Banner captures timeless images of priesthood

The Eucharist – dramatically superimposed against the chest of a priest – is at the center of the six other sacraments in a dazzling new banner heralding the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ efforts to increase vocations to the priesthood.

The jewel-toned cloth, which measures an impressive 4 ½-by-8 feet, is the first permanent banner produced by the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Vocation Office, said Father Steven Bruno, director of vocations.

“Typically, we would take a tri-fold display to different events, and we’d paste up the poster (featuring photos of) the seminarians as it changed each year,” Father Bruno said. “The tri-fold thing always blew down. We also wanted something we could use year in, year out, so we decided to put a banner together.”

Design advice from ‘experts’

Wanting the banner to be as eye-catching as possible – to young people and to others who might be considering the priesthood – Father Bruno turned to the archdiocese’s current class of 35 seminarians for help, brainstorming with them for about three weeks before settling on the design.

“They know what attracts people to a table on vocations,” Father Bruno said.

The seminarians felt the banner should simply and clearly show “what a priest does” through a series of colorful graphics. The design scheme, which suggests a stained glass window, places the Eucharist at the literal center of the priesthood, its monstrance and chalice flanked by symbols of baptism, penance, confirmation, marriage, holy orders and the anointing of the sick. The priest, whose mostly obscured face adds to the banner’s timeless appeal, stands directly behind the Eucharist in a black clerical, white collar and purple-and-gold stole.

“It was a deliberate decision that the monstrance and chalice are not (shown) standing alone, but are being held by the priest, at the center of his chest,” Father Bruno said. “We wanted to show how the Eucharist is at the center of the priesthood, at the heart of the priesthood.”

To localize the vocation effort, St. Louis Cathedral, the mother church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, dominates the banner’s foreground. To remind onlookers that the cathedral is also the church in which local seminarians are ordained, six ordinands are shown lying prostrate at the cathedral’s entrance, receiving the Holy Spirit – symbolized by a dove.

“Our seminarians wanted (the banner) to be bright and sparkly – it’s very bright and it’s beautiful to look at,” Father Bruno noted. “Who doesn’t like stained glass? A lot of people (worship) in modern churches where they don’t see stained glass. We’re hoping it brings those childhood memories of being in an old church, where the windows depicted the various Bible stories or moments in Jesus’ life or the lives of the saints.”

Annual poster, prayer card

The Vocation Office submitted the design guidelines to Scott Carroll, whose New Orleans-based graphic design company has produced printed materials for the Vocation Office for about 15 years. The banner’s stained-glass motif was also incorporated into the recently printed vocation poster featuring the photographs and names of the current class of archdiocesan seminarians. A prayer card, also carrying the seminarians’ photos, was also produced, with a goal of encouraging local faithful to pray for the future priests by name.

Last month, Father Bruno spent six days hand-delivering vocation posters and prayer cards to every parish in the archdiocese. The preferred placement of the materials is a church’s vestibule, but they also can be placed at other locations frequented by young Catholics, such as school hallways, parish centers and religion classrooms.

“The kids have to see seminarians as real people,” Father Bruno, noting that an ongoing effort has a seminarian visiting every parish in the archdiocese to talk about his call to the priesthood for a few minutes after Communion.

“They tell their vocation story so the people can see a real man who had a life before seminary (in cases of priests who were in different fields before being ordained) or see someone who simply said ‘yes’ to God,” he said.

Meanwhile, the vocation banner made its debut at an Oct. 15 morning of reflection and Mass at Notre Dame Seminary for the parents of seminarians. Its public unveiling was at World Youth Day at Loyola on Oct. 23, an event attended by 2,000 teens and youth ministers.

Vocation posters and prayer cards are available to individuals and groups while supplies last. For more information, call the Vocation Office at 861-6298.

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

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