Get ready for National Vocation Awareness Week
LISANNE V. JENSEN
As National Vocation Awareness Week approaches, how can catechists, educators, youth ministers, and faith formation coordinators encourage young people to discover God’s plan for their lives in age-appropriate ways?
While Merriam-Webster defines vocation as “a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action,” our Catholic faith reminds us that this call comes directly from God. Prayer, of course, is essential for this discernment.
“Without knowing how to pray deeply and listen to God, none of us are able to hear his
call,” says Jessica Archuleta, a Catholic mom and blogger at Every Home a Monastery
(EveryHomeAMonastery.com). “God whispers and speaks to us in our hearts and also through other people. He wants us to live joyful lives, so he calls to us through the
good things that bring us joy.”
Father Mike Schmitz, in his Ascension Press video What’s My Vocation?, outlines three ways
that God calls us: the universal call to holiness; the call to marriage and family life, single life, religious life, or the priesthood/diaconate; and the immediate mission that God calls us to undertake right now.
“The reality is that God has made you for a purpose,” he says. “He has called you to be a saint. What’s the primary relationship by which God will make you into that saint? And what’s the task at hand?”
Archuleta believes the biggest challenge is instilling in young people that they are made
for great things. “Their baptism made them a member of the royal priesthood of Christ (see 1 Peter 2:9). This is vital to understand,” she explains. “Children need to know they are sanctified and belong to God. He loves them and calls them to him.”
The Role of Teachers in Awakening the Vision, a booklet published by the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia (see CATmag.us/2zPhA4T ), suggests the acronym SPARKS for providing
educators with tips for promoting vocations awareness — especially for religious vocations:
SPOT THE SIGNALS: Does a young person exhibit characteristics conducive to specific vocations?
PRAY: Continually keep these young people in prayer.
ACCENT DISCOVERY: In catechesis, emphasize opportunities for service and learning about vocations.
REACH OUT: Initiate a vocations conversation with a young person who exemplifies these qualities. For religious vocations discernment, ask whether the young person has ever considered ordination or religious life.
KEEP COMMUNICATING: Provide as many vocations resources as possible.
SUPPORT THE PROCESS: Maintain an open, respectful environment for discussing vocations.
For age-specific ways to incorporate vocations into catechesis, consult your diocese’s vocations office and consider these ideas:
PRESCHOOLERS: Three- and four-year-olds are cultivating an understanding of people’s community roles. Encourage them to recognize their gifts and interests as a way of initiating vocations discussions. Preschoolers also think concretely, so incorporate
real-life situations they might encounter — and then ask the question, “What would God want me to do?” Preschoolers also have a natural curiosity for learning, which makes this age ideal for introducing various vocations (using simplified language).
KINDERGARTEN/EARLY ELEMENTARY: Build on these concepts in more detail, as children in these grades recognize that God calls us in different ways. Youth in this age group typically receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, so catechesis could involve learning about a priest’s role.
LATE ELEMENTARY (GRADES 4-6): With increased responsibilities at home and school, these young people are making important decisions and should understand the essential role of prayer in that process. They can learn how to listen to God and apply faith knowledge to personal life situations.
JUNIOR HIGH: Middle-schoolers are exploring their interests more deeply. Their relationship with God is strengthening, as is their emphasis on peer groups. As their identities begin to emerge, exposure to different vocations is crucial. This age group can think about how the Holy Spirit works in their lives.
HIGH SCHOOL: Some young people wait for a “sign” telling them what God is calling them to do, while others might believe they have to live out a certain vocation because that’s what their parents did. Surround this age group with positive role models as examples (including the communion of saints). Ask questions about vocations to begin meaningful discussions: “What would be difficult about this particular vocation?” “What would be wonderful?” “What qualities do you possess that would be beneficial for this vocation?”
“Share examples of the saints who lived different vocations and stories of everyday people alive today,” Archuleta adds. “Stories and community are the best ways to incorporate vocation discussions. Let children see and hear what it’s like to live out different
vocations in the Church.”
Lisanne V. Jensen serves as the coordinator of faith formation and youth ministry at The Church of St. Joseph and as the secondary faith formation and youth ministry coordinator at St. James, both in the Diocese of Albany, New York. She resides in Columbia County, New York, with her husband and two children.
This article originally appeared in Catechist magazine. October 2018.
PHOTO: FABIO PRINCIPE/SHUTTERSTOCK; NICKS/ISTOCK