BISHOP HOWARD J. HUBBARD CHATS with Rev. Daniel Quinn, associate pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish in Albany and now one of six diocesan vicars for vocations, a Camp Scully assistant and seminarian Michael Dessingue during the recent Jogues Youth Conference at Camp Scully in Rensselaer County. (Angela Cave photo)
BISHOP HOWARD J. HUBBARD CHATS with Rev. Daniel Quinn, associate pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish in Albany and now one of six diocesan vicars for vocations, a Camp Scully assistant and seminarian Michael Dessingue during the recent Jogues Youth Conference at Camp Scully in Rensselaer County. (Angela Cave photo)
Encouraging vocations in the Albany Diocese has gained new momentum:

•  The St. Isaac Jogues House of Discernment reopened this week at the former St. Brigid's rectory in Watervliet, welcoming three men discerning whether they're called to the priesthood (see separate story);

•  the Diocese has created a new model for vocations discernment, with incoming vocations director Rev. Anthony Ligato working with six "vicars of vocations," young priests who will lead discernment groups in different areas of the Diocese; and

•  in Called by Name II, the second phase of a diocesan vocations initiative, Catholics will be asked in November to help identify possible candidates for vocations as sisters, deacons and lay ministers.

Jogues House, which previously operated in Waterford and in Watervliet, offers men entering the seminary an opportunity to live in community while finishing up college courses like philosophy that they'll need to start their priestly formation.

Monday evenings at Jogues House will be a kind of "community night," when priests come over to spend time with the three seminarians for Mass, dinner and discussion. Rev. Edward Deimeke, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Watervliet, also lives in the residence.

During the first Called by Name phase, held last year, area Catholics suggested more than 700 names of men from all over the Diocese who might make good candidates for the priesthood. Sixty of those men attended a discernment retreat with Bishop Howard J. Hubbard at Albany's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Now, discernment of priestly vocations seems to be on the rise in the Diocese: A dozen seminarians are studying for the priesthood and 82 men - including many who attended the Bishop's retreat - have joined discernment groups held at a half-dozen locations around the Diocese.

Bishop Hubbard, Rev. Anthony Barratt of St. Ambrose parish in Latham and Sister Rosemary Cuneo, CR, a diocesan vocations director, all had a hand in creating this new model.

The discerners are meeting with Revs. Thomas Lawless, James Ebert, Scott VanDerveer, Daniel Quinn, Rendell Torres and Matthew Wetsel, all named vicars for vocations. The vicars are also involved in recruiting men for the groups. Once the discerners have participated for a while, they'll begin meeting regularly with Father Ligato in a group he runs.

Father Ligato, who is also pastor of St. Jude the Apostle parish in Wynantskill, is enthusiastic about the new model and hopes discernment groups can be created that cater to specific groups: men in their 20s, for example, or older "second-career" candidates for priesthood.

Of Called by Name, he said, "I hope it will become a yearly experience."

The second phase of Called by Name is scheduled to take place in parishes Nov. 16-17 and 23-24. On the first weekend, pastors, parish life directors and deacons will talk about what the initiative is; on the second, they'll discuss the impact a deacon, sister or lay minister has.

Parishioners will then receive cards on which they can write the names of prospective candidates for religious life or lay ministry. Candidates will be invited to a discernment retreat.

In announcing Called by Name II, Bishop Hubbard referred to the "great success" of the first phase. He asked Catholics across the Diocese to "become more aware of the gifts of the baptized and the importance of calling forth these gifts in service to the community."

(Contact Father Ligato at frligato@nycap.rr.com. Contact Sister Rosemary at rosemary.cuneo@rcda.org.)