So many times I have told people that I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but that’s not 100-percent true. There have also been periods in my life when I wanted to be a fighter pilot and a photographer. And I always knew I wanted to be a wife and a mother. So I have actually felt called to a number of vocations in my life.
Webster’s dictionary defines a vocation as “a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action.” In the Church we do a lot of talking about vocations, mostly of the religious kind. We will especially be doing so this month with Vocation Awareness Week (January 13-19 this year).
But the reality is that vocations come in all shapes and sizes. One size definitely does not fit all. And in many ways, that is the beauty of vocations. For just as we are not all called to religious life, some people are not called to marriage or parenthood. But each of those vocations has its place and purpose and should, therefore, be celebrated.
Just as in life, where vocations are vast and varied, in the Church there are many opportunities for service. Not everyone is called to religious life as a priest, nun, brother, deacon or associate. But the Church could not function without Communion ministers, music ministers or members of bereavement, marriage-preparation or pro-life committees—just to name a few.
As many parishes struggle to function without a resident priest, the value of all those varied vocations has become very clear.
Find Your Calling
Here are some suggestions to help everyone get the most out of Vocation Awareness Week:
Do some research. At your parish there are lots of volunteer opportunities and committees of which you could be a part. If you enjoy singing, try out the choir. Like decorating? Then volunteer to help decorate the church for different holy days/holidays. If you and your spouse are looking for a way to volunteer together, perhaps you both could help engaged couples with marriage preparation.
Many of these opportunities are posted in the weekly bulletin, so keep your eyes open. Or you could call your parish office and ask about volunteer opportunities.
Pray for all vocations. As a wife and mother, I can tell you that most times I am in desperate need of support and prayers. While I wholeheartedly agree that we need to pray for an increase in vocations to religious life, I would also like to ask for prayers for those of us who choose a different path to holiness.
Don’t think too big. Sometimes when we think of vocations, I think we talk ourselves out of things because they seem too intimidating. Try to think small. My husband, Mark, always talked of being a kindergarten teacher. For various reasons he didn’t pursue it as a career, but is now fulfilling that call he felt by coaching T-ball and softball for our parish school, and helping me teach religious education to five-year-olds.
Find your passion. It’s never too late in life to find your vocation. In fact, your vocation may change over time. For instance, my sister-in-law is currently in her second year of nursing school after working for years as a graphic designer. So even if you don’t find your calling at first or now hear a call to do something else, keep at it.
This month as we pray for vocations, remember to pray for all of the many vocations in our Church and in our lives.
For Teens: Find a Mentor
When I was in high school, we had to take tests that would match our skills and interests with a potential career. Often we would laugh at how far off-base we thought they were, but they did make you stop and think.
If you aren’t sure what vocation or career you would like to pursue, why not pick a few that interest you and try them on for size? Through your school, parish, family or friends, find a mentor in the field you’re interested in. Then sit down and talk with that person about that career. Or ask if you could shadow that person for a day at work. You may discover things you do or do not like about the career. But you won’t know unless you try!
For Kids: Value All Vocations
There are so many important vocations, and each one is necessary in its own way. For instance, police officers, teachers, doctors, soldiers and priests all have a special role to play in our lives. Take an opportunity to let them know how much you appreciate what they do. It could be a note, a picture or a small token of appreciation.
Recently, both of my children’s school classes adopted soldiers who are serving in Iraq. The kids sent them letters and care packages as a way of saying thank you for serving our country. And the last time I went to the dentist, the office was filled with thank-you notes from students at a school he had visited. So take a moment to let those who touch your life through their vocation know how much you appreciate them and what they do.