by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Young people went there, did it and even bought the t-shirt when it comes to the secular version of happiness and success in the world.
And that left them dissatisfied and unhappy.
This tendency of dissatisfaction among young people means that they are open to a new message.
“There is real hunger and thirst. . . especially among young people, to discover their true purpose in life, ”said Father Dan Morris, Director of Archdiocesan Vocations.
“They recognize more and more that they were made for more, and this is something that only Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church can offer,” he added. “The hunger is there, and we have to talk about this hunger from the perspective of the church.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated November 7-13 as National Vocation Awareness Week, and it is a good time for all Catholics to consider the importance of cultivating vocations to the priesthood and to the priesthood. religious life and what role they can play.
First, Catholics should know that we all have a responsibility to cultivate vocations, and that includes empowering others to be one of those voices calling young people more, said Father Morris. Second, we must recognize that vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life are “sacred ground”, but not “secret ground”.
“Sometimes we can hold these two vocations to such an extent that we don’t make public that people really feel called and discern these vocations,” said Father Morris, “so that when a young person can feel an attraction or a call to either of these, they don’t feel empowered to let it know yet, so it stays with them and they never respond.
Young people need to know that it is okay to discern a vocation. In other words, we need to normalize the pursuit of these calls. Since becoming director of vocations, Father Morris has encouraged pastors and chaplains to be a voice of support for those who exercise discernment or who have made a request.
“They are an extension of the vocations office as a pastor of someone who reached out to us,” said Father Morris.
And here’s another principle: holiness attracts holiness.
Young people need to meet other young people who have responded to this call to explore vocations to the priesthood and to religious life, he said. By normalizing relationships with seminarians at places like Camp Tekakwitha in Williamsburg, Prayer and Action, and youth events, young people can discover what makes the pursuit of a vocation so appealing.
Father Morris has learned a few important things since becoming Archdiocesan Vocation Director in 2018.
First, he’s learned that sustained accompaniment and genuine friendship are most fruitful – and that includes listening, teaching, mentoring, encouraging, inviting, and sometimes even challenging.
Second, he learned that it is best to organize vocation events suitable for different age levels.
For example, a good entry level event is the “Master’s Cup” golf tournament. Another is Project Andrew, a one-afternoon “come and see” program that presents basic information without obligation.
“Quo Vadis,” a two-day program for young men who are at least high school students, is a more intense discernment event. Finally, for those who have applied, there is a training and assessment program called High Calling offered by the Avila Institute. It is a one-year program that prepares young men to enter seminary.
But before the discovery can germinate, the seed of faith must be planted.
It all starts with Catholic families living the faith in the home of their hearts and lives, said Father Morris. And they should encourage others – their children, their friends – to take following Jesus seriously and believe that he has answers to their questions. Catholics must live a sacramental life and be open to what God asks of them or calls their son or daughter.
“We don’t have a vocation crisis right now, we have a faith crisis,” said Father Morris. “And that creates a crisis in marriage and families and priestly vocations.”
“It’s not that there is something wrong with the priesthood per se,” he continued. “There’s something wrong with our culture that says, ‘We don’t need God.’ And when you take God as your starting point, then of course there is a crisis in priestly vocations and a breakdown in marriage and family.
Although many dioceses in the United States and around the world are experiencing a shortage of vocations, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas is doing relatively well. Father Morris attributes this to the Holy Spirit at work, the faithfulness of the Catholics in the Archdiocese, and good leadership.
“We are fortunate to have Archbishop Naumann as a shepherd and have had him for 17 years,” he said. “We are blessed that his predecessor, Archbishop Keleher, has put key initiatives in our Archdiocese that are bearing fruit – Camp Tekakwitha, St. James Academy. All these were [established] 17 to 25 years ago, but this is where our vocations are born today, and some parishes also participate. These things bear fruit as long as we keep watering them. “