By Father Joseph Sia
According to formal surveys I have read and informal conversations I have had, one of the elements of promoting a vocation to the priesthood is a personal invitation to a man to consider becoming a priest.
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) conducted a study among ordinands in 2019 and found that four people on average encouraged a man in his vocation of priesthood. In my case, when I was in high school I was chosen to be rector of a weekend retreat by its priests and lay organizers. That invitation triggered a thought in my head, “What did they see in me that made them think I could be a good spiritual leader?”
Later on, when I was in college, some of my friends wondered out loud if I was going to become a priest someday. I took their words lightheartedly, but deep inside I pondered what they said. Eventually, their words and encouragement were some of the factors I considered when I started to seriously discern God’s call for me.
Indeed, God speaks to his people in so many ways. He speaks through Scripture and the Word proclaimed at liturgy. He speaks through the priest or a spiritual director. He speaks through the example of the saints. He speaks through our own life experiences. He also speaks in the silence, as when we are in Jesus’ presence at adoration or when we go on retreat to a secluded place.
Additionally, God can speak through each of us. In baptism, we became a “priest, prophet and king.” Our prophetic office is how God may be asking us to deliver a message to someone else. You might have noticed a man in your parish or a teenager in your classroom or youth group who has shown great interest in his Catholic faith and who seems predisposed to being open to serve God as a priest.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your thoughts. If you are convinced that man may have a calling to the priesthood, take the next step —talk to him and share with him your observations. Encourage him to engage in opportunities through which he can be in conversation with God so that he can properly discern his vocation.
I realize this is easier said than done. You might be hesitant or unsure about talking to a man about something as sensitive as personal life choices! If you would like to know more about the power of invitation, especially regarding a calling to the priesthood, consider attending the “Bringing Vocations Home” workshop the Vocations Office is hosting Dec. 7 at St. Patrick Parish, Iowa City.
We have invited Rose Sullivan, executive director of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors, to share her insights on the process of priestly formation, discernment and even her own experiences as a mother of a recently ordained priest. This event is free, but registration is required. For more information, please go to www.davenportdiocese.org/vocations, or call (563) 888-4378 and ask to speak with Colleen Darland.
(Fr. Sia is vocations director for the Davenport Diocese. Contact him at (563) 888-4255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)