Bishop Malooly has called in reinforcements for the Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations.
Recently he named three diocesan priests as associate directors in the office run by Father David F. Kelley.
The move is a follow-up to one of Bishop Malooly’s priorities for the diocese announced last June: “reinforcing our baptismal call to holiness in all vocations with a special effort to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”
Now working with Father Kelley, who is also pastor of St. Joseph Church in Middletown, in the vocations
office will be Father Jay McKee, pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd in Perryville, Md., who will guide vocations efforts in grade schools; Father Joseph McQuaide, associate pastor at Holy Cross Church in Dover, who will work with high school-age students; and Father Charles C. Dillingham, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Hockessin, who will do vocations work with college students and post-college men.
Father Kelley said the diocesan committee that recommended priorities to the bishop suggested that “we needed to get more people involved in the office.
“This is a way of emphasizing that everyone needs to be involved in vocations,” Father Kelley said. “The move is to try to get everybody — families, schools, parishes — involved in a serious way.”
The vocations office director said the three new associates are priests “who have shown a real interest in vocations for quite a while.”
‘Planting the seeds’
Father McKee, who has run vocation days at Good Shepherd School, said he’s honored the bishop asked him to help.
“It gives me the opportunity to extend my past experience with grade-school vocations days,” he said.
His programs at Good Shepherd have included a prayer service, including the Old Testament call to Samuel who was a young boy when he was called to be a prophet.
Guest speakers then talk to a boys group and a group of girls. The boys at the vocations day have heard from 10 priests, and girls have had talks from eight nuns about religious life.
All the students are encouraged to ask questions about priesthood and religious life, Father McKee said. “I consider it planting seeds for the future.”
Considering a diocesan-wide effort, Father McKee said he hopes to hold similar programs in the southern part of the diocese, where schools can adopt it to the resources, religious orders and speakers in their own area.
Father McQuaide, who was ordained a priest two years ago and will be addressing how to interest high school students in the priesthood, said, “I, myself, am a product of entering seminary right out of high school. I know the great value of discernment in high school.”
The new priest said he participated in the diocese’s Pass the Word program and met with his pastor and priests in the vocations office at the time.
He visited St. Mary’s Seminary in the same program when he was a junior and senior at Salesianum, too.
He said while his first visit to the Roland Park, Md., seminary wasn’t too serious, when he was a senior he “had begun talking about the possibility of a priesthood vocation with a priest.”
Father McQuaide noted that the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales at Sallies didn’t dissuade him from a diocesan vocation. “All the Oblates were open to helping me discern where God wanted me to be.”
In his vocations office work, Father McQuaide hopes high school students are open to asking questions, “asking the full question, what is it that God wants for me, the priesthood, religious life or marriage.”
Every priest and parish
Father Dillingham is returning to the vocations office because he’s a former director there. He said the first thing he likes about it is that “we are following a very fine principle that all priests are involved in vocations ministry. Each one of us will have to solicit some of our brother priests to help us.”
The Hockessin parish pastor said he expects he’ll be “meeting with individuals and helping them discern how the Lord wants them to live.”
An early sign of a vocation among college graduates, Father Dillingham said, is often a sense that something is missing in their lives.
“There’s a risk more with these guys than with high school or college guys,” he said. “They would be giving up a successful life, putting it on hold.”
It’s three years before the next priestly ordination in the diocese, Father Dillingham said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. I know we’ll need help of every parish and every single priest in the diocese.”
‘Come and Seek’ in Dec.
The new vocations information program, Come and Seek, has held two sessions for men interested in learning about the priesthood. The next is scheduled for Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. in Vianney House at St. John the Beloved Church in Wilmington. Call Father Kelley at (302) 573-3133 or Father Chris Coffiey at (302) 239-7100, ext. 24, for more information.