Sowing the seeds for a religious life

February 25, 2014

HOUSTON — Young people considering a sacramental life in the Church no doubt will encounter the question posed within the Prayer to Discern a Vocation, “What is Your Plan for me?” 

Father Dat Hoang, director of the Office of Vocations, said that question is something young men and women will arrive at themselves, only they don’t have to do it alone.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s Office of Vocations, which is funded by the Diocesan Services Fund, is set up to raise awareness about the service of God in the religious life; guide young people through discernment and support those men who enter the seminary through priestly ordination.

“We are there to help and guide people to make their own choice about whether to commit to a single life, married life, priestly life or consecrated life, with a special focus on priestly and religious life,” Father Hoang said. 

The office builds awareness about the life of a priest or sister in a number of ways, from religious education classes at school and the Serra Club to visits to religious orders and events and activities that bring together people considering a religious life. 

The office also works with vocation directors of religious orders and parish committees.

As it has done in the past, the office is participating in this year’s World Day of Prayer to be conducted May 4 at St. Mary’s Seminary, with Mass at the beginning and Eucharistic Adoration throughout the day for groups of young people who have an interest in vocations. In addition, the office launched a new initiative called “Good Morning Vocations,” with its television chat show formula, to inform young people and vocation promoters about religious life.

“This is a way to build up enthusiasm about vocations,” Associate Director Sister Anita Brenek said. “Yes, we need more priests and sisters to serve our population, and we need faith-filled men to give their lives to this worthwhile and very rewarding way of life to lead people in prayer.” 

For young men considering the life of a seminarian or in a priestly order, the office organizes the monthly gatherings “Discover the Road Less Traveled,” conducted in English at St. Mary’s Seminary. There’s a Spanish version of the program, called “Descubre” for men and women and it is held at the Convent of the Carmelite Missionaries Sisters of St. Theresa. There are similar opportunities for women, called “Women Seeking,” that are held at different convents around the Archdiocese.

“It’s a way for men to see and be in a spiritual environment, where they can prepare for the Archdiocese and for religious orders,” Father Hoang said of the male gatherings.

The office also coordinates awareness retreats for young men and women to learn more about religious life, through talking and working with those who have chosen that way of life and through talking with each other.

Formal discernment is the next step to prepare for a religious life in the Church, and the office has a rigorous application process for would-be seminarians that involves a psychological evaluation, in-depth interviews and autobiography. 

“First and most importantly discernment is at the very core of the relationship with Christ,” Father Hoang said. “Then we walk them through it.”

The office also provides guidance to the seminarians at St. Mary’s, one of the most satisfying aspects of Father Hoang’s work.

“One of my greatest pleasures is to accompany the men who enter the seminary all the way to ordination,” he said. “You get to see how these men grow spiritually and how they mature. It’s just amazing.”