Above: Participants of the Fruitful Harvests Vocations Workshop take a group photo with Bishop Thomas Daly in St. Peter Catholic Church in Spokane on November 4, 2023.
By Fr. Kyle Ratuiste
About 60 people from across the diocese gathered for a day-long vocations workshop at St. Peter Catholic Church on Saturday, November 4, 2023. The Fruitful Harvests Vocations Workshop was organized by Spokane’s Office of Vocations in partnership with the United States Council of Serra International, which provided the speakers and content for the workshop. The Office of Vocations hosted this event as part of its strategic effort to launch and support active vocations promotion in parishes across the diocese. All told, ten fledgling parish-based Vocations Teams were represented at the workshop. They came from the parishes of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes (Spokane), St. Aloysius Gonzaga (Spokane), Assumption (Spokane), St. John Vianney (Spokane Valley), St. Joseph (Otis Orchards), St. Mary (Spokane Valley), St. Patrick (Pasco), St. Peter (Spokane), St. Thomas More (Spokane), and Walla Walla.
Wide-ranging community involvement helped make the Vocations Workshop a reality. Members of the Serra Club of Spokane were instrumental in personally inviting fellow parishioners to attend the workshop. The diocesan Vocations Commission was established in 2021 as a fruit of the Office of Vocation’s ongoing collaboration with the Catholic missionary organization FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and is comprised of a diverse group of laity, priests, and Religious from across the diocese. This group also helped draw parish groups to the workshop, especially from the southern part of the diocese.
Other vocations-related and -supporting organizations were also present at the workshop itself, providing attendees with increased awareness of the tapestry of efforts coming together to foster a culture of vocations in the diocese. Represented at the workshop were Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, which provided complimentary overnight accommodations for out-of-town attendees; the Saint John Paul II Foundation, a local, lay-led fundraising group dedicated to supporting vocations within the diocese; the Adopt-a-Priest apostolate, a ministry facilitating intentional intercession for priests; and Bishop White Seminary and the Cor Christi program.
At no cost to the diocese, the U.S. Council of Serra International provided the workshop content and speakers as part of a national program to support diocesan efforts to establish parish-level vocations ministries. Two highly experienced Serrans facilitated the workshop – Greg Schwietz, past president of Serra International, and Dr. Anne Roat, president-elect of the U.S. Council of Serra. Together they shared information about the need to promote vocations, introduced participants to an online vocation promotion toolkit called Serra SPARK, and facilitated a period for the Vocations Teams to clarify their mission and strategic goals to implement following the workshop.
Greg Takisaki, president of the Serra Club of Spokane and chair of the new Vocations Team at St. John Vianney Parish, affirmed, “Greg Schweitz and Anne Roat did a great job in presenting a clear picture of how to get our Parish Vocation Teams going.” He also expressed his appreciation for “Bishop Daly setting the tone for the day by saying Mass for us.”
Gina McCauley, Director of Faith Formation at St. Joseph Parish in Otis Orchards, described the Vocations Workshop as “the most fruitful workshop I have every attended!” She further clarified, “I came away not only with inspiration but useful information and concrete ideas ready to be implemented by our new Vocations Committee.”
Local Spokane Serran and Assumption parishioner Karen Domini stated, “Learning about the status of vocations and the shortage of priests in the US was an eye opener and enforced what I heard at a [recent Serra Club] conference in Federal Way. I was especially moved by the statement that despite the shortage of priests, God continues to call young men and women to the religious life. We must help them listen. . . I look forward to seeing the fruits of our efforts.”
JJ Nazzaro, director of parish evangelization at St. Mary Parish in Spokane Valley, noted how the Vocations Workshop “gave our newly formed Vocations Team a chance to create and clarify our mission and vision.”
Apart from the workshop content, the community atmosphere itself was notable and encouraging to participants. Anna Stockdill, a parishioner at St. Peter Parish in Spokane and a member of the Serra Club of Spokane, shared, “I was touched to see the support for vocations from representatives across the diocese; I think that bringing multiple parishes together that way was very inspiring.”
Patrick Flynn, who is the chair of the new Vocations Team at St. Patrick in Pasco, said, “Of great importance to [my wife and me] was the meeting with other parishes, and discovering we aren’t alone, and collaboratively we can be focused on vocations throughout the diocese.” He also noted, “that the presence of the Bishop and the spiritual side of Mass, prayers, Adoration, and Confession all added to the mission.”
Father Dan Nevares, SJ, parochial vicar at St. Aloysius Parish, gratefully described the workshop as “an opportunity for collaboration and inspiration” and “a great beginning” for his parish Vocations Team.
Support for these Vocations Teams continues beyond the equipping and strategic planning that took place at the Fruitful Harvests Vocations Workshop. As they build momentum to foster vocational discernment in their parishes, these new Vocations Teams will be able to receive personalized mentorship and support over the coming year from representatives of both the diocesan Vocations Commission and the U.S. Council of Serra.