May 1, 2021 | Local News

Fr. Daniel Dillard and Fr. Josh McCarty prepare to give their first blessing to Bishop John J. McRaith at the end of their 2009 Mass of Ordination to the Priesthood.  COURTESY OF FR. DANIEL DILLARD

‘Helping them discern and do God’s will’

New vocations director Fr. Daniel Dillard assumes role June 8


Fr. Daniel Dillard assumes the role of Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Owensboro on June 8, 2021, and says he finds his upcoming new position “daunting but exciting.”

However, he believes he is up to the challenge and responsibility.

Fr. Dillard told The Western Kentucky Catholic in an April 8, 2021 phone interview that “if we don’t have an effective vocations director and vocations personnel, we don’t get new priests, and if we don’t have new priests, the future of the Church looks grim.”

“Priestly vocations are essential to the future of the Church,” said Fr. Dillard. “If we don’t have priests, we don’t have the sacraments.”

He will be following in the footsteps of Fr. Jason McClure, outgoing Director of Vocations, who while remaining Vicar for Clergy is transitioning to his new role as chaplain and director of St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.

Fr. Dillard, who was ordained in 2009, said that his time as a pastor has provided great experience in ministering to those discerning possible vocations to the priesthood. (He is currently the pastor of St. Mary Parish in Franklin and Christ the King Parish in Scottsville.)

He told the WKC that if he sees potential for the priesthood in a young man, he makes himself available for conversation, but doesn’t pressure him to enter the seminary.

As a vocations director, he said he plans to tell the young men he mentors that “I don’t (necessarily) want you to be a priest. I want you to do God’s will.”

The focus, said Fr. Dillard, is to “help them discern and accept God’s will.”

On June 8, 2021, Fr. Daniel Dillard assumes the role of Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Owensboro. FILE PHOTO

“I honestly believe that if all the men whom God is calling would answer, we wouldn’t have the priest shortage we’re in,” he said. “People have stopped listening to God’s will.”

Fr. Dillard said a key moment in his own vocational journey was making a TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) retreat during his senior year of high school. He said Fr. Ken Mikulcik, who today is the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Russellville, “played a big role too.”

“I had a lot of people pushing me to attend the seminary,” said Fr. Dillard. But Fr. Mikulcik “didn’t push. He said I think you have what it takes; if you’d like to talk about it I am available.”

Fr. Dillard said this was “a much more effective approach for me” though he acknowledged that others might benefit from a different approach.

Fr. Dillard said one of his first priorities will be “connecting more with the seminarians than on recruitment – building up a sense of community among the seminarians.”

He remembers that when he was in the seminary, he appreciated the effort to build a community among the seminarians. The community has remained strong and even today, he and his priest peers try to get together during the annual priest convocation, have lunch and “see how everyone’s doing.”

Fr. Dillard said he will work to help seminarians “have a community of support during their time in the seminary and once they are ordained.”

He also hopes to be “very involved” with Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center in Bowling Green. This summer, Gasper’s director, Ben Warrell, plans to provide a half hour at each camp for Fr. Dillard to talk about vocations – not to push for seminary signups, but “to implant the idea that God is calling you to ‘something.’”

In addition to serving as vocations director, he will also serve as the chaplain at Owensboro Catholic High School and as parochial vicar at Sts. Joseph and Paul Parish in Owensboro.

However, he said Director of Vocations will be his priority and “first job.”

“If I can help just a few of them recognize that call, and come to accept that call for their lives, I’ll consider my call as vocations director a success,” said Fr. Dillard.

Originally printed in the May 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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