The United States Catholic Bishops Conference is launching  today a new program to renew priests' sense of vocational fulfillment and to encourage them to draw on that satisfaction and invite other men to pursue the priesthood: “Fishers of Men.”

The  program is designed to get priests to step back from their daily lives and reflect on the many positive reasons they pursued their vocations, to discuss those reasons with their brother priests, and ultimately to share those reasons with other men with an invitation to the priesthood.

"At the basis of the 'Fishers of Men' program is the conviction that there is a close connection between priests regenerating their appreciation of their own priestly vocation and the creation of an environment in which men are actively invited to respond to God's call to the priesthood," said Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City (S.D.), the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Vocations.

Research done for the Vocations Committee indicates that an invitation from a priest is one of the most effective ways of having a man consider the priesthood. Of seminarians ordained in 2003, 78 percent said that a priest had invited them to consider the priesthood. .

The program is articulated into four phases:

Phase one involves agreement to conduct the program and preparing for a convocation -- or summit -- of the diocese's priests. Phase two includes interviews with a broad sampling of the priests in a diocese, the results of which will be presented at the summit. Phase three is the Summit, during which the assembled priests will reflect further on the questions asked in the interview phase, share with one another their responses, and discuss ways to share their renewed sense of contentment with other men who might be thinking about a vocation to the priesthood. Phase four of the program is the ongoing follow up to the Summit and involves the development of a strategy for keeping priests actively engaged in inviting men to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

An extensive resource kit prepared by the Vocations Secretariat includes everything a diocese needs to implement the program. Sample letters, interview questions, timelines, a model agenda for a day-long summit, as well as a sample PowerPoint(r) presentation are all contained in a three-ring binder sent to all 195 dioceses in the United States.

The kit also includes a trailer for a "Fishers of Men" video that can be incorporated into the Summit program. Produced by Grassroots Film (see note below) of Brooklyn, N.Y., the fast-paced video shows many of the facets of a priest's daily life.

"Its purpose is twofold: renew in US priests and bishops an awareness of how treasured the gift of priesthood is and what it means in each of our lives; and to encourage us all, inspired by this renewal, to urge other men to consider the vocation which we have received as a gift." Bishop Cupich concluded.

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NOTE: The Fishers of Men video is produced by Joseph Campo of Grassroots Films: