Vocation website seeks out 'seekers'

The spark for a home-grown website promoting vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of New Orleans was ignited, ironically enough, by the social-media vision of a 23-year-old seminarian born and reared on the Isle of Jersey in the United Kingdom, just off the coast of Normandy, France.
When Colm Cahill entered Notre Dame Seminary in 2013 to study for the diocesan priesthood, he brought with him a millennial’s comfort with all things technological.

Cahill believed social media was a fertile but untapped resource in breaking down barriers to reaching high school and college men who might be open to investigating the priestly formation process but either did not know where to start or felt too intimidated to ask a lot of questions.

The result, about a year later, is www.nolapriest.com, a new vocations website that officially launched Sept. 25 and within the first 24 hours attracted about 1,500 unique visitors.

“And we haven’t even publicized it yet,” said Cahill, pleased with the impressive start. “Those stats show that we are hitting the right demographic, exactly the way we made the site for. Basically, this website was launched in response to the need we saw – we had to reach out to the technological generation. We needed a platform that spoke to this multi-media generation.”

The website was developed under the direction of the archdiocesan Vocation Office. Father Steve Bruno has served since 2010 as full-time vocations director, and Father Kurt Young, ordained in 2012, will assume those duties in January.

The site is disarmingly simple and easy to navigate, beginning with a snappy 2 1/2-minute video, keeping in mind the “rules” of the web to make it short and sweet. Using as a backdrop the audio of Archbishop Gregory Aymond from the June ordination Mass of four new priests, the video follows Fathers Ian Bozant, Charles Dussouy, Timothy Hedrick and Matthew Johnston as they enter St. Louis Cathedral and take their vows.

There are a few navigational bars providing more information:

–“Where to Begin?”: A look at what the priesthood is, its mission and a brief report on “a day in the life of a priest.”

– "Becoming a Priest”: A look at the seminary and “what it means to be a seminarian.”

– “Am I Called?”: How to “ignite” your discernment, the signs of a possible vocation and information on how to “take a step now.”

– “Real Stories”: Short vocation stories written by Father Hedrick and seminarians Andrew Gutierrez, Andrew Rudmann and Jared Rodrigue, with more to come.

There also are tabs for “Media and Downloads” and “News.” The “Contact Us” button takes visitors to a page with information on Father Young and gives his contact phone number (861-6298) and e-mail address ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). A form requesting more information can be filled out and goes directly to Father Young.

“One of the primary goals came from the seminarians – that a young man, when he’s first discerning the priesthood, isn’t at a point where he wants to talk directly with the vocation director,” Father Young said. “Often times, he wants to do some anonymous investigation. This website allows him to do an anonymous investigation until he’s ready to talk to the vocation director or another priest. Hopefully this will encourage them to investigate more.”

The website and the video are the newest features of the vocation outreach. The office also has produced its annual vocation poster bearing the pictures of all 31 archdiocesan seminarians – 25 at Notre Dame Seminary and six at St. Joseph Seminary College – which is being distributed to all churches.

In addition, Father Young is distributing “www.nola priest.com” business cards that has only the website name printed on the front and is blank on the back, where a priest can write his telephone number or email address and then give to a person he thinks might be a candidate for the seminary.

Every parish in the archdiocese over the next year will hear a vocation talk from a current seminarian, another of Archbishop Aymond’s efforts to put a face on vocations and encourage parishioners to pray for and promote vocations within their faith community. Archbishop Aymond has asked Catholics who see a young man or woman actively practicing their faith to ask them if they have ever considered a religious vocation.

Promotional base
“We’re trying to create a good foundation for vocation promotion,” Father Young said. “This will place the priest in a better position of engaging a young man in high school or college and talking about vocations.”

Father Young said he has not placed any expectations on how effective the website will be in terms of traffic or possible vocations.

“Whatever we get we will be happy with,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential here. Eventually, we’ll also have a vocations Facebook page and we can expand that into Twitter. We’re going to use all those options to promote the website.”

Cahill said it’s not possible yet to track where the initial website “hits” are coming from, but in a few weeks, he will be able to track the most active geographic areas.

“I know two of the hits have come from my mom and dad (in the Isle of Jersey),” Cahill said, laughing.

“The anonymous investigation is absolutely essential (in promoting vocations),” Cahill added. “Young men can investigate the priesthood without having to take what is really a concrete step – talking to someone.”

Cahill said other dioceses have stand-alone vocation websites, but he feels the archdiocesan site, which was not expensive to produce, may be emulated by others.

“It’s not just vocation promotion but a whole multi-media platform for talking about vocations,” Cahill said. “We’ve gotten feedback from seminarians from other dioceses. They want to know who we used. They want to go to their vocation director and do the same thing.”

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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