Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Whatís a parent to do? The role of family in fostering vocations
by Father Darrin Connall, for the Inland Register
(From the Oct. 2, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)
In my role as Vocation Director for the diocese, I have had the opportunity to hear from dozens of young men and women who are contemplating a vocation to priesthood or Religious life. The personal stories they share often include hopes and dreams about service in the Church, as well as their fears and doubts about such a commitment. All of these young men and women point to their parents and family members as having had an influence on their discernment process.
In many cases, the influence of family members is quite positive. There are many Catholic parents who are proud to have a son consider the priesthood or a daughter talk about Religious life. There are families among us who pray for vocations and suggest it as an option for children and grandchildren. That kind of affirmation is very important in the lives of young people. I hear much gratitude from young people for such support.
For others, however, family members are not supportive of a vocation to priesthood or Religious life. Some parents worry that their son or daughter will not be happy. Others wonder if their child will be able to be faithful to a lifelong celibate commitment. Still others Ė understandably Ė ďwant grandkids.Ē In a very few instances, I have heard stories of anger and resentment expressed toward a family member who has shared his or her idea of serving as a priest or Sister. It is difficult today for a young person to step forward and express a desire to serve the Church as a priest or Religious. It is doubly difficult to do so without the support of family.
It is pretty clear that parents and grandparents have a very special role in the promotion of vocations to priesthood and Religious life. Many parents have asked me what they could do to encourage their son or daughter. Here are a few simple suggestions I would offer to parents regarding their children and Godís will for their life.
Encourage them to pray. I believe every young person in our diocese should be encouraged to pray one simple prayer and to pray it often: ďLord, what do you want me to do with my life?Ē I like this prayer because the focus is on the Lord and his will, rather than on me and my will. When young people tune into God and Godís will for their lives, they are well along the road to happiness, because the key to happiness in this life, and the next, is to follow Godís will. I am convinced that if our young people prayed this prayer with a spirit of openness and trust we would have an adequate number of priests and Religious. Moreover, we would have happier marriages and more committed single people. It is in quiet and regular prayer that we discover Godís will. Encourage your children to pray.
Challenge children to consider all their options. Create a climate of openness in which sons and daughters can talk about all their vocational options Ė marriage, Sisterhood, the single life, or priesthood.
Let them know that you will support them in whatever God is asking them to do with their lives. Any vocation needs the support and nourishment that can only come from a loving community of faith. We need other people, especially family, for strength, encouragement, and insight.
Finally, keep them close to the sacramental life of the Church. Frequent celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and regular participation in the celebration of the Eucharist provide a solid foundation for faith. These sacraments have the power to heal, strengthen, challenge, and unite our young people in their love for Jesus and the needs of his people. They are efficacious signs of Godís grace which open hearts and minds to his holy will.
All of the young people whom I have talked with about a vocation mention, in one way or another, the influence their families have had. It is pretty clear to me that any call from God is best heard and nourished by healthy families and supportive parents. Thankfully, families donít have to be perfect for this to happen. They just need to be prayerful, supportive and open to Godís will.
May the Lord continue to bless our young people as they seek to discover their vocation and follow it with courage and joy.