As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, priests are being called into great heroic action by offering the sacraments to the sick and dying, finding creative ways to serve parishioners, and maintaining empty parishes with limited staff support. In response, Houston-based Vocation Ministry is set to launch the first-ever nationwide “Uplift Your Priest” campaign from April 20 through May 1. The campaign is designed to inspire the laity to support and encourage their priests who are now on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and to let clergy know that their people recognize their current sacrifices.
“Our priests are in a vulnerable position like never before,” said Rhonda Gruenewald, founder of Vocation Ministry, an international organization whose mission is to equip dioceses and parishes to promote vocations. “They need to know that we are behind them. They need to be ‘uplifted!’”
The “Uplift Your Priest” campaign will use social media and resources available in both English and Spanish on www.vocationmininstry.com to promote a variety of ways the laity can “uplift” priests over the next two weeks. Ideas include offering a spiritual bouquet, drop off or have lunch/dinner delivered, text/email/write a note of encouragement, challenge three families/individuals to pray a Rosary for their priest (think ice bucket challenge on social media), or deliver protective gear or cleaning supplies to the rectory.
“The possibilities are endless,” stated Gruenewald. “We hope by offering concrete and practical ideas that we can mobilize Catholics everywhere to uplift their priests and be a source of encouragement during this stressful time.”
I recently interviewed Rhonda Gruenewald about her marvelous campaign. Here’s what we talked about.
- Where did the idea for this campaign come from?
I have so many friends who are priests, and I could hear in their voices, while watching Masses digitally, that they were hurting. As one priest friend said, “It is disconcerting to look out during Mass and only see a phone.” Our priests miss their flock. Their goal is to save souls, so not ministering to their flock in person is a challenge to say the least. Besides having to master broadcasting their Masses, many priests are holding drive-by confession, Facebook Live Rosary sessions, or bicycling around parish neighborhoods to give outside-of-house blessings. My own pastor, who is not emotional at all, took 5 minutes to say the final blessing on Easter as he was in tears. I knew we needed to affirm our priests with prayer and acts of loving service; thus, the “Uplift Your Priest” campaign was born.
- Why is “Uplift Your Priest” important, and what do you hope to accomplish through it?
Priests are way out of their comfort zone right now, and they need to know that they are being heard and that their efforts have been worthwhile. The majority of priests are working hard to be creative in staying connected to their flocks. We hope by offering concrete and practical ideas that we can mobilize Catholics everywhere to uplift their priests and be a source of encouragement during this stressful time.
- What are some suggested activities promoted by the campaign?
Some of the easier activities are to simply pick up the phone or write a note to say thank you! Pray for your priest; offer five Rosaries for him and let him know. Priests love to hear from children, too, so asking your kids to draw pictures for them is a great idea. If groups within a parish collaborated, they could organize a Parade of Love, where parishioners drive by their priest with posters on the side of their vehicles and family members waving hello! They could also gather short video messages from a variety of parishioners, too. These ideas are meant to spur the creativity of parishioners everywhere! Do one activity or five activities, but just do something.
- How can people get involved?
Getting involved is the simplest part. A parishioner can choose any way they wish to affirm their priest and do it. They can tag Vocation Ministry on social media and use the hashtags #UpliftYourPriest or #VocationMinistry when they are posting. It is that easy. We want parishioners everywhere to take part in this campaign as their priests needs to be “Uplifted”!
- Can you share more about Vocation Ministry and its work to promote vocations?
Since its founding in 2015, Vocation Ministry has become a driving force for promoting vocations in North America. Through their hands-on Hundredfold Workshops, Vocation Ministry focuses on establishing and sustaining parish-based vocation ministries to create a vocation-friendly environment that inspires adults and children to consider a supernatural call to the priesthood, consecrated life, or to sacramental marriage. Vocation Ministry has worked with more than 6,000 vocation promotors and ministries nationwide with that number increasing each year. The demand is there. People everywhere are passionate about increasing and nurturing vocations. I see it all over the country. This passion stems not only from a desire to foster more healthy vocations, but truly from people’s love for Christ and His Church. The Church of tomorrow already exists – we just have to begin to awaken it!
For more information about Uplift Your Priest, click on this link.