By Gordon Nary
Gordon: What initially inspired you to be a Paulist priest?
Father Larry: There were several things that attracted me to the Paulist Fathers. I knew I was being called to religious life (rather than diocesan priesthood); they are very distinct and different vocations. I was initially drawn to the Paulists’ evangelizing mission and was very interested in the community’s communication apostolates. I was also attracted to the idea of a smaller religious order, where I could know everyone, and they would all know me. It’s quite different from being part of a world-wide order with thousands of members, and for me, it was a great fit.
Gordon: Please provide our readers with an overview of your experience as a vocations director for the Paulist Fathers,
Father Larry: I enjoyed being a vocations director! I have a background in marketing communications and social media, so I was able to bring those skills to the initial task of a vocations director: Helping the right people find the Paulists, and understand what we’re all about. I also really loved the opportunity to work with men who were in the discernment process. Whether or not they eventually joined the Paulists, it was always an honor to have those important, deep conversations to help them discover God’s invitation to consider a religious vocation. It’s a great thing to see someone come to new clarity about their vocation and to draw closer to Christ in discipleship, whatever their state of life.
Gordon: What can parishes do to interest more young people in religious vocations?
Father Larry: The first, and most important thing that people in parishes can do is to live their faith with integrity and passion. That’s the kind of witness that will encourage young people to be disciples of Jesus. The seeds of a vocation have trouble growing in rocky soil—so be good soil! Secondarily, it’s important to keep the vocational discernment part of the conversations that happen in parishes. So pray for vocations, recognize and support them when they arise, and frequently invite young people to consider the possibility.
Gordon: What was your most memorable experience as a director of the St. Thomas More Newman Center at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio?
Father Larry: I had so many amazing experiences at the St. Thomas More Newman Center!. Probably the most impactful for me was seeing a community come together around a specific mission: to be the Church for the campus community. That community included students, faculty and staff, and non-student residents who all wanted to make the Newman Center a great welcoming place where faith was nurtured, and where the Church’s mission was pursued with joy. Some campus ministries experience frequent tension between students and non-students, but when the mission is clear, people really come together as the Body of Christ.
There were many other great experiences: retreats, service projects, catechetical opportunities. All of these were occasions to see faith being formed and strengthened. I also have to say that our whole community was always brought together by a phenomenal music program, under the leadership of Mr. Eric Utsler. He helped me appreciate the vital role of music in every aspect of forming a faith community.
Gordon: How important is social media as a communication resource for parishes and what, in your opinion, are the most helpful social media resources that parishes may want to consider?
Father Larry: I speak at conferences and workshops around the country on social media for parishes, diocese, and vocation ministers. These are crucial resources for reaching young adults, and increasingly, everyone else! At a minimum, a parish should have a good, up-to-date web page, and an active presence on Facebook. There are lots of other options, but those are a good starting point.
Gordon: You are well known as a Star Trek enthusiast,. When and why did you become a Trekkie?
Father Larry: I started watching the original Star Trek series in the early 1970s when it was re-running in syndication every weeknight. I was only 10 or 11 years old, but I was captivated by optimism, the diversity, and the courage of the Enterprise crew. For more details, you can read an essay I wrote for the 50th Anniversary of the series
Gordon: I thought that the best way of closing this interview would be a message from Mr. Spock which I know will be shared by many of our readers.