September 27, 2019

Archbishop Thompson hopes new team approach will foster a ‘culture of vocations’ in archdiocese

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson ritually lays hands on then-transitional Deacon Jeffrey Dufresne during a June 2, 2018, priestly ordination Mass in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Assisting at the liturgy are then-transitional Deacon Timothy DeCrane, left, and seminarian Charlie Wessel. Archbishop Thompson has announced a restructuring of the archdiocesan vocations office. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson ritually lays hands on then-transitional Deacon Jeffrey Dufresne during a June 2, 2018, priestly ordination Mass in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Assisting at the liturgy are then-transitional Deacon Timothy DeCrane, left, and seminarian Charlie Wessel. Archbishop Thompson has announced a restructuring of the archdiocesan vocations office. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson has announced a restructuring of the staff of the archdiocesan vocations office.

For decades, one priest in a full-time position as vocations director has promoted vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life across central and southern Indiana, guided the application process of men seeking to become archdiocesan seminarians, and overseen the priestly formation of the archdiocese’s future priests, regularly visiting them and the staff of the seminaries regularly in which they are enrolled.

Beginning on Sept. 27, these responsibilities will be assigned to a team of priests serving in regions across the archdiocese.

Father Eric Augenstein, who has served as archdiocesan vocations director since 2013, will become the director of seminarians, overseeing the seminarian application process and the priestly formation of men accepted as seminarians.

He will also continue to serve as pastor of Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Parish in Indianapolis, a ministry he began in January.

Father Michael Keucher, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville and sacramental minister of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Shelby County, will become the director of vocations, overseeing the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life across the archdiocese.

Assisting him in this ministry will be a team of five priests who will serve as associate directors of vocations. They are Fathers Daniel Atkins, Daniel Bedel, James Brockmeier, Anthony Hollowell and Douglas Marcotte.

Andy Miller, who has served as associate director of the vocations office, will now become the coordinator of the office, assisting Father Augenstein, Father Keucher and the associate vocations directors in their ministries.

“The team approach reminds us that we’re making a very intentional concerted effort [in promoting vocations],” Archbishop Thompson said. “Hopefully, it will encourage all of our priests and our people to see their role in participating in this. It’s not limited to one person or one office. It’s really incumbent on all of us. We all have a responsibility to support and encourage vocations in our Church.”

Each of the associate directors will promote vocations in the parishes and schools in the regions where they minister, and meet with individual men who are beginning to discern a possible priestly call. Each will also continue in the parish or school ministry to which they are currently assigned.

Father Keucher is excited about the changes in the vocations office. “I think the Holy Spirit has produced a very good idea here,” he said.

He also thinks that having priests ministering in parishes serve as the vocations director and associate vocations directors can help men who are considering the priesthood.

“It’s valuable for young men to see the priest they’re talking with about their vocations as a pastor and shepherd of souls, because it’s what they’re aspiring to,” Father Keucher said. “It’s what they’re feeling a call toward as they’re discerning a priestly vocation.”

Likewise, Father Augenstein thinks his serving as a pastor will enhance his ministry in directing archdiocesan seminarians.

“It’s a reminder for me of what the seminarians are being called to do if they’re ordained priests,” he said. “But it’s also a reminder for the seminarians. As they’re working with me and knowing that I’m doing the daily work of a pastor, they’re able to see that as well.”

Having served as vocations director for more than six years, Father Augenstein knows well the challenge of promoting vocations over the large geographic area of the archdiocese—nearly 14,000 square miles.

“As one vocations director, I was only able to be in one place at a time,” he said. “Having multiple priests who are working in this ministry will give us more presence throughout the different parts of the archdiocese.”

Father Augenstein, who described the changes as “a well-thought-out and prayerfully-put-together plan,” also noted that most dioceses in the U.S. divide the responsibilities that have been carried out by a single priest in the archdiocese.

“We did not create this model in a vacuum or without looking at what is working in other dioceses,” he said.

Father Augenstein, Father Keucher and the associate vocations directors will share a clear understanding of “the qualities in a candidate that we’re looking for,” Father Augenstein said.

As Father Keucher and the associate vocations directors meet with individual men who are discerning a possible priestly call, they will inform Father Augenstein.

When they think that the men they have been meeting with are ready to apply to become a seminarian, Father Augenstein will take over in assisting them in their discernment.

Archbishop Thompson hopes this change in vocations office will lead Catholics—ordained, religious and lay—across central and southern Indiana to more consciously promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life in their everyday lives.

“The ultimate thing we’re doing here is to try to cultivate a culture of vocations, of calling forth and nurturing vocations,” he said. “I think a lot of priests do that very well, and our people do that very well in parishes. But I think this is another step we can take.”
 

(To learn more about a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life in the archdiocese, visit HearGodsCall.com.)

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!