“Andrew first found his own brother Simon and told him, 'We have found the Messiah.' Then he brought him to Jesus.”
-John 1: 41, 42
St. Andrew Dinners (sometimes simply referred to as Andrew Dinners) are named after the apostle who, according to the Gospel of John, took his brother, Simon Peter, to meet Jesus. These dinners give priests the chance to invite men whom they believe to have priestly vocations—or, at least, the qualities necessary to make a good priest—to have a casual, informal dinner and conversation with the local bishop. Such community meals allow for a “no pressure” type of atmosphere wherein all parties can have a dialog about vocations that might not otherwise be practicable. Time for prayer as a group (e.g., Evening Prayer within the Liturgy of the Hours) is also set aside as part of the event.
In some cases, high school-age young men are invited to St. Andrew Dinners; in others, the age range is high school and up.
Some dioceses put on similar events for young women in order to help foster vocations to women's religious orders; these are typically known as Miriam Dinners and organized in almost the same manner.
History tells us that St. Andrew is referred to as the “First Called”—since John the Baptist issued an invitation to him to follow Jesus. Upon his decision to follow Jesus, Andrew then brought his brother Simon Peter to Him. In a parallel sense, priests must not only be satisfied with their own “answer to the call” of vocation; God asks them to bring others to Him in order for them to discover their own vocations, too.
St. Andrew Dinners are, at their core, just that: dinners. But they’re dinners with very special guests: men who, in the estimation of priests, have priestly vocations—or, at a minimum, the qualities necessary to make a good priest. Invitees are brought in for a meal and conversation with the local bishop; table talk focuses on dialogue about vocations, typically with local seminarians who are also invited to the event. (Invitees typically attend alongside their respective parish priest.) The atmosphere is “no-pressure,” informal, and casual. Time for prayer as a group (e.g., Evening Prayer within the Liturgy of the Hours) is also set aside as part of the event.
These events can vary slightly in detail from diocese to diocese. In some cases, high school-age young men are invited to St. Andrew Dinners; in others, the age range is high school and up. In certain dioceses, a Mass for Vocations follows the dinner, and parents/family of the dinner invitees are invited to that Mass. Large dioceses might also, by way of example, need to organize St. Andrew Dinners regionally in order to cut down on driving distances for all involved. In some dioceses, religious priests and brothers are invited to join seminarians at the dinners as part of the overall group that can answer the layman invitees’ questions and foster the dialogue. In the case of at least one diocese, attendance is capped at a predetermined number of attendees per parish.
Organizationally speaking, invitations are usually made by priests, while the dinner itself should be planned out by the diocesan vocations director or someone representing the office. In some cases, however, flyers are used to invite attendees (for an example of this, please see the “Additional Resources” section below).
St. Andrew Dinners are in some parts of the United States also known by other names—such as Operation Andrew Dinners and Bishop Vocation Dinners.
Some dioceses put on similar events to help foster vocations to religious orders among women; these are typically known as Miriam Dinners (or Myriam Dinners; note the different spelling), but in some cases use a different name, such as ‘Co-Ed Vocation Dinners.’ In some cases, the dinners are held as a combined event, called an Andrew/Miriam dinner or Andrew & Miriam Dinner. It should also be noted that, in the case of at least one diocese, attendance at Miriam Dinners involves an application process as opposed to a simple registration process.
Planning, set-up, and other pre-dinner work is generally similar in scope and timing between both events. Typically, Andrew Dinners and Miriam Dinners are held during the school year.
Web page from the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls (SD) with information on Operation Andrew Dinners, including a PDF-format flyer inviting college students:
Article from The Catholic Telegraph (OH) with information and recaps on Andrew Dinners going on in the Cincinnati area:
Sample calendar entry for an Andrew Dinner—from the website of the Diocese of Dallas Office of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries:
Vocations website summary regarding Andrew Dinners (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page)—from the Diocese of Fargo (ND).
Example of a parish-announcements-style bulletin about an Andrew Dinner at St. Bernard Parish (Wauwatosa, WI); this includes a colorful, creative web banner-type graphic that leads into the text—the banner is similar to one you’d see in a high-quality ‘banner ad’ on a website:
Web page from the website of the Diocese of Green Bay (WI) announcing an upcoming Andrew Dinner and summarizing what it’s all about:
Web page from the website of the Diocese of Bridgeport (CT) summarizing Andrew Dinners, providing the vocations director’s contact information, and featuring date, time, and location information for upcoming events:
Webpage from the Office of Vocations of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon that talks about Miriam Dinners and how to contact archdiocesan officials for more information:
Consent and indemnity form (PDF) for a Miriam Dinner hosted by the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis (MN); this could be utilized as a good standard for creating your diocese’s own, similar form for Miriam Dinners there:
Flyer promoting a Miriam Dinner—from the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis (MN); again, this could be utilized as a template or standard as your diocese endeavors to create a similar flyer for promotion of its own Miriam Dinner:
From the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston—a PDF with colorful postcards announcing an upcoming Myriam Dinner (spelled differently than it is in other dioceses):
PDF of questionnaire created by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston that is given to applicants wanting to attend a Myriam Dinner (again, please note the difference in spelling):
Facebook event page for a combined Andrew & Miriam Dinner event at St Mary’s (Albany, NY); this is a good example of how a diocese could use social media to better reach potential attendees for Andrew Dinners and Miriam Dinners:
Flyer for Miriam Dinner in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie (PA)
A video from the Archdiocese of Galveston and Houston that briefly (less than one minute total time) describes what an Andrew Dinner is all about:
A video invitation to Andrew Dinners--as produced by the Diocese of Greensburg (PA); this video features an on-camera appearance by the local bishop, who extends a personal invitation to attend. It includes graphics at the end which list the upcoming Andrew Dinner events and their respective locations, plus information on how to register. A great example of how to use video (posted to social media) to promote Andrew Dinners:
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