FAITH ALIVE: Living vocations

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.
FAITH ALIVE: Living vocations
FAITH ALIVE: Living vocations


By Catholic News Service

IN A NUTSHELL

I had to learn that a vocation is a call, not something I could bargain about with God and decide on my own terms. He was calling, I just had to listen better.

Cultivating vocations begins in the family, where Jesus is alive and prayer is conversation with him.

Deacons and their spouses are frequently asked for advice about what it takes to combine the mission of the diaconate while coping with the strain it sometimes adds to marriages and family relations.

Discerning the priesthood

By Father Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr. | Catholic News Service

"You know you'll never get married or have kids?" More often than not, that was the response I got when telling someone I was studying to be a Catholic priest. It was usually followed with, "You're gonna be very lonely and miserable."

Yet, when someone says they are going off to medical school, the response is usually, "How wonderful!" or "Isn't that great!" Not, "How will you deal with people dying?" or, "Good luck ever seeing your family again while you're working all those long hours to pay off mounds of debt."

What does that contrast say about us as a church? How does that help us build up a culture of vocations and help young people to hear their call?

Society already makes it hard enough for a young person to hear their call today; shouldn't we as a church be doing all we can to make it easier? It wasn't always easy for me, but eventually I heard God's voice and by his grace was ordained a priest in 2015.

Only one of my parents is Catholic, and I went to public school my entire life until I entered seminary. Growing up I played every sport you can imagine. Like every other kid in America, I dreamed of "going pro."

Unlike most kids in America, I had my share of health problems when I was very young. On a few occasions, the doctors seemingly ran out of options. Yet miraculously, I recovered. I was able to play high school sports, but I knew I would never be one of the lucky few who actually become professional athletes.

Instead I set my heart on becoming a sports journalist. I loved talking, and I loved sports, so why not bring the two together? When I was still in high school I began writing for my local town paper.

At the same time that I was writing and playing football in high school, I also got involved in my parish youth group. While participating in weeklong service immersion trips, I encountered Christ in the face of the poor. These encounters forced me to wrestle with my faith, the nature of God, the church, and to make sense out of my past struggles. In these experiences, the first seeds of a vocation were planted.

When I first started thinking about the priesthood I wanted nothing to do with it all. I decided to make a deal with God. Instead of the priesthood or sports journalism, I would meet him in the middle: religion journalism.

As I threw myself into religion journalism, I began a journey that led me to Washington to work with Catholic News Service at only 19 years old.

Eventually I had to wrestle with a deeper question: Was I having this so-called "success" in journalism at a young age because that's what God was calling me to do? Or was it because I was afraid of the priesthood, running in another direction? When I came to the realization that it was more of the latter than the former, I decided to stop running; I entered the seminary.

I had to learn that a vocation is a call, not something I could bargain about with God and decide on my own terms. He was calling, I just had to listen better.

This begs the question, What might we do as a church to help young people hear their call better?

-- Schools: Why is it that in nearly every Catholic school in America the first thing you see is the trophy case? What if instead the first thing you saw was a wall with the photos of the alumni who are priests and religious? The ugly truth is that there would be many sparse or empty walls, but maybe that's the kind of wake-up call we need.

-- Families: Is Mass the only time you and your kids see a priest? Do you ever invite him to come over to your house for dinner? Or to the kids' ball games? The more priests are a part of your lives, the more comfortable you will all be in living your faith and, for the young ones, hearing God's call.

Pro tip: Don't just say, "Father, we'd love to have you over some time!" Rather, ask, "Father, can you come over next Tuesday at 6:00?" The former is a can that keeps getting kicked down the curb until the priest is reassigned; the latter leads to a concrete response, or at least, rescheduling.

-- Discerners: For young people wrestling with a potential call to the priesthood or religious life: Go to daily Mass, as much as you can. Eucharistic adoration and confession are important, too. Start with daily Mass, rearrange your work or class schedule if you must. Make it a priority in your life. Now.

-- Priests and Religious: To my brother priests and fellow religious. A young woman who is discerning recently approached me and simply said, "Father, thanks for being real with us." It was a good reminder there was no need to put on a facade or to try and be "cool" or someone I'm not. Young people have a deep desire for and can sense that authenticity.

Father Brooke is a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri. His website is https://frgeoffrey.com and his social media handle is @PadreGeoffrey.

A personal vocation story

By Sister Faustina Maria Pia Bianchi, SV | Catholic News Service

A few years ago I came across a paper I wrote in high school. The topic was, "If you were a pilgrim in 'The Canterbury Tales,' what would be said of you?"

As a 15-year-old girl, I did not write about career aspirations or goals. I simply wrote that I had fallen madly in love with the man of my dreams and that was who I was. How telling.

I grew up the youngest in a large Catholic family who in the midst of joys and difficulties prayed together and planted deep seeds of faith in my heart. Yet, in the midst of the secular culture, I struggled to know if the living of my faith would rob me in some way of this love that I so deeply desired. It was not until college, when I studied abroad, that this desire was deepened.

There I was in the midst of this beauty, mystery, culture -- the Alps, the Mediterranean, historic places and shrines where thousands had been healed -- and I started to realize that I did not want to merely look at it, I wanted in. I was thirsty to be a part of this that so captivated me.

At the same time I encountered young religious sisters. I thought, This is the most radical thing someone can do with her life, her love! Their witness of joy, which I knew came from love, lingered in my heart like the beauty of my travels.

Over time, however, my life became increasingly about myself and how I could orchestrate my own happiness. I had gone to school for nursing and came home exhausted from the hospital one night, but could not fall asleep.

Restless as I was, I cried out to God, "Just in case you forgot, I want to be happy! But I'm miserable, half-dead inside." And it was a grace: In that moment I knew I had to give God every one of my desires. So I listed them: my desires for marriage and children, to be this kind of nurse, to travel, to have this kind of car, etc.

As I finished giving him each one, I experienced in my heart a stillness that I had never experienced before. I heard a voice within me say, "I want you for myself."

I felt his love for me, that he was choosing me. And I thought, If you love me like this, you love me. I said yes to him that night, not sure what that would look like, but knowing I was claimed. A surge of peace and joy followed.

My last concern was my nursing career. I loved serving those who were sick and even dying. Talking to a priest about my uncertainty, he mentioned to me, "We're all sick and dying." It hit me. My heart was made to be a part of the deeper healing of our culture beyond the hospital that others may know the fullness of life.

These past eight years as a sister, being his spouse, I've come to know that we have a captivated Creator who sees in me the beauty that I wanted to be a part of. He fills my thirst with his love, transforming me into a vessel of his life and love to all I encounter.

Cultivating vocations begins in the family, where Jesus is alive and prayer is conversation with him. Having the chance to meet religious men and women through attending events or volunteering is a great opportunity to experience the gift of consecrated life. Spending time with Jesus in silent prayer, adoration, daily Mass and frequent confession turns up the volume to his voice within our hearts and more clearly reveals his love and plan.

I'm still a pilgrim on the way. Every day I am taken deeper and am happy to lose myself in this love, where I know I've been found.

Sister Faustina Maria Pia is a Sister of Life.

Deacons and their wives

By Kurt Jensen | Catholic News Service

Here's one essential acknowledgment for spouses of deacons from Maria Natera: Duty comes first.

"You have to get used to the idea that you sit alone in church," Natera says. "That was very difficult for me. Sometimes it's a little lonely in the pew when he isn't beside me."

Her husband, Ruben, is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, currently assigned to Prince of Peace Parish in Whitehouse.

Shawn Tiemeier, whose husband, David, has been a permanent deacon at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Libertyville, Illinois, for 11 years, has a similar story: "One time David was not on the altar and the priest asked why. David said, 'Because I'm here with my family.' The priest said, 'All the more reason you should be on the altar!'"

With much experience between them, both couples are frequently asked for advice about what it takes to combine the mission of the diaconate while coping with the strain it sometimes adds to marriages and family relations.

It helps if the spouse is involved in a ministry of her own, they say.

Natera, who plays the guitar, helps get youth choirs established in the diocese. "We kind of started by ourselves working together years ago. As soon as we registered at a new parish, I got involved in the music ministry right away."

Tiemeier is a co-director of St. Joseph's Women at the Well prison ministry at Logan Correctional Center, the only maximum-security prison for women in Illinois. She and her husband went through the four-year diaconate training program together, which isn't something everyone has the time for, she knows, but she recommends it.

"For me, the diaconate program helps a lot in my understanding of what it means to be a Catholic. Our relationship became much richer." But, she acknowledges, "definitely, it was a sacrifice we made in terms of the time we had to give to our children."

Bur she found that being a deacon's spouse also has helped her find a leadership role in her parish, when "things could get patriarchal. There weren't a lot of women doing anything." Now, "you're the deacon's wife, so it's more acceptable."

Deacon Natera, retired as an engineer in the U.S. Forest Service, now teaches Latin as an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, in addition to instructing candidates for the diaconate. He's also been director of Hispanic ministries for the diocese.

He has three standard pieces of advice:

First, "Your wife is the queen of the house." Between marriage and orders, "your first sacrament was marriage, and she is at the top of the list."

Second, "If you don't have prayer in your life, you won't be a good deacon."

Third, "Do not cause scandal in the church. Gossiping about clergy -- anything negative -- that doesn't help anything."

Deacon David Tiemeier found one unexpected hurdle to be "you have a much more public life. You pay a little more attention to how you're behaving. You're seen as somebody who's an expert. You have to be aware of what the church teaches and what the pastor prefers to do in a certain situation."

But there are unexpected bonuses as well. "Once a month, I do baptisms. I really enjoy how families come together for those. It really warms my heart."

Jensen is a freelance writer.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

In a recent talk on religious brothers, Benedictine Brother John Mark Falkenhain, a professor of psychology at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana, said:

"To any young people considering a religious vocation in the church, allow me only to say that the consecrated life is rich, challenging, beautiful, difficult and, above all, a great privilege.

"This is true of all vocations in the church if they are lived with zeal. I do not hesitate to tell you that life as a brother can be challenging, gritty and tough as well as rewarding and sweet, because I know you are looking to do something extraordinary and heroic with your lives.

"Know that you are invited to point to the kingdom with us, and in Pope Francis' words, to 'wake up the world' to realities that we are not yet accustomed to seeing but are too magnificent to be missed."

 

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By Catholic News Service

IN A NUTSHELL

I had to learn that a vocation is a call, not something I could bargain about with God and decide on my own terms. He was calling, I just had to listen better.

Cultivating vocations begins in the family, where Jesus is alive and prayer is conversation with him.

Deacons and their spouses are frequently asked for advice about what it takes to combine the mission of the diaconate while coping with the strain it sometimes adds to marriages and family relations.

Discerning the priesthood

By Father Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr. | Catholic News Service

"You know you'll never get married or have kids?" More often than not, that was the response I got when telling someone I was studying to be a Catholic priest. It was usually followed with, "You're gonna be very lonely and miserable."

Yet, when someone says they are going off to medical school, the response is usually, "How wonderful!" or "Isn't that great!" Not, "How will you deal with people dying?" or, "Good luck ever seeing your family again while you're working all those long hours to pay off mounds of debt."

What does that contrast say about us as a church? How does that help us build up a culture of vocations and help young people to hear their call?

Society already makes it hard enough for a young person to hear their call today; shouldn't we as a church be doing all we can to make it easier? It wasn't always easy for me, but eventually I heard God's voice and by his grace was ordained a priest in 2015.

Only one of my parents is Catholic, and I went to public school my entire life until I entered seminary. Growing up I played every sport you can imagine. Like every other kid in America, I dreamed of "going pro."

Unlike most kids in America, I had my share of health problems when I was very young. On a few occasions, the doctors seemingly ran out of options. Yet miraculously, I recovered. I was able to play high school sports, but I knew I would never be one of the lucky few who actually become professional athletes.

Instead I set my heart on becoming a sports journalist. I loved talking, and I loved sports, so why not bring the two together? When I was still in high school I began writing for my local town paper.

At the same time that I was writing and playing football in high school, I also got involved in my parish youth group. While participating in weeklong service immersion trips, I encountered Christ in the face of the poor. These encounters forced me to wrestle with my faith, the nature of God, the church, and to make sense out of my past struggles. In these experiences, the first seeds of a vocation were planted.

When I first started thinking about the priesthood I wanted nothing to do with it all. I decided to make a deal with God. Instead of the priesthood or sports journalism, I would meet him in the middle: religion journalism.

As I threw myself into religion journalism, I began a journey that led me to Washington to work with Catholic News Service at only 19 years old.

Eventually I had to wrestle with a deeper question: Was I having this so-called "success" in journalism at a young age because that's what God was calling me to do? Or was it because I was afraid of the priesthood, running in another direction? When I came to the realization that it was more of the latter than the former, I decided to stop running; I entered the seminary.

I had to learn that a vocation is a call, not something I could bargain about with God and decide on my own terms. He was calling, I just had to listen better.

This begs the question, What might we do as a church to help young people hear their call better?

-- Schools: Why is it that in nearly every Catholic school in America the first thing you see is the trophy case? What if instead the first thing you saw was a wall with the photos of the alumni who are priests and religious? The ugly truth is that there would be many sparse or empty walls, but maybe that's the kind of wake-up call we need.

-- Families: Is Mass the only time you and your kids see a priest? Do you ever invite him to come over to your house for dinner? Or to the kids' ball games? The more priests are a part of your lives, the more comfortable you will all be in living your faith and, for the young ones, hearing God's call.

Pro tip: Don't just say, "Father, we'd love to have you over some time!" Rather, ask, "Father, can you come over next Tuesday at 6:00?" The former is a can that keeps getting kicked down the curb until the priest is reassigned; the latter leads to a concrete response, or at least, rescheduling.

-- Discerners: For young people wrestling with a potential call to the priesthood or religious life: Go to daily Mass, as much as you can. Eucharistic adoration and confession are important, too. Start with daily Mass, rearrange your work or class schedule if you must. Make it a priority in your life. Now.

-- Priests and Religious: To my brother priests and fellow religious. A young woman who is discerning recently approached me and simply said, "Father, thanks for being real with us." It was a good reminder there was no need to put on a facade or to try and be "cool" or someone I'm not. Young people have a deep desire for and can sense that authenticity.

Father Brooke is a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri. His website is https://frgeoffrey.com and his social media handle is @PadreGeoffrey.

A personal vocation story

By Sister Faustina Maria Pia Bianchi, SV | Catholic News Service

A few years ago I came across a paper I wrote in high school. The topic was, "If you were a pilgrim in 'The Canterbury Tales,' what would be said of you?"

As a 15-year-old girl, I did not write about career aspirations or goals. I simply wrote that I had fallen madly in love with the man of my dreams and that was who I was. How telling.

I grew up the youngest in a large Catholic family who in the midst of joys and difficulties prayed together and planted deep seeds of faith in my heart. Yet, in the midst of the secular culture, I struggled to know if the living of my faith would rob me in some way of this love that I so deeply desired. It was not until college, when I studied abroad, that this desire was deepened.

There I was in the midst of this beauty, mystery, culture -- the Alps, the Mediterranean, historic places and shrines where thousands had been healed -- and I started to realize that I did not want to merely look at it, I wanted in. I was thirsty to be a part of this that so captivated me.

At the same time I encountered young religious sisters. I thought, This is the most radical thing someone can do with her life, her love! Their witness of joy, which I knew came from love, lingered in my heart like the beauty of my travels.

Over time, however, my life became increasingly about myself and how I could orchestrate my own happiness. I had gone to school for nursing and came home exhausted from the hospital one night, but could not fall asleep.

Restless as I was, I cried out to God, "Just in case you forgot, I want to be happy! But I'm miserable, half-dead inside." And it was a grace: In that moment I knew I had to give God every one of my desires. So I listed them: my desires for marriage and children, to be this kind of nurse, to travel, to have this kind of car, etc.

As I finished giving him each one, I experienced in my heart a stillness that I had never experienced before. I heard a voice within me say, "I want you for myself."

I felt his love for me, that he was choosing me. And I thought, If you love me like this, you love me. I said yes to him that night, not sure what that would look like, but knowing I was claimed. A surge of peace and joy followed.

My last concern was my nursing career. I loved serving those who were sick and even dying. Talking to a priest about my uncertainty, he mentioned to me, "We're all sick and dying." It hit me. My heart was made to be a part of the deeper healing of our culture beyond the hospital that others may know the fullness of life.

These past eight years as a sister, being his spouse, I've come to know that we have a captivated Creator who sees in me the beauty that I wanted to be a part of. He fills my thirst with his love, transforming me into a vessel of his life and love to all I encounter.

Cultivating vocations begins in the family, where Jesus is alive and prayer is conversation with him. Having the chance to meet religious men and women through attending events or volunteering is a great opportunity to experience the gift of consecrated life. Spending time with Jesus in silent prayer, adoration, daily Mass and frequent confession turns up the volume to his voice within our hearts and more clearly reveals his love and plan.

I'm still a pilgrim on the way. Every day I am taken deeper and am happy to lose myself in this love, where I know I've been found.

Sister Faustina Maria Pia is a Sister of Life.

Deacons and their wives

By Kurt Jensen | Catholic News Service

Here's one essential acknowledgment for spouses of deacons from Maria Natera: Duty comes first.

"You have to get used to the idea that you sit alone in church," Natera says. "That was very difficult for me. Sometimes it's a little lonely in the pew when he isn't beside me."

Her husband, Ruben, is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, currently assigned to Prince of Peace Parish in Whitehouse.

Shawn Tiemeier, whose husband, David, has been a permanent deacon at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Libertyville, Illinois, for 11 years, has a similar story: "One time David was not on the altar and the priest asked why. David said, 'Because I'm here with my family.' The priest said, 'All the more reason you should be on the altar!'"

With much experience between them, both couples are frequently asked for advice about what it takes to combine the mission of the diaconate while coping with the strain it sometimes adds to marriages and family relations.

It helps if the spouse is involved in a ministry of her own, they say.

Natera, who plays the guitar, helps get youth choirs established in the diocese. "We kind of started by ourselves working together years ago. As soon as we registered at a new parish, I got involved in the music ministry right away."

Tiemeier is a co-director of St. Joseph's Women at the Well prison ministry at Logan Correctional Center, the only maximum-security prison for women in Illinois. She and her husband went through the four-year diaconate training program together, which isn't something everyone has the time for, she knows, but she recommends it.

"For me, the diaconate program helps a lot in my understanding of what it means to be a Catholic. Our relationship became much richer." But, she acknowledges, "definitely, it was a sacrifice we made in terms of the time we had to give to our children."

Bur she found that being a deacon's spouse also has helped her find a leadership role in her parish, when "things could get patriarchal. There weren't a lot of women doing anything." Now, "you're the deacon's wife, so it's more acceptable."

Deacon Natera, retired as an engineer in the U.S. Forest Service, now teaches Latin as an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, in addition to instructing candidates for the diaconate. He's also been director of Hispanic ministries for the diocese.

He has three standard pieces of advice:

First, "Your wife is the queen of the house." Between marriage and orders, "your first sacrament was marriage, and she is at the top of the list."

Second, "If you don't have prayer in your life, you won't be a good deacon."

Third, "Do not cause scandal in the church. Gossiping about clergy -- anything negative -- that doesn't help anything."

Deacon David Tiemeier found one unexpected hurdle to be "you have a much more public life. You pay a little more attention to how you're behaving. You're seen as somebody who's an expert. You have to be aware of what the church teaches and what the pastor prefers to do in a certain situation."

But there are unexpected bonuses as well. "Once a month, I do baptisms. I really enjoy how families come together for those. It really warms my heart."

Jensen is a freelance writer.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

In a recent talk on religious brothers, Benedictine Brother John Mark Falkenhain, a professor of psychology at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana, said:

"To any young people considering a religious vocation in the church, allow me only to say that the consecrated life is rich, challenging, beautiful, difficult and, above all, a great privilege.

"This is true of all vocations in the church if they are lived with zeal. I do not hesitate to tell you that life as a brother can be challenging, gritty and tough as well as rewarding and sweet, because I know you are looking to do something extraordinary and heroic with your lives.

"Know that you are invited to point to the kingdom with us, and in Pope Francis' words, to 'wake up the world' to realities that we are not yet accustomed to seeing but are too magnificent to be missed."

 

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