Anyone who has spent any time in the world of vocations knows that the No. 1, most effective way to help young men discern the priesthood is direct contact.

If you know a young man who shows signs of a call to the priesthood, say something to him.

The 2016 CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood backs that up with data, in a big way.

Of all the respondents to the survey of men to be ordained to the priesthood in 2016, 93 percent reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their lives. Ordinands reported that, on average, four people encouraged their vocations. The top three encouragers were parish priests, friends and fellow parishioners. That’s you!

So, we know that we need to encourage directly young men to consider a priestly vocation, but that brings us to the next question; whom should we be encouraging?

Look for these signs in young men who might have a vocation to the priesthood:

• The Lord is the center of his life. Not all men who attend Adoration and the Sacraments regularly are called to become priests, but many men who are called to be priests attend Adoration and receive the Sacraments regularly! In fact, 75 percent of respondents to the CARA survey reported regularly praying before the Blessed Sacrament. You know that young man who always seems to be at Adoration? Say something!

• He has a heart for service. That young man who volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, or teaches CCD, or reads as a lector, or serves at the altar already has characteristics of a parish priest. Let him know!

• He is sociable and likable. Pope Saint John Paul II wrote in Pastores Dabo Vobis, “In order that his ministry may be humanly as credible and acceptable as possible, it is important that the priest should mold his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity.” The affable young man who always seems to get on well with other people, both his peers and those older and younger, has a head start in that regard, so tell him!

He’s a gentleman. Good mannered, kind, understanding, well dressed, articulate — an all-around Christian gentleman. If that sounds like the type of man who makes a wonderful husband and father, well, that’s because he is! But that’s also the kind of man God calls to serve him in his priesthood. The best men make the best priests!

He is intelligent. You can tell a lot about someone’s intelligence just by having a conversation. Does a young man demonstrate a deep understanding of theology? Politics? Is he a straight-A student? Do people confide in him about questions of faith? It takes a lot of intelligence to get through philosophy and theology in the seminary, let alone tackle the responsibilities of being a pastor, so that intelligent young man is exactly the type of person God is calling to his priesthood!

The evidence shows that suggesting the priesthood to a young man goes a long way in aiding in his discernment, so when you come across a young man who has the characteristics of somebody you see as a good pastor, confessor, celebrant, preacher or spiritual director, let him know! There’s a chance it’ll be the first time he ever considered the priesthood.
— Diocesan Office of the Vicar for Vocations