Q&A with the new Vocations Director, Father Hahn
Tell us about your first six months as Vocations Director. Has it been what you expected? Things that surprised you?
It has been what I expected in the sense that I thought I would enjoy the work and I most certainly do. It’s been a bit different than I would have envisioned particularly due to COVID. I had thought I would be living at the Pontifical College Josephinum but after a couple of months and the desire of the seminary to maintain a ‘bubble’ for the community it became apparent that I should move out. My role takes me into too many different communities and interactions so I certainly couldn’t live in a ‘bubble’ in this role. However, I have enjoyed the community at the St. Joseph’s Cathedral rectory where I now live and this has been a great place to base myself.
What has been your favorite part or parts of being Vocations Director so far?
My favorite part has been meeting the variety of young men who are discerning a call. I love hearing the stories of how they encountered the Lord in their life and then how they have been striving to listen for Him in their prayer ever since. I have also enjoyed meeting the wider circle of young Catholic men and women in organizations like Damascus, St. Paul’s Outreach, and FOCUS among others. It’s very invigorating to see the army of missionaries that the Lord is raising up among this rising generation!
How actively involved is Bishop Brennan with the work of the Office of Vocations?
Bishop Brennan is actively involved. First, he is a great asset in vocations promotion in our diocese because he is such a strong and joyful leader. He’s the kind of leader you want to follow and the young men who have come into contact with him grasp that quickly. He also has vocations at the top of his list of priorities so he is always available for me to talk things through with him about vocations issues, both for the diocesan priesthood but also in regards to men and women in religious life. He wants more than anything for the young men and women of our diocese to be able to hear and have the courage to follow whatever path of life the Lord puts on their hearts. He also wants to make sure that the priesthood and religious life are seen as the normal, healthy, paths which they are, among those possibilities.
Tell us about the Melchizedek Project and your plans for the program moving into 2021.
The Melchizedek Project is a group for men discerning the priesthood. It is not a seminary preparation course, but a group that is really studying the priesthood and learning how to listen for the signs of how God is calling them. We do this by working through a book together called To Save 1000 Souls.
Each group meets monthly and we currently have groups meeting at the Cathedral, St. Catharine, and St. Brendan in Central Ohio. We also have a great group in Lancaster at St. Bernadette led by Father Ty Tomson that I was able to join last week. You can find more information at Face Forward, regarding specifics of each group as well as who to contact for more information or to join us. We’ve had to postpone or move to ZOOM some of the meetings but hopefully, in 2021 we’ll be able to return to in-person meetings for all of them. This is something I hope to expand the offerings of as we go forward.
What is up next for the current seminarians?
As it is for most university students, this year is looking very different for the seminarians due to COVID. However, because the Josephinum successfully created a ‘bubble,’ it was able to maintain all of their classes in-person and they had no cases of seminarians developing COVID.
Next semester will look a little different than past Spring Semesters. It will start earlier, some of the breaks will be removed, and then in-person classes will end the weekend of Palm Sunday. Their final three weeks of classes will be online the three weeks after Easter. This will give them the chance to be at their home parishes for assistance at Holy Week liturgies which is the norm. It will also allow them to move into parishes after Easter, which will be sooner than normal. As a result, they will be able to get started in parish work sooner and thus they will regain some of what they had lost in their pastoral formation this year.
Most pastoral works (hospital ministry, teaching PSR, serving in the soup kitchens, etc. ) had to be canceled this year due to COVID restrictions. The idea next semester is to use what looks to be the final months of COVID-restrictions for primarily academic work and then with the hope that by summer, restrictions will be significantly less and that time will enable a much richer pastoral experience. Our older seminarians who study at John XXIII in Boston will also experience a somewhat similar semester.
What can we look forward to in 2021 from the Office of Vocations? What are your plans for 2021 in this role?
I’m hoping as the COVID restrictions begin to lessen I will be a little freer in my movements. One thing I would like to do, which Fr. Noble used to do when he was in the office full-time, is to start covering Masses at a different parish each weekend, promote vocations, and have materials for people to take.
I’m also hoping to keep developing within the diocese that sense of the importance of prayer for vocations. Since we are dealing with the supernatural call of God to a man, we have only one true route of increasing vocations. It is the method the Lord gave us in the Gospels: “Beg the Master of the Harvest to send out more laborers for the Harvest.” (Mt 9:38)
I’m also working with the Serra Club, Knights of Columbus, and other organizations involved with the support of vocations to keep moving forward in these efforts. I will be working with the seminarians and with the Josephinum to once again hold a Quo Vadis Retreat in July. This is a very fruitful vocations camp that will be in its fourth year in our diocese.
Maybe by later 2021, we will be able to start up some Andrew Dinners which is another program that Fr. Noble had in place when he was full-time in this position and which continues to bear fruit in dioceses where they are held. This is basically regional dinners sponsored by the Vocations Office where young men discerning get an opportunity to meet the Bishop and hear a talk or two while enjoying dinner together.
Finally, who knows? I will keep listening for the Holy Spirit’s leads and try to respond as obediently as I can. There are a lot of great things happening in our diocese and I have a firm sense that this is going to bear great fruit in the area of vocations in the coming years!