Magazine article Momentum

Educators Play Important Role in Collaborative, Successful Vocation Ministry

Magazine article Momentum

Educators Play Important Role in Collaborative, Successful Vocation Ministry

Article excerpt

God does the calling, but educators and vocation directors can help move the process along

A ninth-grade boy, the only student brave enough to actually raise his hand and ask a question at the end of my presentation to the freshmen class, asked, "So...is your job to go out and turn guys into priests?"

I imagined a scene from Harry Potter where, with the recitation of a few select words and the brandishing of a wand, unsuspecting young men were magically transformed by the wizardly vocation director. No wonder people are hesitant to call the vocations office or attend vocation information sessions. Just being in close proximity with a vocation director could presumably "turn you into" a priest or sister.

In reality, it is God who does the calling. It is God who blesses each person with carefully and consciously chosen gifts to uniquely equip men and women for their vocations.

The vocation director, then, takes on the role of Christopher Columbus or Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, on an exploratory expedition to seek out these yet undiscovered treasures. Vocation directors don't "turn people into" priests, sisters, brothers and deacons, but, rather, help people discover which among them God created and blessed with those roles in mind. Once identified, the vocation director can assist in guiding these men and women through the discernment process and, later, the formation process as they prepare for final vows or ordination.

But, like Columbus, Byrd, Drake and other great explorers, the success of the vocation director's efforts depends by and large on the collaborative efforts of a team. In fact, Pope John Paul II implored all Catholics to actively and consciously promote and nurture vocations in documents such as "Pastores Dabo Vobis," (On the Formation of Priests, March 25, 1992), where he wrote: "There is an urgent need, especially nowadays, for a more widespread and deeply felt conviction that all the members of the church, without exception, have the grace and responsibility to look after vocations."

Collaborative Teams

Teachers and catechists are indispensable members of the vocation director's team, and vocations can and do flourish when educators and vocation ministers join forces. In my own diocese, we have been successful in establishing such a collaborative team approach between vocations and education. The staff of the diocesan Office of Vocations has presented programs for teacher in-services in Catholic high schools and elementary schools, participated in annual catechetical days and taken an active role in new teacher and catechist orientation workshops. We provide speakers for high school career days and for programs associated with Catholic Schools Week. We cosponsored a diocesanwide vocation "road show" called "Answering God's Call" where 30 people representing a broad range of vocations visited each diocesan high school.

As a result of these efforts, school and parish personnel have made great strides toward integrating vocations in the curriculum, are better equipped to counsel and mentor students who express an interest in discerning a religious vocation and have an increased awareness of the role they play in creating a culture that nurtures and encourages vocations among young people. Students are exposed at different ages and in varied ways to the concept of vocation throughout their time in school or religious education and gain an understanding of the breadth of vocations to which God calls people-marriage, religious life, lay ministry and so forth. Additionally, the hope is that an environment will be created that makes students feel comfortable coming forward and discussing their call and discernment with their teachers and catechists.

Vocation personnel, be they diocesan or members of religious communities, are eager and willing to make themselves available to educators and catechists. Seek them out. Get to know them. They are excellent resources for guest speakers and classroom materials, as well as collaborators on creative and innovative ways to integrate vocation concepts, topics and activities into the curriculum, classroom and school. …

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