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University Hosts Summit on Vocations

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, chats with Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap. (right) and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA at the “Summit on Vocations” last month. (Photo by Justin Knight)

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff

Published: July 17, 2013

Catholic bishops, Catholic college and university presidents, university mission officers, campus ministry staff, and vocation directors for 15 dioceses and 10 orders of priests convened at Boston College last month for a national gathering to discuss ways to promote vocations to the priesthood.

At the June 20-21 “Summit on Vocations: Exploring Ways to Promote Vocations to the Priesthood,” participants discussed the results of a survey commissioned by Boston College and the Jesuit Conference to assess the impact of higher education on the vocational discernment of men entering the seminary and religious life in the United States.

The research study, “The Influence of College Experiences on Vocational Discernment to Priesthood and Religious Life,” was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in Washington, DC. Its findings support the idea that Catholic colleges and universities offer a more encouraging environment for vocational discernment and more opportunities to have dialogues about vocations. Compared to those who attended a non-Catholic college, students who attended a Catholic college are more than three times likely to report being encouraged in their vocational discernment by college staff (50 percent to 14 percent); almost three times more likely to be encouraged by a college professor (72 percent to 25 percent); and substantially more likely to be encouraged by parents, siblings, friends and campus ministers.

James C. Cavendish, an associate professor of sociology at the University of South Florida, and CARA Executive Director Thomas P. Gaunt, SJ, presented the study’s findings.

Other panels discussed the state of vocations today and emerging strategies and new directions.  There were about 100 attendees.

Among the notable clergy and academic leaders who participated in the Summit on Vocations were: Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap.; Archbishop of St. Louis Robert J. Carlson; Archbishop for the US Military Services Timothy P. Broglio; Rev. W. Shawn McKnight, executive director, Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, US Conference of Catholic Bishops; Assumption College President Francesco C. Cesareo, and Rev. Thomas J. O’Hara, CSC, provincial of the US Province of Priests and Brothers, Congregation of Holy Cross.            

Boston College participants were University President Rev. William P. Leahy, SJ, who delivered remarks; Vice President and University Secretary Terrence P. Devino, SJ; Professor Rev. Richard Lennan, chair of the Ecclesiastical Faculty in the School of Theology and Ministry and Woods College of Advancing Studies Interim Dean Rev. James P. Burns, IVD.

 “The Influence of College Experiences on Vocational Discernment to Priesthood and Religious Life” represents one of the largest recent surveys of men in formation and the newly ordained. The survey polled respondents on college coursework, Mass attendance, involvement with campus ministry, experiences with religious retreats, and peer friendships, among other topics, to identify the distinct factors at Catholic colleges and universities that influence vocational discernment to diocesan priesthood or religious life.

The Summit on Vocations was a collaboration of Boston College, the Archdiocese of Boston and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, with financial support provided by the Knights of Columbus. Boston College’s support came from the division of University Mission and Ministry, the Church in the 21st Century Center, Manresa House, the Woods College of Advancing Studies, the School of Theology and Ministry and the Blessed Peter Faber Jesuit Community.

Read a preview of the "Summit on Vocations" at /content/bc/offices/pubaf/news/2013-may-jun/summit-on-vocations.html