(Patheos) Over two hundred vocation directors and support staff gathered in New Orleans, September 22-29, for the 54th annual conference sponsored by the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors (NCDVD).

This national organization provides support throughout the year to Vocation Offices in the United States and a few other English-speaking dioceses in the world (including 15 diocesan vocation directors from Canada: Montreal, Quebec, London, Hamilton, Toronto, St. Catharines, Calgary, Winnipeg, Regina, Prince George, Vancouver, etc.)

One of the greatest benefits of this conference is its three-day institute designed for new diocesan vocation directors. Father Frank Scalia (who works with Father Silvain Cloutier, Montreal vocation director) attended this three-day event before the convention.

It also facilitates networking between the priests who have been charged by their bishops with assessing the suitability of men who apply to enter the seminary. The various talks and workshops tend to be practical, allowing for the sharing of best practices, imparting crucial information and encouraging the attendees.

Serra Club International, Knights of Columbus, some seminaries, Net Ministries, Focus, Vianney Vocations, IPF, St. Luke Institute were there to help vocation directors too.

The conference provided plenty of opportunities for communal prayer, including the Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Hour. The atmosphere was always joyful, prayerful and fraternal.

Some of the keynote speakers this year included Bishop Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Youtuber Father Mike Schmitz, who talked about the new generation of candidates and how to pray without ceasing. On Tuesday evening, the rector and seminarians of Notre Dame Seminary welcomed the vocation directors at Saint Rita Parish for Mass and then the seminary for a reception.

All the Canadian priestly vocation directors meet as a group to talk about CCO Rise Up and other events in Canada. On Wednesday afternoon, the visitors had a chance to visit beautiful New Orleans, including the cathedral in the French Quarter.

In 2014, Archbishop Lépine attended this event (with Fathers Silvain Cloutier and Gerry Westphal, vocation directors), in Long Island N.Y. Our archbishop was the first Canadian bishop to attend all the events of this week! The special keynote speaker that year was Most Reverend Jorge Carlos Patron Wong, from the Congregation of the Clergy.

This conference always encourages us, reminding us that the future is bright.

Challenging yes, but bright.