July 22, 2013
The call to the priesthood was an irrefutable, lightning-like strike for Father Larry Rice, CSP, while still a student in the chapel of his alma mater, Penn State University.
“It hit me all at once,” said Father Rice. “I was surprised, and so was everybody else. There was no thinking about it. There was no talking about it. It was undeniable.”
After almost 25 years after his own ordination, Father Rice is now serving as the community’s vocations director, helping men discern their own call to the Paulist priesthood.
While Father Rice’s own call came in a pinpoint moment of clarity, discerning a priestly vocation may not be so easy for others.
“What we are asking men to consider is hugely significant for their lives and for their own spirituality,” he said. “We are asking them to give their lives over to God in the context of the Paulist mission, which is challenging and countercultural.”
The challenge to helping men discern their call to the Paulist priesthood, explained Father Rice, is that not only are the men being asked to consider the priesthood, but priesthood with the overlays of living in community and the emphasis of the Paulist charism of evangelization, reconciliation, and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.
“We are looking for candidates for the priesthood that have a passion and aptitude for those specific mission areas,” explained Father Rice, who will continue to serve as first consultor on the Paulist leadership team and as director of St. Mary’s on the Lake, the Paulist retreat house on Lake George, N.Y.
Father Rice said it is “interesting and humbling” to work with men discerning the Paulist priesthood.
“It is always a privilege to walk with someone deeply engaged in dialogue with the Lord,” he said. “And it is always a privilege to talk to people about the Paulist Fathers and Paulist mission, which after 25 years I still find exciting and energizing.”
Father Rice sees the duties of his new post in three parts: getting the word out about the Paulist Fathers; responding to inquiries about becoming a Paulist; and helping men with the discernment process as well as the application process to the Paulists when suitable.
“Everyone needs to be scanning the horizon for good candidates,” he said. “Often it is those third-party voices – someone in the pew next to them or a friend or acquaintance – that get guys to begin considering a vocation to the priesthood.”
Father Rice also hopes to create “a culture of vocations” in the various places the Paulists serve so that it is normative for the faithful to discern their own vocation, whether to married life, the priesthood or religious life.
“And I want to help people understand how important and exciting the Paulist mission is,” he said.
Like the Paulist founder – Servant of God Father Isaac T. Hecker – Father Rice will engage modern means to accomplish his goals. A YouTube video series on vocations, social media and the paulist.org web site are only the beginning for Father Rice.
Paulist seminarian Matt Berrios talks about his vocation, and what it’s like to be a seminarian in the Paulist Vocations YouTube video series.
“We want the Paulist mission well represented and using all available tools to get the message out,” he said, noting that men are finding the Paulists through the Paulist-run Web sites such as BustedHalo.com, on sites like vocationmatch.com and even Wikipedia.
As for his own first encounter with the Paulists, Father Rice, who changed his major from computer science to general arts and sciences after his decision to pursue the priesthood – found the Paulists by responding to a reply card on a poster in that same Penn State chapel lobby.
“Sometimes those reply cards work,” Father Rice said