It’s never too early to speak with youth about vocations
November 14, 2017
This past Halloween children and youth dressed up for the holiday thinking long and hard about their costumes.
For many, their costumes reflected their future career choices like firefighter, doctor or superhero (OK, the superhero costume was mine), so imagine how excited I was to actually see a priest and a nun costume among the trick or treaters. Do they see religious life in their future and, if so, how can we help those future priest, deacons and religious bring those costumes to life?
As Catholics, we all have the responsibility to assist young people in exploring their vocation. Here are a few ideas we can incorporate to promote priestly and religious vocations in the lives of others.
First, talk about vocations. It’s never too early to begin talking about the priesthood or consecrated life with children and youth. For younger children it’s to remind them that, by our Baptism, we are part of God’s family the Church, and we are called to love and serve God.
With younger adolescents, we want to help them discover their gifts and how those gifts can be used to serve Christ and His Church. We also want them to know the difference between a career and a vocation by introducing them to the concept of vocations from priesthood, religious life, consecrated single life and marriage.
With older adolescents, we should begin to talk directly about each of these choices and what they entail in the life of that person. This is where clergy, religious and youth ministry leaders can play such an important role in helping young people discern their call by being available to talk and help them in their discernment process.
But it all begins with you taking the initiative to start the conversation. I took advantage of a recent opportunity from a YouTube video which showed a religious sister, Sister Margaret Ann, a Carmelite sister using a chainsaw to clear a fallen tree from Hurricane Irma in Florida. This began a long conversation with my daughter asking about religious life. She was surprised to learn that Sister Margaret Ann was actually a high school principal. I informed her that religious can serve in all kinds of roles as teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, journalists and business leaders. They use their gifts to help serve others while serving Christ. She was very impressed and wanted to know more about their daily lives.
The next area is to help young people take advantage of opportunities and activities that promote vocations. Programs like the Andrew Dinner for young men in high school who want to know more about the priesthood or the Myriam Dinner for young women in high school who want to explore religious life. These are excellent programs which allow young people to interact with priests and religious sisters to answer their questions and talk about their vocations.
If they want to continue their experience, high school youth can sign up for the Explore or Insight Programs which offer a longer live-in retreat experience to understand what it means to live in community and to continue to assist young people in the discernment process. In fact, the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese has some of the best resources and programs in the country to support those who are discerning their vocations. You can visit their website for a list of these resources and programs at www.houstonvocations.com.
One of the affective ways to foster vocations is to have young people interact with the best promoters of vocations; the priests, deacons, religious and seminarians of the Archdiocese. In all of my experience, these living examples of vocations are the best models to promote vocations. From my earlier years in the parish, where my own vocation was encouraged, to the wonderful seminarians who are now priests (one even a bishop) who I met along my own journey.
These men and woman inspired my own vocation to serve Christ’s church in youth ministry more than 25 years ago and my vocation to married life. I have had the honor and privilege to work for two outstanding priests when I was in the parish who also fostered a vocations heart and encouraged young people by interacting with them whether it was a special lunch at a nice restaurant for all the high school altar servers or playing pool in the youth room, both of these men by their example encouraged our young people to explore their vocation.
As an associate director for the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization, I have had the honor to work with outstanding vocation directors and associate directors who have worked tirelessly to help young people discern their call along with deacons and their wives who have inspired and fostered young people to grow in their faith and serve. All of them along with youth ministry leaders, DREs and other ministries continue their goal to increase the workers in the vineyard.
Finally, what joins this all together is prayer. Pray for vocations and invite the young people in your life to pray for the discernment of vocations. Pope Benedict XVI said, “The discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples. Young people, if they know how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God’s call.”
Make a vocation Holy Hour and encourage others, and participate in the “Traveling Chalice Program” for vocations.
Say the daily prayer to promote vocations. All these prayers will continue to support the Church and those who give their lives to serve her.
Randy Adams is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.