Beginning my new job in vocations this summer has been an amazing experience. Not only have I come to truly appreciate the importance of this ministry, I have also noticed that even with the amount of resources available, there is still something lacking. As with any job or ministry, there are people who are invested in the success and improvement of it. For example, in the business world, companies hire consultants to assist their various departments to improve productivity and growth. Companies that do not change, adapt, and improve upon “the way things have always been done” will be left in the dust by their competition. In the ministry of vocations, it is imperative that we listen to the voices of our “consultants,” the People of God to improve our efforts to help people answer God’s call in their lives.
A vocations office is not merely a recruitment office for priests and religious. In fact, if these offices are focused primarily on the quantity of men they accept into the seminary, they can be likened to a corporation that simply mass produces their products looking to fill shelves rather than focusing on the quality of the product and how it affects the consumer. A vocations office (or any ministry for that matter) cannot be a business. Christianity is about developing and fostering a personal relationship with Christ and his Church. Therefore each Christian ministry must flow from that understanding.
Where do we learn about fostering relationships? From the earliest moments of our lives, our social and relational development stems from within our families. I constantly catch myself interacting with my wife and son the way in which my father acted with my mother and me. When I look at men and women who are discerning the priesthood or religious life, I often notice that they were exposed to priests, brothers, and sisters at one point in their life and had a profound experience and relationship with them. I witness parents with young children bringing them to volunteer days and events hosted by religious communities and I pray that from those experiences a vocation will be fostered. On a side note, when praying for a vocation to be fostered, it cannot be limited to one way of life. For instance I cannot pray that my son grows up to be a priest. Moreover, I must only pray that he be open to God’s call in his life and that he truly discerns through his relationship with the Lord, whatever that may be. Back to the point, it is my duty to expose him and help him develop positive relationships with different priests, religious orders, and holy families.
Recently I have had numerous parents approach me asking how they can lead their children to their individual vocation. In the weeks to come, I will be publishing resources and guides for parents on “How to react to a Child’s desire to be a priest or religious,” “Dos and Don’ts of Nurturing Vocations in the Home,” and “How to Pray with Your Kids.” Some parents worry when their child (of any age) mentions that they want to be a priest or enter a religious community. First things first-thank God that you are doing something right! As with anything your child says they want to do or become (so long as it is healthy and good), encourage it with love and a genuine interest in it. Parents, I need you to be a consultant for vocations. Let your priests and local vocation directors know what your kids want to know about priesthood or religious life. Ask questions on how to better the fostering of vocations at home, in school, and in parishes. This vital ministry cannot be left to Vocations offices—it’s too important and must always be seeking to improve. Help wanted for the future of the Church – inquire within.