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New vocation director eager to start assignment

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It’s like getting that bicycle that you wanted for Christmas. Father David Baker has been appointed the new diocesan vocation director, a role he has been eyeing since his early days in the priesthood. The 48-year-old had been serving as pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Akron for nearly five years when he received word of his new appointment.

“It was something I always had a heart for,” he said. So much so, he wrote a letter to Bishop Richard J. Malone shortly after he came to Buffalo, offering his services.

“It may be while you’re here as bishop that you may need to appoint a new vocations director, and it’s often a hard position to fill. I’m willing to take that position,” he wrote. He admits he’s not sure if that eight-year-old letter factored in the appointment.

The role interested Father Baker because of the help the office and Response Program had in helping him realize his clerical call.

“When I was discerning myself, I spent a lot of time doing it, literally, by myself,” he said. “It wasn’t until I found out that there was a vocation director and made contact with him, and he introduced me to the Response group, and it was this immensely helpful process that helped me understand that God has a plan for my life. All I need to do is figure out what that plan is. I don’t need to do all the cost-effective analysis. If I just find out where God is pointing me toward and follow, that will be a tremendous source of grace.”

Ever since those days, he has wanted to help others figure out that same question in their life. As a seminarian, he acted almost like an intern for the Vocation Office, traveling to parishes with Father Leon Biernat, vocation director from 1999-2006, to speak to youth groups and answer questions about seminary life.

The role of the vocation director is to help people understand what God wants from them. More specifically, they help men discern the vocation of diocesan priesthood.

“We help people who are working to find out what God is calling them to do. People are interested in knowing what that vocation is and might need some light shed on their path so they could discern properly, so they could respond properly, so they can most importantly pray about it properly,” explained Father Andrew Lauricella, who has helmed the office since June 2015.

Father Lauricella is now headed to St. Brendan on the Lake in Newfane and Wilson where he will serve as temporary administrator.

“While (vocation) work has been very rewarding, where a diocesan priest’s vocation is most completely lived out is in the parish community,” he said about the new position. “So, I am looking forward to getting back to doing that. I do hope to continue promoting vocations in the parish setting with my witnessing, hoping to show others the joy of priesthood.”

Father Lauricella feels Father Baker’s experience as a pastor will be an asset to his new role in the Vocation Office. There is a trend for younger vocation directors who recall their own experiences in the formation process and can share that with new candidates.

“Maybe it’s good for relatability with discernment, but I also think it’s important to have relatability to the life of a priest, the life of a pastor leading a parish community,” he said, adding, “I think (having experience as a pastor) should be a requirement.”

The two men, who were ordained just four years apart, offered each other a bit of advice as they begin their new roles in the diocese.

“Continue being a good holy priest. Continue keeping Christ as the center, because that is what’s going to attract other Christ-centered people,” Father Lauricella told Father Baker.

He also offered his gratitude to the diocese for their support of the seminarians preparing for priesthood.

“One thing that has always warmed my heart; the people of the diocese do pray for vocations very seriously,” he said. “One thing I noticed was when I would visit from place to place, vocation prayer cards were always everywhere, and sometimes right after Mass was over, they’d go into a prayer for vocations. It was always heartwarming. People, I think you’ll find, are very appreciative.”

Father Baker offers the advice he received from several of his fellow priests.

“I’ve heard it said, when someone comes to you with a problem or a struggle, if you treat them with kindness their healing has already begun, even before you sat down to give them advice. Everyone I come across, I’m going to have a word of kindness for them.”

He also speaks of the importance of maintaining a prayer life. “That’s the thing I always found. I know this day would go better if I stopped and prayed right now and yet, I feel I can’t stop and pray right now.”

Both men started their new roles on Oct. 19.

Photo: Outgoing vocations director, Father Andrew Lauricella (left), welcomes the new director Father David Baker to the Catholic Center.
By Patrick McPartland/Managing Editor

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