Bishop Hying

The question is not whether one has a vocation, but what is my vocation in life?

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on September 25, 2016


       A key mission area of the synod discussion is Vocations and Leadership Formation. If someone was said “to have a vocation”, the common understanding of this phrase was a religious calling to be a priest, sister or brother. Even 50 years after Vatican II, we are still just beginning to grasp a fundamental Christian conviction rediscovered at the Council: all members of the Church, by virtue of their baptism, are called to holiness, to become saints, to embrace their vocation in the world. 

       So, the question is not whether one has a vocation; it is, rather, what is my vocation? Whom and what is Christ calling me to embrace as my response to His presence and love in my life?

       This universal call applies to us, in the sense that we are all invited to become disciples of the Lord Jesus and his holy Gospel and to become saints, daughters and sons of the Father, transformed through grace to live as a new creation in this world. 

       Once we grow in this realization of our fundamental identity, we can then drill deeper and ask how I live out such a calling in the specificity of my own life, with my talents and limitations, my desires and affections, my intellect and my strength? Here in the Diocese of Gary, we need to continue to build a culture of vocation, where every single young person finds the necessary assistance to discern what the Lord is calling them to.

       Marriage and parenthood constitute a fundamental and holy vocation, which we have reflected on in previous columns. Such a calling is a radical way to incarnate the love between Christ and the Church; to form a family built on faith, love and self-giving. Marriage and family lie at the very heart of the Church’s identity and mission.

       Holy Orders and the consecrated life are particular ways of living out the radical call of the Gospel to be solely for the Lord and to dedicate everything to the up-building of the Church - God’s holy people.  The work of the vocations office and our religious orders is to build relationships with young people, to nurture that sense of divine call in them and to actively seek candidates for the priesthood, permanent deaconate and religious life. 

       This task, however, truly belongs to all of us, for we must all counsel, challenge and support the young people of our communities to follow Christ and answer his call. The Lord continues to call us; the question is whether we can hear that gentle, yet persistent, voice in the noise and activity of our present culture. We need priests, religious and deacons to carry on the preaching, teaching, sacramental life and service to the world that has always characterized Catholicism.

       In spiritual direction, many single people ask me if being single is a vocation in and of itself within the Church, or is it just a default because nothing else worked out? I consistently respond that it is a legitimate calling for millions of Catholics. Not every disciple is meant to be a priest, religious or married.  Singles live out the faith heroically, doing things both explicitly within the Church, but also by their work in the world that builds up the Body of Christ. We need to support and welcome singles more effectively in our parishes and structures.

Lay ecclesial ministry has grown profoundly in the last 50 years as a fruit of Vatican II. Catechists, directors of religious education, liturgists, teachers, parish directors, chaplains, nurses and a plethora of other ministries have exploded in our parishes, as the laity take their rightful role as Christians co-responsible for the life and growth of the Church. 

       The challenge today is finding and supporting young people to embrace these important and responsible roles of service and leadership. The needed formation, the often low salaries and the lack of recruitment stand as obstacles to the dynamic development of new lay leaders in our parishes and dioceses.

The Catholic faith has always lifted up the dignity and meaning of human work as a divine gift, as a way of participating in God’s creation and redemption of the world. This conviction means that all labor which contributes to the common good is holy and, when done well and with a spiritual intention, can be an extraordinary way to sanctify the world. Whether one is a nurse, janitor, teacher, computer specialist, librarian, factory worker or farmer, this particular career, this specific work becomes an integral part of a personal vocation.  

       Within the synod, we will look at all these gifts and challenges regarding vocation, leadership, formation and service. In the midst of so many fundamental paradigm shifts in our culture, how do we boldly hold up a life sacrificially and joyfully given to Christ as the path of human fulfillment and redemptive salvation, not only for ourselves but, indeed, for the whole world?

       Our schools, parishes, religious education programs, priestly, diaconal and lay ministry formation, parents and families are all sacred places and persons entrusted with the task of building up a culture of vocation among everyone. This ecclesial task is for every member of the Church by every member of the Church.  We hope and pray for a continued growth of service and mission.


+ Donald J. Hying

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