Over the past several weeks, Bishop Paprocki has hosted - together with the Director of the Office for Vocations and the Associate Director of the Office for Vocations - a series of Andrew Dinners in six of the seven deaneries of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois; the seventh dinner will be held in January.
The concept behind the dinner is Saint Andrew's invitation to his brother, Saint Peter: "We have found the Messiah" (John 1:41). Andrew then, we are told, "brought [Peter] to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, 'So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)'" (John 1:42). Peter would become the first Pope through Andrew's invitation.
The idea behind these dinners is that priests would invite young men in their parish whom they think the Lord might be calling to the priesthood to have dinner with the Bishop and an informal conversation about the priesthood.
These dinners have begun, of course, with prayer. After dinner, the Bishop spoke about vocations in general, the priesthood more in particular and shared his vocation story. He then invited the priests present to share their stories. In this way the "prospects" can see that although priests callings may have common elements, they are not identical but are each very personal. Afterwards our guests were given time to ask questions, if they had any. We then gave them a couple of prayer cards and sent them on their way.
Last evening, during Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament with the Springfield Serra Club, Bishop Paprocki announced that forty (40) young men were present at the six (6) dinners; the next dinner will likely have at least another ten (10) young men present. What is more, he announced that five (5) that young men have already asked to be accepted as seminarians for the coming Fall.
Though I can't be certain, I credit this increased interest in vocations to the intercession of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton. Please, Lord: santo subito!
Please, Lord, give us more shepherds after your own heart!