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Helping people encounter God’s Glory Print E-mail
Guest column
Fr. Gregory Ihm

"Those who want to work for moral reform in the world must seek the glory of God before all else." -- St. John Leonardi, Feast Day October 9

As I prayed this passage from the Liturgy of the Hours, I recognized the importance of vocation work and what a privilege it is to help people seek the Glory of God but then respond to it in the way that He is inviting them to it.

The Glory of God

I'm firmly convicted that people have lost sight of the Glory of God as a reality, which is so glorious; that it demands change in us and that consecrated men and women are living witnesses of the Glory of God.

We have beautiful liturgies, good catechesis, and many groups of dedicated missionary disciples throughout the Diocese of Madison that help people encounter God's Glory.

The natural response, which isn't so natural in the light of grace, upon experiencing the Glory of God is: "How can I repay the Lord for all the good He has done for me; I will take up the Chalice of Salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord."

In the Vocation Office, we are helping people encounter Jesus Christ and particularly helping them make a proper response to Him for all the good He has done for us.

Here are some events that people can come to in order to learn more and begin to ask the questions about encountering God and making a response to Him that is whole and entire.

Chosen and Called

Chosen and Called is a time of prayer and a vocational talk for high schoolers and their parents given by myself (Fr. Greg Ihm) and one of two Religious communities (Sisters of Mary Morning Star or the Schoenstatt Sisters).

It moves around the diocese to a different parish each month, so that those that live a distance from Madison can still have an opportunity to meet the vocation director in person and some beautiful, young Religious Sisters.

I hope to instill in those that participate that by the fact that we exist, God has chosen each of us, has given us a profound dignity, and invites/calls us to put this gift of self at the service of God and our neighbor.

The gift of self put at the service of God and our neighbor is called a vocation. Through prayer, we give high schoolers an opportunity to encounter the One whose choice of us is the only one that matters.

Chosen and Called will be held on the remaining dates and locations:

• Wednesday Nov. 7, St. John, Montello -- 6:30-8:30 p.m.

• Wednesday, Dec. 5, St. Joseph, Dodgeville -- 6:30-8:30 p.m.

• Wednesday, Jan. 23, St. Bernard, Watertown -- 6:30-8:30 p.m.

• Wednesday, Feb. 6, Sacred Heart, Reedsburg -- 6:30-8:30 p.m.

• Wednesday, March 13, Immaculate Conception, Kieler -- 7-9 p.m.

Quo Vadis Discernment Group

Quo Vadis Discernment Group is a monthly gathering of men in high school or older that are curious about or openly discerning a call to the priesthood.

It is a casual gathering that consists of a fun activity, praying Evening Prayer, eating pizza, discussing a topic pertinent to discernment, and finishes with Eucharistic Adoration.

It meets every second Friday of the month at Holy Name Heights, Madison, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. with the exception this year of December and January.

• Second Fridays, 6:30-9 p.m., Nov. 9; Feb. 8; March 8; April 19; and May 10.

Discerner's Camping Trips

Discerner's Camping Trips is an opportunity to get boys that are serious about discerning priesthood out into the wilderness to help them unplug from technology and allow the power of creation to lead them to a deeper encounter with one another and with God.

I found it to be an opportunity for great conversation, overcoming mental and physical fatigue, and growing in virtue. I plan to take two camping trips again this summer. Men will have to register to go and be prepared with the proper gear in order to go.

• College men: May 16-21

• High school men: June 10-15

Response to the scandal

What is the Vocation Office doing in response to the recent scandal? We have assured the seminarians that they should be free to report any issues or concerns they encounter in formation and that we will make sure that they are protected.

Secondly, the Church has implemented a rigorous application and acceptance process that dioceses and seminaries are required to follow in the document: The Program for Priestly Formation:

• First step: Get to know the man through several meetings wherein we determine if the man is sufficiently mature, has a steady prayer routine, shows signs of an authentic vocation, and actively participates in the sacramental life of the Church.

• Second step: Once we know the candidate well enough to determine that he is sufficiently ready, we give him the application to enter formation for the diocese (35 pages).

• Third step: A part of the application is completing: a background check and training to recognize, protect against, and report sexual abuse.

• Fourth step: Upon receiving the application to the diocese, we read it to make sure there aren't any concerns that we are unaware of and then ask them to do a psychological evaluation. (Both a psychologist and a psychiatrist evaluate each candidate, which often takes up to six to eight hours).

• Fifth step: Upon determining the psychological health of the candidate, we convene a screening committee made up of priests and laity that have a variety of skills and experience to interview the candidate and make a recommendation to the bishop.

• Sixth step: The bishop reads the application and screening committee's recommendations, and often will meet with the individual before making the decision to accept or reject the applicant.

• Seventh step: Once an applicant has been accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Madison, he must then apply to the seminary determined by the bishop. Each seminary has a committee that reviews the candidate's application before accepting him into the formation program.

While the seminarian is at the seminary, he meets with a formation advisor and his spiritual director every month. Each man has a formal evaluation toward the end of each academic year which includes the rector, vice rector, and formation advisor. The purpose of the evaluation is to encourage the man's strengths, highlight areas of needed growth, and determine if the man should continue on in the formation process.

The diocese continues to work to protect anyone that is vulnerable from sexual abuse, which includes our seminarians, and to make sure that our seminarians are capable of living out their promise to celibacy in a virtuous and holy way.


Fr. Gregory Ihm is the director of vocations for the Diocese of Madison.