Story by Kristi Anderson
THE VOCATION OFFICE, COMPRISED OF THREE PEOPLE — director Father Scott Pogatchnik, associate director Father Doug Liebsch and secretary Julie Jacobs — seeks to help people explore God’s plan for their lives.
“Here in the Vocation Office we are always trying serve people of all ages who are longing to understand the mystery of God’s call in their life,” said Father Pogatchnik. “To lead them into a deeper discovery of themselves, to help them understand more deeply how God speaks to them and what God is inviting them to do and how they can participate in the broader mission of the Church and in God’s plan for them.”
Father Pogatchnik and Father Liebsch regularly meet with men and women who feel called to consider the possibility of seminary or religious life. Additionally, a large part of their role is supporting the seminarians who are currently in formation.
Other activities that fall under the vocation umbrella include their presence at youth and young adult events such as Castaway, Steubenville, TEC retreats and youth rallies. They also keep in communication with campus ministers at local colleges.
All of the Vocation Office staff work on a part-time basis. Father Pogatchnik also serves as the rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral and pastor at St. Augustine Church in St. Cloud. Jacobs assists as secretary for the diocesan diaconate office, which includes both English and Spanish tracks. Father Liebsch is the chaplain at Cathedral High School and oversees Marmion House, an intentional-living community of men focused on developing their prayer life, located in St. Cloud.
“There’s a community life there where the men can really support each other because so much of a vocation is found in our relationships with others,” Father Pogatchnik said. “So often it’s others who draw that call from us. So to have that prayer life and community, living in close proximity with a priest, is really another way to deepen understanding of what God is asking of them.”
About five years ago, the Vocation Office adopted the Totus Tuus program, a weeklong summer initiative geared toward youth in grades one through 12. This year, they hope to have three Totus Tuus teams hosting camps in 15 locations diocesan-wide. The office is currently accepting applications for college students to participate as team leaders this summer.
“The Vocation Office is here because there’s a practical need for more priests,” Father Liebsch said, “but it really flows from the whole mission of the Church to recognize the gift of following Jesus wherever he is. Totus Tuus helps promote that and helps each of the participants to see the gifts in their own lives. It really is sort of a tool for helping young people see God’s will for them.”
Jacobs works behind the scenes, helping parishes plan for Totus Tuus as well as setting up Andrew dinners, vocation camps and assisting with paperwork as needed. She plays a strong support role for the seminarians and their families, answering questions for them and planning the summer picnic and Christmas gathering so that seminarians’ families get to know one another.
“For us to have the opportunity to get to know the families and also that they can get to know others in the same role, parents can minister to other parents. It’s beautiful to see those relationships blossom,” Father Pogatchnik said. “In a way, the families of seminarians and priests and those in religious life become advocates for vocations in the parishes, and that is so needed today because we can’t be everywhere.”
Jacobs said one of the goals the Vocation Office has is to start lay vocation teams in parishes to help them identify people who might have a vocation as well as to share information about vocation-related activities. None of the work the office does would be possible without the support of the people in the pews. They agree that having people in the parishes supporting their work is at the heart of what they do.
“It’s not like we’re the only vocation directors, so to speak,” Father Liebsch said. “We want lay people to know that they can also be the voice of Christ, inviting people to consider the priesthood or religious life.”
“I think in every vocation story there’s a sacred moment where people have stepped forward in courage and have been the ones to be God’s voice of invitation there,” Father Pogatchnik added. “There’s a way to do it that’s so complimentary to say, ‘I see qualities in you of real leadership, and the real ability to connect people, and the gift to be a conduit of God that perhaps maybe you don’t see.’
“We have young people discerning the call of God throughout the whole diocese,” he continued.
“For example, this coming spring, we hope to ordain a priest from Tintah. We accepted a seminarian last fall from Breckenridge. The whole stretch of the diocese is impacted by the investment people make in the Annual Appeal for those who go on to be priests, deacons or other leaders in our parishes. These are people that will be leading not just this generation, but the generation to come. It’s kind of like a down payment on the renewal of the Church that is very much needed and in some places is already beginning to take place.”