The Program of Priestly Formation lists those responsible for the discovery and promotion of a religious vocation. It comments the bishop, the presbyterate, the vocation director, the seminary and seminarians as all having vital roles in caring "for the birth, discernment and fostering of vocations, particularly to the priesthood."
It also lists the role of the family as being of utmost importance. It states, "A very special responsibility falls upon the Christian family, which by virtue of the sacrament of matrimony shares in its own unique way in the educational mission of the Church, teacher and mother. Families can become a first seminary in which children can acquire from the beginning an awareness of piety and prayer and love for the Church" (Pastores dabo vobis, no. 41).
As I interview and work with those discerning a vocation, I often hear from candidates the role that their family played in helping them discover and then nurture this call from God to serve as a priest, brother, sister or deacon. They recall fondly being brought to weekly or daily Mass at a young age by parents who explained to them the purpose and value of Mass and the sacraments.
They mentioned observing religious customs in the home and praying together around the dining room table before meals and often times the rosary in the evening. They remembered how parents, siblings and extended family expressed respect for clergy and religious and stated what a gift from God it was to be called to such a life of service.
They stated how parents encouraged a child to explore all careers or professions and never exclude the possibility of a religious vocation. Most importantly, they recall how parents wanted their child to be happy in life and that a religious vocation would be a career that is based upon service to God and God's people, but is also a life of joy and happiness.
Pope Francis has shown a special interest in his short pontificate towards the role of the family in Christian life. He will visit the United States next year to speak on family life. Families today come in all shapes and sizes and no two are the same.
Is your family vocation-friendly? Do you worship together at home and in church? Do you speak of a "calling from God" and the value and role of seminaries and convents? Do all of your family members contribute to an environment of service and listening to the cares and needs of each other? Does your family seek to see each member happy in their life's work, even if it is not a career choice promising physical and monetary rewards?
Family life is a great interest for our Church and for Pope Francis. It should be a great interest for each of us, especially in the role of discovering our vocation or calling from God.
May God bless your family as you live and work together in promoting your Christian lifestyle. May God bless you as you fulfill your mission of assisting family members to discover how God might be calling them to serve others as a priest, brother, sister or deacon.
For more information contact Father Walter Szczesny in the Vocation office at 716-847-5535 or via email.