve God and the Church?
As a convert, everything about the Catholic Church fascinated me: Saints, Feast Days, Seasons within the Church calendar, and priests, joyful and caring priests. So, it was an easy YES when Fr. Victor asked me to be part of a ministry that he said was, “… one of the most important at the parish. We must promote priesthood, sacramental marriage, and consecrated life.” I was hooked! That yes has changed the direction of my life from stay-at-home mom/volunteer to the author of a book about how to create a vocation-friendly environment at a parish and founder of a national ministry affecting the vocation landscape across the country.
Is the current crisis in vocations to the priesthood and religious life a problem that can be resolved?
It can be addressed in a real way by connecting with the families who are at the parish. What I am proposing is not a short-term solution. It will take time to till the soil in our parishes to make it more fertile so that when the Holy Spirit calls, the young men and women are ready to generously answer that call.
How does Vocation Ministry offer some solutions that parishes can begin to implement immediately?
Priests can start speaking about the joy of their vocations immediately. Many priests are not speaking about their own amazing adventures of being a priest. Parishioners can form a Vocation Ministry that organizes easy but impactful activities that offer prayer and promotion of vocations. Some easy activities that can make a real impact are to put prayers for vocations into the prayers of the faithful, including a blurb about vocations into the bulletin, inviting a joyful sister or priest to speak to a youth event or tour the classrooms of a school or religious education.
Many think only of the priesthood or becoming a nun when they hear about discernment. How is each of us called to vocational discernment?
We are all called from God either to the priesthood, religious life or marriage, whenever that happens in life. Some hear that call early in life. 70% of the newly ordained and professed religious said they first heard the call to priesthood between birth and 18 which gives further explanation as to why we should focus our efforts on the parish level. We should all be asking God daily what His will is in our lives.
What can the average family or individual do to promote vocations in their own faith community?
Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry, which can be found at VocationMinistry.com, was written for the ordinary Catholic who wants to inspire an extraordinary new generation of holy priests, religious and married couples. It has 67 activities in it that a parish can choose from in order to make a difference. I share in the book exactly when to do these activities and step-by-step directions on how to do so.
One parish that produces vocations makes a big difference on the health of a diocese. For example, one priest can make an impact on tens of thousands of lives in their ministry.
What keeps you driven in your own calling, even amidst struggles and challenges?
My calling to married life, as most who are in this vocation, has seen its share of peaks and valleys. I know that my path to heaven is through my spouse, so I am driven to live this call to holiness within marriage. Each day looks different, but only with God’s help do we make it to each new anniversary!
Are there any additional thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
Even if a person cannot start a new ministry promoting vocations at their parish, he or she can pray for men and women, from their parish, to generously answer God’s call, especially in light of:
- 3,500 parishes are without a resident priest
- 33 dioceses not ordaining a new priest last summer
- Marriages in the Catholic Church are down 55%
The number of religious sisters in the US is down to what it was 100 years ago. This is the time to increase prayers for vocations!
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Copyright 2019 Lisa M. Hendey