Thursday, October 9, 2014

Come and See -- A Call to Explore Priestly and Religious Vocations

Dear Coffee Talkers,

In my last column, I reflected on vocations -- our calling in life from God -- and mentioned that, while we all have a divine calling in this life, that most of us are not called to be priests or nuns. Of course, the flip side to that coin is that some of us are called to be priests or nuns (or called to some other form of consecrated life in the Church)! What this means is that if we are still free to be called to the priesthood or religious life, we should be open to exploring that possibility, and not just sit back on our laurels thinking that the call is certainly for someone else.

I remember as a child occasionally hearing prayers in church that had to do with young people responding to the call to the priesthood and religious life, and I remember thinking very distinctly that someone else must be called to that life, but not me. However, when I was in college and deciding what to do after I graduated, I realized that I really had met very few women in religious life and felt a tug on my heart to go check out some communities. I thought that maybe I'd like to go volunteer for a year after college, and maybe there was a community of nuns who needed some help with their work. I wanted to go meet some Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's order of sisters) and some other orders as well, but genuinely had no idea how to do this or where to start my search.

Eventually I did go to visit a couple orders (Missionaries of Charity included), and while I ended up volunteering with a young adult retreat team instead, that tug on my heart to check out religious life more remained on my heart for some time. I realized that the feeling I had as a child that the call to consecrated life was for someone else might just have been because I knew nothing about consecrated life in the Church, not necessarily because I was not actually called to it. In the middle of graduate school I finally made a decision, namely that the only way to test the call was to go, to 'come and see', to live for a time with a community of religious sisters and see if their life was for me. So I left everything else behind and headed for convent life.

I lived for one school year as a postulant (or one who asks the question) with a lovely community of Dominican Sisters in Nashville, Tennessee and while I did not end up being called to live as a sister, I can honestly look back at that time as one of the most valuable moments of spiritual and human formation in my life. One great surprise to me about religious life was how much fun the sisters had! They worked hard and prayed hard, but they also played hard and their life was filled with the kind of deep and abiding joy that only God can give us. I'll never regret taking that risk to come and see what religious life was like, and now find it a joy to tell others about the experience. Also, if my children ever feel that tug in their hearts, I'll know better now how to support them in testing that call.

I believe that many people feel a call in their hearts to see what consecrated life is like, to check out a call to the priesthood, brotherhood, or sisterhood, but that like me they do not know where to start. This is why Holy Innocents Catholic Church in Victorville, California will be hosting a Vocations Fair on Sunday, October 19 from 2 - 4 pm. The Fair will include representatives from a number of communities of priests and sisters, a chance to speak with these men and women, to hear their stories, to ask questions, and to get more information about their communities and how to visit them if you feel called to 'come and see' like I did.

There is no regret in testing the call to priesthood or religious life, only in not having responded to Jesus' call to 'come and see' and then wondering the rest of your life if you missed out on the truest calling of your heart. Sure, not everyone is called to give their lives and hearts to God in such a radical and undivided way, but some are and maybe one of those someones is you.

For more information on the Holy Innocents Vocations Fair, contact Owen Carroll at (760) 948-4177 or Nabor Manriquez (in Spanish) at (760) 985-4776.

One final note: considering religious vocations is NOT just for Catholic Christians! There are many people called to priesthood and the religious life, and I have several friends who are now priests and religious brothers and sisters who did not begin their journey as Catholics. In time, they did convert to Catholicism and then embraced their vocations. There are many paths to finding God's calling for you!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,