In recent years, the Archdiocese of Portland has seen its largest-ever classes of priests ordained. Archbishop John Vlazny gets much of the credit.
For 15 years, the archbishop showed personal concern for developing vocations and the number of archdiocesan seminarians soared during his tenure.
“The important priestly vocations question is not, ‘Do I want to be a priest?’” the archbishop wrote in the Catholic Sentinel. “The true priestly vocations question for a disciple is, ‘Is God calling me to be a priest?’”
He led an annual retreat for men exploring ordination and supported the Serra Club, a lay group that fosters and supports vocations to priesthood and religious life.
In a homily at one ordination, the archbishop called priestly celibacy “the most powerful, evangelical and countercultural sign you can offer God’s people.” He also said priesthood is “adventure-filled.”
Part of his vocations success comes because he thrives on priestly fraternity. Each year, he hosts priests at the cathedral for a dinner and he attends all their group retreats.
“For us who have known him as ‘archbishop’ he has first of all been a priest who is prayerful and dedicated to his responsibilities as shepherd of western Oregon,”
Father George Wolf, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Southeast Portland, said. “He is approachable, warm, collaborative and hospitable to those of us privileged to minister with him.”
A man who still walks, praying the rosary along the way, the archbishop tends to urge priests to stay physically and spiritually fit. He admonishes them to keep up a healthy diet.
“I tell them, ‘You don’t have wives to nag you, so your bishop can nag you,’” he once said.
To men on their way to becoming priests, he once said, “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
One week, he’d hold a special Mass with religious. The next he’d gather with married couples and bless their marriages.
He began ordaining large classes of permanent deacons, asking them to thwart evil inside and outside the church. He was one of the first bishops to require a professional credential for permanent deacons.
Meanwhile, the archbishop has challenged western Oregon laity to increase their spiritual lives and remain open to priestly and religious vocations.
“If our emotional maturity is lacking and our lives of faith are shallow,” he wrote in 2006, “then it is most unlikely that ours will be the fertile soil where the seed of a vocation will flourish.”