Spotlight on Religious Life

Jocelyn Thomas Features

NEW YORK — Millions of people may be seeing a video about Holy Name Province and its creative advertising campaign if Web traffic patterns on MSNBC’s site remain consistent. Since May 4 — the day after the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations — the video clip has been posted online and drawing attention to religious life.

The feature is posted on the Web site of NBC’s popular Today show.

The nearly three-minute piece includes interviews with formation studentFred Dilger, OFM, and Jerome Massimino, OFM, pastor of St. Francis Church, Manhattan, and details about the “Life Shift” ad that the Province’s Vocation Office posted on New York Subway cars recently. It was filmed in March after NBC noticed the colorful ad on the subway.

Exposure on NBC Site
In the NBC piece, Fred, Jerome, as well as George Camacho, a New York resident who contacted the Province after seeing the ad and who has participated in several Vocation Ministry weekends, are interviewed by reporter Peter Alexander.

The video clip is posted on and, by extension,, the Web site of NBC News. It attracts many visitors.

According to the NBC producer, January 2009 was a record-breaking month for for both page views, with more than 154 million clicks, and unique visitors, 7.3 million; this is up 12 percent from its previous record month, December 2008.

This interest in the “life shift” ad by NBC follows the attention of other media outlets; CNN-TV, the New York Post, and National Public Radio have all featured Holy Name Province this year.

International Focus on Vocations
The annual World Day of Prayer raises awareness for God’s call to the Church and praying that young people make wise decisions in choosing careers.

In his message, Pope Benedict XVI said: “The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting. The Christian community can only really have ever-greater faith and hope in God’s providence if it is enlivened by prayer.” The Holy Father’s full message was posted on the Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors’ Web site.

The pope invited people to reflect on the theme, “Faith in the Divine Initiative — The Human Response.”

Province Vocation Director Brian Smail, OFM, who appears in the NBC clip, said: “A day like this calls attention to the urgent need to promote a culture of vocations to religious life and priesthood in our homes and throughout our faith communities. The message is simple to those who are considering such a vocation: the Church needs you. We all need to pray for Church vocations and to encourage men and women around us to respond to the Lord’s invitation to a life of service to others.”

Intercessory prayers throughout Province churches stressed “that men and women may find joy in sacrificing personal gain for the service of others in a Church vocation,” and “that the Lord of the Harvest may open the hearts of our young people to the possibility of a life in priesthood or religious life.”

VocationsThey also stressed that parents should be good role models to encourage Church vocations for their children, and that young people, especially, be open to Jesus’ call and make wise decisions in choosing a vocation.

World Day of Prayer for Vocations was established by Pope Paul VI in April 1964, who said: “O Jesus, divine shepherd of the spirit, you have called the apostles in order to make them fishermen of men, you still attract to you burning spirits and generous young people, in order to render them your followers and ministers to us.”

Holy Name Province’s innovative steps to being a fisher of men — Its first-ever advertising campaign on New York City subways — garnered significant interest in a vocation as a friar, according to Brian. In the past few months since its debut, Brian said the ad has generated nearly 50 inquiries from men considering a life shift, as the advertisement says.

In addition, four men ranging in age from 23 to 32, have applied for consideration for this year’s HNP postulant class, he added.

The interest in the Province has led to a possible appearance by Brian in a documentary. He was interviewed last week by an independent filmmaker who is interested in gathering information about how the nation’s economic downturn is affecting behavior and attitudes.

The filmmaker believes that, for some people, challenges can result in refreshed mindsets and positive “life shifts.” Brian said the filmmaker seemed impressed by the friars’ creative approach to reaching men who might be inclined toward religious life.

Shown in the photo behind the image above are Fred Dilger with representatives of NBC: reporter Peter Alexander and producer May Ann Zoellner. They are standing in the chapel at St. Francis Friary in New York where some of the filming was done.

 Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. Wendy Healy contributed to this story.