By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
Realizing a vocation to the priesthood begins with that first step. Think of it as something like going into the water at Ocean City in early June. You think you’ll probably enjoy it but dread the initial cold shock. It’s all a matter of getting one’s feet wet.
Young people are understandably reticent about discussing a possible vocation to the priesthood. If they do confide in a priest or counselor, will they be pressured into following through?
No they won’t, but because these fears are understandable, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Vocation Office for Diocesan Priesthood has developed an excellent web site (www.heedthecall.org) that can answer many questions, according to Father Christopher Rogers, director of the Vocation Office. The site and its links can be accessed anonymously and with no future obligation whatsoever.
A quick look at the site gives short, cogent answers to a number of concerns voiced by young men searching for their future vocation, priesthood or otherwise. For example:
What is a vocation?
How do I know what my vocation is?
I think I might be called to the priesthood, but how will I know?
I know a lot of guys that I think are holier than me, could I still have a vocation to the priesthood?
I think God’s calling me to the priesthood, but sometimes I’m attracted to girls.
How can I find out more about the priesthood without feeling I’m obligated to join?
Other questions are more specific to the priesthood:
Who is a Catholic priest?
Who is a diocesan priest?
What’s the difference between a religious priest and a diocesan priest?
Why be a priest?
What does a priest do?
What’s a typical day like for a priest?
The site also offers practical suggestions for life habits for a young man who is discerning a vocation to the priesthood. These include daily Mass, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daily prayer, spiritual direction, attendance at discernment programs, getting involved in Church service programs, devotion to the Blessed Mother and talking to a vocations director.
There are also practical suggestions for families, schools and parishes, so that they can play a role in encouraging vocations to the priesthood, as well as links to the vocation stories of men who are studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
As Father Rogers notes, no two vocation stories are identical. Should a young man apply after high school, after college or after a few years out in the working world?
“As vocation director I see each young man as unique,” Father Rogers said. “It’s a case- by- case basis.”
In addition to the web site, Father Rogers strongly urges men who believe they may have a calling to the priesthood to speak to a priest.
“I do think this is a key step,” he said. “It helps the young man connect the dots. Oftentimes he experiences a call and doesn’t know where it is coming from. It comes from the Lord, God.”
It’s important to remember entering a seminary is not an irreversible step to the priesthood. At St. Charles, for example, a young man entering straight from high school will have eight years – college, theologate and deacon year for formation and further discernment before ordination.
Remembering his own discernment process, Father Rogers said, “Once I was in the seminary I was in an atmosphere of faith and fraternity. I enjoyed my years in there. It gave me time to think about God’s plan for me. It gave me time to put it into His hands.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.