In January 2012, the Office of Vocations released its four-year “Strategic Plan for Vocational Promotion in the Diocese of Charleston.” Since then, the strategic plan has been the principal resource in launching and evaluating programs such as retreats, clubs and groups; employing social media; and making parish and school visits. It has been the center of the entire vocations effort.
The plan outlines the massive effort to assist the Christian family and local parish in forming a culture of openness to holiness and to all vocations in the Church. It is best summarized by the three-word mission statement: accompany, encourage and assess.
In the mission of accompaniment, the vocations office attempts to create programs and events for each phase of life, from elementary school to young adulthood.
In our Catholic elementary and middle schools, we collaborate in running clubs for boys and girls, visit schools for talks, and facilitate faculty retreats and in-services to assist teachers on how to promote vocations. We also promote the Adopt-A-Seminarian program, and cooperate with the publication of children’s literature relating to the topic.
The vocations office is working to form parish-based, after-school clubs for public school and homeschooled children in cooperation with local pastors and principals.
We have teamed up with our Catholic high schools to form discernment groups for young men and women, visit the high schools for vocation talks, facilitate or assist with student retreats, and lead faculty days of prayer and in-services.
Additionally, the vocations office attempts to visit public high schools, talk to parish youth groups, promote visits to the convent and seminary, continue the statewide high school discernment retreats, and actively participate in the annual diocesan youth conference.
We want to expand these programs, and are looking into opportunities to promote vocations within athletics, such as days of recollection for athletes. The office works with the associate director of secondary education, plus the director of youth and young adults.
Discernment retreats for men and women are held at the university level, as is a seasonal men’s discernment retreat. The vocations office also initiated a women’s discernment retreat. Members of our staff make regular visits to Catholic campus ministries at universities in South Carolina, facilitate or assist with university retreats throughout the southeast, and collaborate in the formation of campus ministers in vocational promotion.
The vocations office is in active cooperation with our diocesan director of campus ministries, and is always looking for ways to enhance or expand its involvement and programs to Catholic university students.
In the young adult community, we host a discernment retreat for men and women, participate in Bible studies and social events, co-host discipleship training, and assist with retreats and spiritual events. This is a new area of development for the diocese in general, and the vocations office works closely with the associate director of young adult ministry to find and develop joint programs.
In the mission of encouragement, the vocations office makes regular visits to Catholic schools and parishes. We meet with local groups that promote vocations, including the Knights of Columbus, Hibernians, Scouts, Serra Club and more. We also participate in diocesan events, such as the On Fire with Faith conference.
We also bring the message to cyberspace through a cutting edge website (charlestonvocations.com), a dynamic, public “Charleston Vocations” Facebook page, an engaging Twitter presence (“Father Kirby”), and extensive use of VideoCasts, YouTube, Instagram, QR codes, and other media.
In September, the British Broadcasting Company ran a news feature on the vocations office that highlighted its creative use of social media for vocational promotion. The office continues to cooperate with social media consultants on innovative ways to make the message more accessible and attractive.
In the mission of assessment, the vocations office encourages spiritual direction, possible residency at the Drexel House, seminary or convent visits, and an extensive application process for those who might wish to apply to the seminary with the Diocese of Charleston.