Department director interview -- Fr. Joe Corel
This is the 16th in a series of articles highlighting people involved in diocesan ministries that help the parishes carry out the mission of Christ more effectively.
By E. Jane Rutter
Father Joseph S. Corel was born in 1971 and raised in Earlville, Ill., 80 miles south of Chicago. He graduated from a public high school in 1989 and went on to attend Culver Stockton College in Canton, Mo., with the goal of becoming an elementary/special education teacher. When he graduated in 1994 and was invited to go on job interviews, Fr. Joe wound up declining. Instead, he entered Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo.
"I felt called in the fifth grade, but stubbornness kept me from considering the Priesthood," he admitted. "I said no for so long because of the challenge of living a celibate life without family of my own."
At Conception, Fr. Joe learned that everybody has a call story. He liked what was being taught in is first experience as a student in a Catholic school. He learned the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. "My relationship with God started to flourish when I went to Conception," he said.
After completing his pre-theology studies in 1996, Fr. Joe advanced in his studies at the School of Theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. He his spent summers at St. Anthony parish in Camdenton and, under the tutelage of Father James Fuemmeler, began to witness the daily life of a priest.
The summer experiences, along with a trip to the Holy Land and attending Mass with Pope John Paul II during his 1999 visit to St. Louis, Fr. Joe became certain that God was calling him to the vocation of Priesthood - a vocation in which he would find happiness, peace and joy.
Ordained in 2000, Fr. Corel spent six years in parish and prison ministry. In 2006, Bishop Gaydos appointed him director of the diocesan Vocations Office. His role is to promote a culture that fosters vocation to the diocesan Priesthood. Further, Fr. Corel encourages women who feel called to religious life; speaks to couples on the vocation of marriage; and ministers to youth and those who work with youth.
He believes vocation awareness is all about relationship-building and is a culture that continually needs to be promoted by many. "When I go to a parish and preach a homily about vocations, it is awareness," he said. "Vocations cannot happen as a result of me being at a parish once a year." Rather, he believes the conversation must be kept alive at all times at the local and parish level by priests, parents, acquaintances and teachers who are the ones being called and echoing the calling.
To facilitate these conversations, the Vocations Office provides a myriad of resources for parents, pastors, grade-school children, youth ministers, high-school youth, college students, Newman center chaplains, etc. These resources and activities can be classified into three categories of priorities:
Prayer: Praying for Vocations Five Minutes a Day for Seven Days! guide and vocation crucifix that rotates each week in parish homes; Be Not Afraid Come to Me books for guided Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament; Monthly Adoration holy hour for youth in the St. Alphonsus Luguori Chapel in the Catholic Center.
Education and Awareness: helping to establish formal parish vocation committees (currently in approximately 20 parishes); classroom visits to all 37 Catholic grade schools, two high schools and three Newman centers in our diocese; weekly homilies; discoverthepriesthood.org website; annual Sixth Grade Vocations Day (May 6 this year at the Cathedral); lesson plans for teachers; vocation reflection days for confirmation candidates; articles in The Catholic Missourian, and the newest event, the Mothers' Tea.
Invitation: Invitation is offered first at Sixth Grade Vocation Day; then Companion Weekends at Conception for fifth- through eighth-grade boys in June; CHRISTpower for freshman through senior students; Encountering God's Call, a weekend at Conception for high-school sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Collaborating with other diocesan ministries, Fr. Corel participates in the annual Pro-Life March held in Washington, D.C. He also recruits high-school students to attend N.D.Vision - a week at Notre Dame University to learn about one's God-given gifts; Steubenville Conference in Springfield, Mo.; Teens Encounter Christ; and other events for youth.
All these endeavors are accomplished with the excellent skills and managerial style of his executive assistant, Julie Wieberg, who runs the office while Fr. Corel travels the diocese. They, along with the Diocesan Vocation Committee, have recruited hundreds of volunteers to underpin the events and programs. Also assisting their work is Father David Viet, pastor of the St. James and Rosati parishes, who visits seminarians in their schools to address their immediate concerns.
Currently, the diocese has 17 seminarians: eight studying at Conception Seminary College; five at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis.; two at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis; and two at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.