A commitment to discernment

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There are 182 diocesan priests serving the Arlington Diocese. That number is augmented by 55 religious order, 27 extern (priests from outside the diocese, in-residence) and five eastern rite priests. The diocese is also rich in religious vocations with eight Brothers and 132 Sisters.

There is a steady pool of men entering seminaries to keep those numbers strong. Forty men currently are studying for the priesthood in the Arlington Diocese at various seminaries including Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.; St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.; Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio; Pontifical North American College in Rome; and Catholic University in Washington.

Father Joel D. Jaffe, Arlington diocesan vocations director, said that much of the success has been because of the support from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde.

The bishop's interest in vocations goes back to before his installation as auxiliary bishop of Hartford, Conn., in 1988. He served on several vocation committees and task forces.

From 1973 to1979, Bishop Loverde was vice-president of the Church Vocations Task Group, a subdivision of the Program of Cooperation for Religious Organizations in Southeastern Connecticut.

From 1992 to 1995, he was a member of the vocations committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (now the USCCB.) In 1995, he became the chairman of the committee and served in that capacity until1999.

"He has a very special love of vocations," said Father Jaffe.

That love and interest can be seen in the way he approaches the application process for young men hoping to enter seminary.

"He reads every letter. He lists strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, and he also notes which seminary he thinks would be the best for the individual," said Father Jaffe.

He shows the same interest in religious men and women. There are about 30 men in religious formation and twice the number of women in formation.

Father Jaffe said the bishop comes to as many vocation events as he can, including summer discernment camps Quo Vadis for young men and Fiat for young women.

In 2005, Bishop Loverde resumed the permanent diaconate program after a 20-year hiatus. The bishop believed that permanent deacons would be of great help to priests. In 2011, 16 men were ordained to the diaconate. There are now 81 permanent deacons serving the diocese.

"I think it's been a real help to our priests and our people," said the bishop. "It's a valid form of ministry and I'm very pleased that we've done that. It's another way to advance the Gospel."

When talking about vocations, the bishop speaks about the priesthood, religious life, consecrated life and the married life.

In a homily last February on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes at the eighth-grade Mass for vocations at Holy Spirit Church in Annandale, the bishop spoke about all vocations. He said for some, marriage will be their vocation.

"For others, that will be the consecrated life as a religious priest, deacon, brother or sister. Some young men here today are being called to the priesthood. Whatever your specific vocation is, know that when we follow St. Bernadette's model of eagerness in prayer and persistence in being faithful, we more readily follow whatever path God has chosen for us in this life," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015