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Archdiocesan vocations team accompanies men discerning God’s call

05 Summerhays and Ginter PAGEFather Patrick Summerhays, left, and Father Andrew Ginter recently visited Catholic San Francisco at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center to discuss the new vocations team. (Photos by Rick DelVecchio/Catholic San Francisco)

November 9, 2017

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has formed a vocations team made up of six priests whose mission is to accompany men discerning whether God is calling them to priestly ministry.

Organized geographically to reach out to potential candidates in the communities where they live, the team is made up of Father Patrick Summerhays, the archdiocese’s new vocations director and parochial vicar at St. Cecilia Parish, San Francisco; Father Andrew Ginter, parochial vicar at St. Hilary Parish, Tiburon; Father Tom Martin administrator of St. Veronica Parish, South San Francisco; Father Cameron Faller, parochial vicar at Church of the Epiphany, San Francisco; and Father Juan Manuel Lopez, administrator at Church of the Assumption of Mary Parish, Tomales.

This discernment process “requires a certain amount of accompaniment” to bring a person-to-person element to the individual’s ongoing conversation with God, Father Summerhays told Catholic San Francisco during a recent visit to the archdiocesan Pastoral Center.

“Each call from God is unique,” said Father Summerhays, who was ordained a priest in 2015. “Yet, there are similarities. Nothing replaces that essential ongoing conversation with God, but having someone who understands this process and who can reassure the discerner that some anxieties and questions are perfectly natural is reassuring.”

The new approach is part of building a “culture of vocations,” Father Summerhays said.

In a vocations culture, one asks God, “What is your plan for my life?” and “our greatest joy” comes in discerning this plan and carrying it out, he said. In contrast, the prevailing culture idealizes career and success.

Discerning a vocation can be a lengthy, difficult and often halting process in conversation between the individual and God, and vocations team members are charged with going into the field to bring their own perspectives to the conversation.

“If they feel called, they need someone to talk to,” Father Summerhays said.

“My biggest role is to share the joy I have in the priesthood,” said Father Ginter, who noted that his call owed much to having a model in longtime St. Anthony of Padua, Novato, pastor Father Kevin Gaffey, a beloved priest who died in 2016.

Father Ginter, who was ordained in 2016, said he initially wanted to become a permanent deacon. “I don’t think I would have ever chosen priesthood, but I’ve never been happier,” he said. “It’s a wonderful life.”

Father Summerhays said his discernment “took a while.” He stressed the difference between the surrender of “true discernment” and the self-interest of “simulated discernment.”

“It does take a kind of adventurous heart,” Father Summerhays said. And “it’s not going to come without crosses.”

A priest’s vocation continues to develop on the job.

“I come from a big family,” Father Summerhays said. “I’ve enjoyed being a parish priest in a large parish family. Now, the learning has to continue in the parish. You’ve got to meet people where they’re at. You’ve got to help them see how the Gospel continues to speak to our daily lives.”

In a follow-up email, Father Summerhays also stressed the importance of the faithful praying for priests and the priesthood.

“Prayer for vocations to the priesthood is certainly a big part of the message we have been asked to promote,” he said. “Many people wonder what they can do about the vocations crisis. They can look out for great candidates, but everyone can pray for vocations. That is one thing that Jesus commanded us to do in Luke 9:38.

“An essential aspect of promoting and fostering a culture of vocations in the archdiocese is prayer for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life,” Father Summerhays said. “Asking parishes to initiate eucharistic holy hours for vocations to the priesthood at their parishes is also a great way of supporting the cause.

“For these parish initiatives for praying for vocations, we would hope to bring attention to them by advertising them on our website, Twitter and Facebook accounts,” Father Summerhays said. “So we encourage those who do launch prayer initiatives for vocations to let us know at vocations@sfarchdiocese.org.”

 

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