These days, most men who answer God's call to seminary take their first step by pointing and clicking. That's why the Archdiocese of Portland has just upgraded its vocations website.
"In this day and age, we need to do everything we can to get the word out," says Father John Henderson, vocations director for the archdiocese. "My hope is that more individuals, especially more men who are interested in priesthood, can find easy access to asking questions about whatever their concerns may be."
The website includes video and soon will have features of individual seminarians. Father Henderson wants people to "have a personal connection" with their future priests.
Men with interest or an inkling can fill out vocations application forms and submit them on the website. That includes a typed autobiography. Interest comes from Oregon and the U.S., but also Africa, South America and Asia.
"Websites are very important in vocations work," Father Henderson says. At conventions for vocations directors, many workshops cover how to build a good website and put up a Facebook page. The vocations Facebook page is led by a large banner that reads, "You Are the One."
The majority of men who show interest in vocations to the archdiocese come through the website. Recently, a man went to the vocations Facebook page and posted a simple question — "I want to be a priest. What do I do now?" Father Henderson responded by posting application instructions on Facebook.
When the priest posted a photo and vocations prayer from a recent Portland youth rally, it got more than 600 hits in a hurry.
One button is for parents of men considering priesthood. Parents can read a letter from Father Henderson, who advises that parents let their sons discover their calls. Then comes time for support.
"A vocation is not just a job, it is a way of life," Father Henderson writes. "Parents have and will be the first teachers of the faith. As a teacher of the faith, help your child to follow his call. It is a unique privilege to be a priest. Give praise to God and rejoice, that God has chosen your son to be his priest."
Father Henderson hopes parishes will use the website to form and sustain parish vocations committees.
Coming up on the website will be a calendar that guides people to support vocations. Each day will offer a small activity, such as writing a letter to a seminarian or doing something to support a married couple.
The Portland Serra Club, which promotes vocations, helped underwrite the cost of the website improvement.
"This new and dynamic site reaches out not only to potential priests but their families and all those who support them," says Lynn Cayanus Jones, a Serra Club officer. "I think it will prove more effective in attracting young people who are searching for answers."
To view the Portland Archdiocese's new vocations website, go to www.archdpdxvocations.org.