Called and Gifted: paying attention to how God works in our lives


By Jim Olszewski
Called and Gifted

Have you ever asked yourself, “Am I really doing God’s will?” or “Do I really get it, do I really have that personal relationship with Christ and listen to his call?”

More than 10 years ago, just after retiring and while living in Michigan, I was blessed to be invited to a diocesan workshop on discipleship. The speaker that day was Sherry Weddell, author of “Forming Intentional Disciples,” co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute and creator of the first charism discernment process.

Even though I considered myself to be a faithful, well-informed Catholic, I had never really asked myself those questions posed at the beginning of this column. As Weddell talked, I was fascinated by the Pew Research statistics on Catholics that she cited. I thought of her as “Catholic Statistics R us!”


Her next question to us: “What percentage of the people in your parish do you feel really have that personal relationship with Christ?” I had never thought about that either, but as I sat replaying the Sunday Mass faces at our small parish of about 250 active families, it was hard for me to come up with more than 10%. Surely I was not identifying correctly. But her research came up with a number of less than 10% — a range of between 7-10%.

How can such a large percentage of Catholics be missing God’s call!? We all have received gifts and talents from God, but have we ever really thought about it? Have we really paid attention to how God works in our lives, the situations he puts us in, the challenges, the joys, the sorrows, the sufferings and happiness and — most importantly — the people he intends for us to meet and know? That’s what prompted me to do the Called and Gifted discernment process.

Now living in Iowa for the last several years, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the process and actually attended the course a second time last year, accompanied by a good friend here at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf.

Maureen Conrad and Jim Connell are excellent facilitators and lead discussions in a very relaxed but inquisitive, enlightening manner with very pertinent and often eye-opening questions. Even this second time around, I found the discernment process to be enlightening and personally affirming! I came to understand just how much the Holy Spirit has been at work and active in my life. I realized how the Holy Spirit has always been present, especially through the people that he puts in my life. I truly believe the Holy Spirit is communicating through those work associates and the chance encounters with people at the airport, on the plane, on the beach, in the restaurant, hotels and, yes, especially at church! Through the discernment process, I came to recognize what gifts I have received from God and better understand how to utilize them. It also makes me question how many opportunities I may have missed by not fully understanding these gifts. I sometimes wonder how different my life might have been if I had “discerned” many years ago.

We are all called to be disciples of Christ. The Called and Gifted discernment process is a gift; will you accept it and answer the call?

(Jim Olszewski is a parishioner of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf.)

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