Rhonda Gruenewald is a full-time wife and mother of two teenagers and a convert to the faith thanks to David, her husband of 19 years. Prior to staying at home with children, she graduated from the University of Texas in Austin and taught English, speech and debate at a public high school for 6 years.
Besides being a Serran, Rhonda is a lector, an Extraordinary Ministry of Holy Communion, and the Vocations Ministry Director for Saint Cecilia Catholic Church. Additionally, she frequently works with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Office of Vocations on various projects.
Rhonda started to labor in the field of vocations at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in Houston in October 2011. St. Cecilia's pastor asked the newly ordained parochial vicar Father Victor Perez to revive the parish vocation committee that had been dormant for 5 years. Rhonda and David, along with several other parishioners, were asked to attend a meeting with the founding members who were now in their 80s.
Although she had converted to Catholicism fifteen years prior, thanks to her husband, she did not know what the word vocation even meant, but after hearing Father Victor's enthusiasm for everything vocation related at the first meeting, she was hooked and took over as leader of this committee. Researching any and all material promoting vocations, she discovered only a few websites, promoting various activities on them. Rhonda found nothing detailed about how to actually start or revive a committee. The group and its new leader had no guide to follow; much prayer occurred early and often.
One of the early decisions the new group made was to change their name. They felt their parish truly needed ministering to, so the members decided to become a Vocation Ministry instead of a committee. This small but meaningful step gave them a mindset of compassion for all parishioners.
Their brand new, filled-with-the-Holy-Spirit parochial vicar wanted to set the parish on fire for Jesus and vocations by holding a wide variety of events that increased parishioners' awareness of and interest in vocations. Most of the time, Rhonda felt like she was just keeping her head above water. This did not deter her though as this work was too important. Nevertheless, it was a huge learning curve for all involved. Within a year, this new-found passion quickly became a ministry of 20 members who promoted, affirmed and brought awareness to vocations in every way possible.
Rhonda says, “We tread our own path and let the Holy Spirit guide our ministry. You will tread yours, but I hope the book and website help make that path easier and more fruitful.”
Creating opportunities for the Holy Spirit to reach the hearts of the discerners is integral to this process and one of the overarching purposes of a Vocation Ministry. The ministry helps families understand the value and importance of vocations, ensuring a future generation of priests, nuns, sisters, brothers, and others who dedicate their lives to Christ. Such a ministry should actively pray for, educate, and gently encourage parishioners who already are discerning their vocation, whether it is the priesthood, religious life, or marriage. Furthermore, if God has the priesthood or religious life planned for a young man's or woman's life, a Vocation Ministry can help by offering time in adoration for God's call to be heard with clarity and by promoting discernment events within the parish or diocese. Finally, the ministry must guide parishioners to celebrate and honor those already in a vocation.
The goal of Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry and www.vocationministry.com is to provide information, activities, and inspiration to anyone starting, reviving, or refreshing a Vocation Ministry, and to make those ministries thrive. It is designed to inspire parishes to get involved in vocation work, to help new ministries start strong by providing a clear guide to the nuts and bolts of the ministry, and to reinvigorate long-standing committees with fresh ideas that attract new workers to his vineyard.
Rhonda never imagined that she, as a convert, would be asked to travel the country teaching priests and parishioners how to create a vocation-friendly environment at their parishes. God truly works in mysterious ways using those who say YES!
Saint Anthony of Padua was said to be "worn out" doing the work the Lord asked of him before he died. Let us be worn out for Christ, using our gifts to serve his Church.
God bless you in your vocation endeavors. St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us!