A Pastoral Letter from
His Excellency, The Most Reverend Glen John Provost,
Bishop of Lake Charles
4 August 2007
Feast of St. John Vianney
Dearly Beloved of the Diocese of Lake Charles,
As I write to you my first pastoral letter, I am reminded of the words of St. Paul for the Thessalonians. "We keep thanking God for all of you and we remember you in our prayers, for we constantly are mindful before our God and Father of the way you are proving your faith, and laboring in love, and showing constancy of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 1:2-3). These are words full of meaning. Not only do they express the deep joy that I have at being with you in Lake Charles but also the theme of this letter. St. Paul¹s very next words are ones of vocation, for the great Saint to the Gentiles writes, "We know, too, brothers and sisters, beloved of God, how you were chosen" (I Thessalonians 1:4).
God has a plan. God calls each and every one of us. Usually we speak of this plan as the "universal call to holiness." As Our Lord so well teaches us, we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). We are not called to mediocrity. We are chosen for excellence, and while we may be deeply aware of our limitations and weaknesses, we are also aware of the call to perfection. So we respond to God¹s grace, we strive, we acknowledge our failings, we repent, we realize our gifts, and we move more deeply into the mystery of God¹s love.
When we know this call of God, this vocation in Christ, we live in what Pope John Paul II called the environment of vocation. In an environment of vocation the Christian knows that God has a plan for him or her. The Christian knows that life is not a series of accidents or the convergence of haphazard events. God¹s plan is all-knowing, ever intelligent, and rooted in love. The Christian knows that he or she is "chosen", to quote St. Paul once again.
Part of this environment of vocation is the way we live out this plan of God. Some are called to marriage, others to ordained ministry or the consecrated life. All of these vocations are complimentary. In relationship to one another they make an abundant harvest possible. A fertile field of faithful marriage is rich soil for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Likewise, conscientious and devoted priests will always encourage married couples and increase their desire for commitment.
On this the feast day of the patron of parish priests, St. John Vianney, I am requesting that you join me in a year of prayer specifically for vocations to the priesthood in our own Diocese of Lake Charles. We are blessed with such gifted priests, deacons and consecrated religious who serve so faithfully in the diocese. For me, as a bishop, it is a great blessing to be in pastoral ministry with so many servants of the Gospel. In a special way, I wish to affirm the priests in their devoted works and encourage dedicated prayer for priestly vocations. At present we have nine very talented seminarians preparing for ordination, two of whom Mr. Nathan Long of Iowa and Mr. Ruben Buller of Fenton, will be ordained to the transitional deaconate on August 25. Our year of prayer for priestly vocations will culminate in the celebration of ordination to the priesthood at Pentecost. I know that God is calling others who have not yet responded within this environment of vocation.
The context for this prayer for vocations to the priesthood must be the Eucharist. The priesthood finds its origin in the desire of Jesus for His Church to "do this in memory of me." Love for the Eucharist opens the hearts of a priestly people to respond to the call and to embrace further the call to sacramental priesthood.
Beginning with the feast of St. John Vianney, I invite you to enter more fully into an environment of vocation through prayer centered on the Eucharist. With the assistance of the Very Reverend Deans, we will institute throughout the diocese a program of Forty Hours Devotion. In this devotion, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for a period of time, accompanied by readings from the Sacred Scriptures, the rosary, meditation, and concluding with Benediction. Each parish takes a turn in hosting this devotion. Through it we will express our desire as a diocese to live our Christian vocation with a particular emphasis on raising up priestly vocations in our midst. In this way we will answer Our Lord¹s request, "Ask the harvest-master to send workers to his harvest" (Luke 10:2).
To accompany this year-long Eucharistic devotion, I am asking the Catholic schools and religious education programs to promote Eucharistic Hours for the intention of priestly vocations. Holy Hour on the eve of First Friday is a praiseworthy way for a parish to foster prayer for vocations. When the liturgical calendar permits, a Votive Mass for Priestly Vocations can be celebrated. Joined with the many other efforts to promote vocations, sponsored by our Vocation Director, Director of Seminarians, Vocation Recruiters, and Serra Club, I am confident that this increased Eucharistic prayer will bring many graces.
St. John Vianney, known as the Curé of Ars, is the patron of parish priests because of his zeal. He heard confessions for lengthy hours each day. He was dedicated to the religious instruction of his parishioners. His devotion to the Eucharist was intimate and total. On his feast, I ask his prayers for us. May we all discover the loving plan of God for us. For us who have responded, may that plan be clearer. For those who wait, may they hear God¹s voice and say "yes."
The zeal for the faith in our Catholic people in Lake Charles, clergy, religious, and laity, is impressive. I am certain that men and women wish to answer God¹s call to the priesthood, deaconate, and religious life. I am convinced that men and women preparing for marriage want Christ in the center of their relationship. I know that we truly want not the futility of the world but an environment of vocation where God¹s love is known and embraced. We must ask to receive, seek to find, and knock to open. Such is the teaching of our Lord Jesus and the desire of a loving Father. St. John Vianney, pray for us!
I remain with prayers for your intentions and best wishes for you and your families.
Devotedly yours in our Lord,
Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles