Called to Holiness
Easter, Opal, Momentum
Raising Vocation Awareness
Educators have been given the awesome responsibility of contributing to the education of young people who we hope will grow into men and women of God serving in the world
In Leviticus 19:2 we are told to "be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy" and in Matthew 5:48 we are told to "... be perfect, just as our heavenly father is perfect." The "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" (Lumen Gentium, 1988) explains these further:
"The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life.. .to each and every one of his disciples without distinction.... For he sent the Holy Spirit to all to move them interiorly to love God with their who/e heart, with their whole soul, with their whole understanding, and with their whole strength ( Mk. 12:30), and to love one another as Christ loved them (Jn. 13:34; 15:12). The followers of Christ, called by God... by his design and grace, and justified in the Lord Jesus, have been made...(children) of God in the baptism of faith and partakers of the divine nature, and so are truly sanctified. They must therefore hold on to and perfect in their lives that sanctification which they have received from God" (No. 40). (Emphasis is mine.)
This is what the church calls the "universal call to holinesss," a call to serve God and one another. It is our baptismal call and commission. The "United States Catholic Catechism for Adults" (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2006) says that:
Living out one's baptism is a lifelong responsibility. Growing in holiness and discipleship involves a willingness to continue to learn throughout one's whole life about the faith and how to live it. It a/so involves a willingness to support and encourage others... (in the) ongoing process of conversion of heart and mind to God, which result in the holiness to which we are called (pp. 196-197).
Our Vocational Calls
We live out our call to holiness through our vocational calls. Life is a journey of continuous conversion and ongoing transformation. It is a journey of growth in spiritual, intellectual and human maturity. It is a journey of many and varied calls. God has called some to be single or married, to be priests, deacons or religious brothers or sisters. God has also called you to be educators.
We respond to God's calls with faith and trust in God. We answer relying on God's unending grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit living within us. God gives grace after grace to sustain us as we serve. "...God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work" (2 Cor. 9:8).
Not only are we to nurture each of our own vocational calls, but those of others as well. In his message on the 42nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations (April 17, 2005), Pope John Paul Il directed the following remarks to Christian educators and catechists regarding their role in nurturing vocations:
God has entrusted to you the peculiar task of guiding young people on the path to holiness. Be an example to them of generous fidelity to Christ. Encourage them to 'put out into the deep' without hesitation, responding eagerly to the invitation of the Lord. Some he calls to family life, others to consecrated life or to the ministerial priesthood. Help them to discern their path, and to become true friends of Christ and his true disciples. When adult Christians show themselves capable of revealing the face of Christ through their own words and exampfe, young people are more ready to welcome His demanding message, stamped as it is with the mystery of the Cross.
You have been given specific roles to carry out in the mission of Jesus Christ. These are roles that no one else can perform for the people you touch at this time in salvation history. You have been given the awesome responsibility of contributing to the education of young people who we hope will grow into men and women of God serving in the world. Some of them will choose to serve as priests, permanent deacons, religious brothers, religious sisters or as professional lay ministers in the church.
Helping young people understand their call to holiness and the fact that they have a role to play in the mission of Jesus is important. Helping them understand that they will always be growing into what God wants them to be is also important. This call to holiness and discipleship affects every aspect of their lives. It impacts how they will answer God's calls. It impacts how they will use their time, talent and treasure and what choices they will make in light of their faith.
Their call to holiness is a call to service. For many the interest in ministry begins from the experience of service projects. What service opportunities are you providing? How are young people guided to think about their service in light of their faith? What does it mean to them and to the recipients? Even young children can reflect on how they serve their family, their classmates, their school and their church.
Raising Vocation Awareness
Vocation awareness activities are not just for Vocations Week or for school and parish religion classes. These activities can begin early in ageappropriate ways. Vocation awareness exposes young people to the vocations of priesthood, the permanent diaconate, religious life as brothers and sisters and professional lay ministers. Many young people have no knowledge of what people in these vocations do except for the ones they have met in their school or church. They may not know that one can be either a diocesan or a religious order priest. They may not know that there are several thousand religious orders of priests, brothers and sisters who serve in the United States and worldwide. They also may be unaware of the many ministry options available. For example, while many priests serve in parishes, there are others who are retreat directors, doctors, architects and lawyers. There are religious brothers and sisters who teach and work as missionaries, but there are others who are nurses, court advocates, artists and accountants. Several religious orders have delegates to the United Nations.
Lay people now hold professional ministry positions in the church. They serve parishes as pastoral associates, directors of religious education, liturgy directors, music directors, school principals and parish nurses. Other lay ministers serve as hospital or hospice chaplains, campus ministers, social workers, Catholic hospital administrators and in many other positions.
Awareness activities can be incorporated easily into any classroom. Use pictures, stories and mention various vocations in passing as part of what you are already doing. Bulletin board pictures on social justice can include pictures of priests, deacons, religious brothers or sisters or lay ministers working in this area. Assignments can include looking for religious orders that work for social justice. When teaching geography, invite a representative from a religious community that serves the area to talk about the country. In art class, show the work of priests, religious and lay ministers who are artists and explain who they are.
When looking for guest speakers, consider inviting priests, deacons, religious and lay ministers who have expertise on the topic. Their very presence raises vocation awareness. When planning a career day consider inviting some of them to represent the field of ministry in the church.
During Vocations Week, invite seminarians, priests, permanent deacons, religious brothers and sisters and lay ministers to come and talk to the young people. Ask them to share their "call" stories and how they responded, in addition to talking about their current ministry. The young people will be surprised to find that some were called to ministry by God at an early age. Other activities and resources can be found on the National Religious Vocation Conference's web page, www.nrvc.org.
As Catholic educators, you are a living example of your chosen vocations as educator and single/married/religious/clergy. Let the young people see the joy you have in living these vocations. Share your "call" story. May God continue to bless you and your ministry.
Promoting Vocation Awareness
Plan now to celebrate these special days set aside by the church to pray for vocations and to promote the work of sisters, brothers and priests. These events are wonderful opportunities to discuss vocations in the classroom.
World Day of Prayer for Vocations is always Good Shepherd Sunday (the Fourth Sunday of Easter). In 2012 it is April 29 and in 2013 it is April 21.
World Day for Consecrated Life is always the Sunday after the Presentation of the Lord (Candelmas). It is Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, and Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013. More information can be found on the National Religious Vocation Conference Website, www.nrvcnet.net.
National Vocations Awareness Week is Jan. 13-19, 2013. It begins with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is the third Sunday after Christmas.
National Catholic Schools Week observes a vocation awareness day on Thursday of Catholic Schools Week each year.
Vatican II. (1988]. Dogmatic constitution on the church (Lumen Gentium. In Vatican Council il: the Conci/far and Posi Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, OP., Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Co
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2006) united States Catholic catechism for adults. Washington, DC: Author..
John Paul II. (April 17. 2005). Message for the 42nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, no.5, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/John_ Paul_ii/messages/vocations/documents/hf_ j p-ii_mes_2001081 l_xl i i i-voc-2005_en .html . (accessed March 18, 2011).
Opal Easter is an adjunct professor in the Department of Spirituality and Pastoral Ministry at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois. She holds a master of science degree and a doctorate in adult continuing education from Northern Illinois University and recently earned a master of arts degree in pastoral studies from Catholic Theological Union. She is the author of "The Vocations Resource Guide," which is designed to help catechists and those working with youth speak more knowledgeably and comfortably about vocations in the church (oeaster@ sbcglobal.net).…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Called to Holiness. Contributors: Easter, Opal - Author. Magazine title: Momentum. Volume: 43. Issue: 1 Publication date: February/March 2012. Page number: 65+. © 2099 National Catholic Educational Association. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.