A pair of North Shore parishes have taken a swing at an innovative project to raise the profile of clergy and religious, increase vocation awareness and garner prayers.
A set of baseball-style trading cards featuring local spiritual leaders was born of collaboration between Fox Point’s St. Eugene and Whitefish Bay’s St. Monica. The parishes began distributing them after Mass on Sunday, Jan. 8, to coincide with National Vocations Awareness Week, Jan. 9-14. A new card will be distributed after Mass every other week, for the next 12 weeks.
Featured on the cards are: Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki; Bishop Donald J. Hying; Sister of St. Francis of Assisi Camille Kleibhan, former president of Cardinal Stritch University and a longtime St. Monica parishioner; Fr. Paul Fliss, acting pastor at St. Eugene; Fr. Joe Schimek; and Deacon Brad Krawczyk. The last card features Fr. Jerry Herda, currently on sabbatical. It will be the final card distributed, timed to coincide with his return.
On the back of the cards is a mini-biography, which includes a nickname, birthday, favorite saint, hobbies and interests, and a notable person who influenced their vocational call. Priests’ cards also feature their ordination date, and the date of their first Mass. Several also include the subject’s favorite experience. Sr. Camille’s card describes her meeting with former First Lady Barbara Bush, said Monica Cardenas, parish pastoral associate.
Each card also has a prayer for vocations on it.
“We’re asking families to say the prayer together, whenever they pray: be it at mealtime, at bedtime, whenever,” Cardenas said. “The number one goal of the project is to raise awareness of vocations and increase prayers. The biggest challenge today is indifferent families. We need families to embrace the idea for their children.”
Fr. Fliss added that he hopes “these cards will foster a sense of pride in the Roman Catholic priesthood, diaconate and religious life, and help young people see these lifestyle choices as a real possibility in their own lives.”
The cards were produced by Custom Trading Cards, Cardenas said.
“They were accommodating. They helped us design the look, and cut us a deal on a bulk purchase with a sliding scale. It came down to about 19 cents per card. We got a run of 500 for each (of the seven individuals) so that’s $95 per ‘player.’”
The total cost for all the cards “was about $700,” Fr. Fliss noted. “We found the money in the budget.”
The project was envisioned and innovated by St. Eugene Vocation Team Committee. The 12-year old standing body meets four times annually, and includes parishioners from St. Monica. Cardenas credited team committee member Shelley Vecitis for posing the idea to the group.
The committee also structured the “player” data on the back of the cards. The clergy and religious obliged with the necessary information and personal photos.
“There was a buzz as soon as people heard about the idea,” Cardenas said. “Everyone we presented it to really liked it. St. Monica has a common leadership night – where all the committees come together and give a brief synopsis (of their projects). As soon as we announced the card project, all the parishioners there were very excited. They thought it was a great idea.”
The committee organizes a similarly themed event each year, Cardenas noted. Previous endeavors include: a poster contest for kids; a set of four traveling chalices that made their way into 30 homes, accompanied by vocation prayers; and “open house” prayers for vocations in parishioners’ homes.
“We assembled materials for an actual prayer service for vocations,” Cardenas said. “Families signed up to open their homes for the prayer service. Other families joined them to take part.”
The first Sunday of card distribution featured volunteer committee members divvying up Masses, standing beneath a big balloon and handing cards out to any and all interested children.
“What I was most surprised at was that many of the adults came up to me, and were sad that they could not receive the cards,” Fr. Fliss said. “Luckily, the vocation team gave me a small stack of my own card that I carry in my coat pocket to hand out to people of any age who ask for it.”
“Many of the children have started asking me to autograph the card,” he said. “They have even learned that a Sharpie pen works better than a ball point pen.”