The presentation of the check took place immediately after a Mass celebrated by Bishop Barnes at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
While the diocese has made some progress in fundraising for significant educational costs of its seminarians, it has begun to look at how to fund its next greatest area of need – finding future candidates for the seminary and/or religious orders by planting the seed of vocations.
In February 2014 the diocese forged a partnership of mission and impact with Serra International Foundation, resulting in a grant of $25,000 to the diocesan Office of Vocations and Office of Mission Advancement to help young Christians understand what it means to be called to a vocation in the Church. The one-year grant began in July of this year.
Aware that the Vocations program would take three to five years and more funding, the Diocese turned to its local Serra Clubs in Hemet, Palm Springs, Riverside and San Bernardino to make matching donations.
A donor from the San Bernardino Serra Club, Bill Lemann, stepped forward to match the initial grant from the Foundation, securing the project in its second year. Shortly after, the Palm Spring Serra Club also stepped forward vowing their support of the need and funding for the third year and further challenging their fellow Hemet, Riverside and San Bernardino Serrans to partner together to secure the fourth year of funding.
With 1.6 million Catholics in our region and an aging population of diocesan priests, we have been blessed with the presence of foreign born religious priests to provide for our spiritual well-being. At the same time, fostering vocations to religious life in our local communities remains an important part of sustaining the Church of San Bernardino.
This focus on vocations is perfectly timed to the coming Year of Vocations proclaimed by Pope Francis, which begins Nov. 29. Bishop Barnes has called for an increased local focus on vocations as part of the diocesan observance of the Year of Consecrated Life.
Hosting events like a “Dinner with a Seminarian,” mini-retreats for youth and parents, personal visits and talks to school classrooms by a seminarian, priest or nun are critical moments to provide personal reflection on your vocation.
Prior to this, initiative sessions like these were offered once or twice a year. This funding has ensured that these events will be possible in each and every region of the diocese from the Montclair to Blythe and from Temecula to Needles.
Organizations like the Serra Club, Firestarters and Knights of Columbus, just to name a few, have a deep commitment to Vocations. How can we best use them to promote this gap in outreach in the Church? How can we help others learn more about the great work they are doing?
Kathleen Hurtt is Donor Relations Coordinator in the diocesan Office of Mission Advancement.