‘What does God have planned for my life?’
by Father Mark McCormick
Director of Vocations
It is our mission in our diocese to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life by offering a variety of tried and true opportunities that help young people encounter the presence of Jesus, hear his voice more clearly, and begin to ask the important question: “What does God have planned for my life?”
Steubenville Youth Conferences, Diocesan Youth Rallies, Duc in Altum, Totus Tuus summer camps, Seminary Live-In Weekends, and Nun Runs have been a great blessing in fostering a culture of vocations in our youth and their families. Consider that Fr. Tyler Dennis, Fr. Adam Hofer, Fr. Mark Horn, Fr. Jonathon Dillon, Fr. John Paul Trask, and Fr. Zane Pekron all participated in Totus Tuus summer camps growing up and eventually became leaders at camp and Duc in Altum missionaries as seminarians. These great summer experiences also help our current seminarians discern as they encounter and lead so many youths across the diocese. Seeing the various parishes in which they would like to serve one day as diocesan priests is also a great opportunity for many of them.
These events have not only strengthened the presbyterate but have encouraged a handful of young women from our diocese to consider consecrated life. Think of Sr. Maria Madonna dei Poveri (Julian), SSVM, and Sr. Maria Regina Familiae (Wilhelmi), SSVM, of the Servants of the Lord of the Virgin of Matara, who both made their final professions in the contemplative branch in September. This past summer Sr. Joan Kolbe (Kjerstad) from Wall also made her final profession with the Marian Sisters in Lincoln, Nebraska. And Sr. Lucia Christi Blankartz, O.P. from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, will make her final profession this summer. All these sisters were active in our summer programs that are designed to help young people encounter Jesus in their lives.
Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) surveys each ordination class to gain insight into the impact of various factors on their vocational discernment. They found that nine out of ten responding ordinands (90%) reported being encouraged by someone in their life to consider the priesthood (most frequently a parish priest, a friend, or another parishioner). At least four out of five respondents (83%) participated in a program or activity similar to what our diocese offers. These programs are vocations makers! We are blessed to have such opportunities for our young people in our diocese.
One thing we have not yet explored in our parishes or diocese is small groups for high school, college, and young adults that are ongoing and focused on discernment. Many of us who have participated as adults in small groups know that they foster an atmosphere of prayer and trust, drawing participants into a deeper relationship with God.
This year the Office of Vocations is available to help facilitate and provide resources to start a discernment small group in your parishes for both men and women in high school and college and for young adults who might be interested in praying more deeply about their vocation. There are several options for discernment-focused small groups, but two have been used in other dioceses with great success. There is the Melchizedek Project, which meets seven times per semester for about 90 minutes. “To Save a Thousand Souls” by Fr. Brett Brannen is the handbook used in this small group.
There is also a short six-week discernment program offered by the Diocese of Tulsa Vocations Office, which includes a service project and a social outing. The men’s groups discuss a book by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, “Priests of the Third Millennium,” while the women’s groups discuss “Discerning Religious Life” by Mother Clare Matthias.
Both discernment group options are great ways to help our young people to discern, pray, and have fun at the same time while pondering God’s plan for their lives. Please contact the vocation office for more information on these 2-discernment group programs. We would love to discuss how we can help you foster a deeper conversation about vocations with young people in our diocese, continuing the work of discipleship started in our various youth programs.
Fr. Mark McCormick at 605-343-3541 ext. 2241 or MMcCormick@diorc.org