All Catholics incur the call to a vocation

Friday, Jan. 13, 2012
All Catholics incur the call to a vocation + Enlarge
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — The call to vocations extends beyond the priesthood and religious orders.

"All Christians have a vocational calling because of their baptism, and that’s part of what Vatican II tried to help us relearn," said Sister Cheryl Clemons, OSU, vice president for academic affairs at Brescia University, in Owensboro, Ky., a Catholic liberal arts institution founded by the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph.

Vocations are on several levels, said Sr. Cheryl, who designed the first undergraduate ministry formation degree program in the country. The first and broadest vocation is a person’s life state, whether they are a vowed religious, married or single, she said; then there is the person’s response to God’s call. This isn’t necessarily a person’s career, but rather the way a Christian helps others, she said.

"To be Christian is to be focused both on God and on others," she said. "All Christians are expected to be holy, and if we’re all called to be holy then obviously we’re all called to have vocations that will be the way we become holy."

A way to visualize vocations is to think of them as a font size on a computer, she said. The life state of being single could be a 30-point font, while serving on the parish council might be a 15-point font and taking communion to the homebound once a week a bit smaller, but "no matter what vocation we have, we all start with that 50-point font in neon of being Christian," she said.

A vocation is a call to serve on behalf of the Gospel, to share Jesus with others; a career is something that people do to make money, said Susan Northway, Diocese of Salt Lake City director of religious education.

However, as Sr. Cheryl pointed out, if your career and vocation "can become the same thing, then you are a blessed person."

Determining a vocation requires prayer and help from a counselor who could be a parish priest, spiritual director or another wise lay person, Northway said. "You don’t try to do it on your own. It comes from prayer and discernment within the community, and testing and probing and, above all, listening. The call is from God through the Holy Spirit and it is at the service of spreading the Gospel through your actions. It is about saying ‘yes’ to God’s plan for our lives."

There is no quick and easy answer to deciding a vocation, states Edward P. Hahnenberg in "Awakening Vocation," because "discernment demands nothing less than the long and difficult path of discipleship."

The more a sense of lay ministry is developed in the Church and in ordinary life, the healthier the Church will be, Sr. Cheryl said, adding that ministry isn’t just what lay people do in the church, but also in their job and in their families. "If we don’t have a sense of God and of responding to a call in our families and our jobs during the week, we don’t have much to bring to church on Sunday."

Like Northway, Sr. Cheryl suggests those who are seeking to discern their vocations spend time in prayer and discernment, but she also believes that a person’s talents are good indicators. "I think God gives us specific gifts and talents to be used, and so if I have a gift for healing, for example, I think that might be an indication that I’m being called into something related to health care," she said.

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