Dear Pope Francis,
It’s the middle of July, and I’m starting to get bored of summer vacation. Yes, you read that right, I’m getting bored. I’m the kind of person that likes to be busy all the time, which provides its own unique set of challenges, one of which is that the four months summer breaks are just too long for me. This summer has been unique in that it’s broken up differently than I had originally thought, but nonetheless, I’m ready to be a full time student again.
As much as I’m trying not to think ahead to September, it is very difficult, because there are some really interesting things happening: new students to meet at school (plus I get to see my other school friends regularly again!), new classes (which I’m really excited to take), and it’s my final year. It feels odd writing that, because for the first time in my life, I don’t see myself going back to school in the near future. Instead of being able to plan a few years of my life at a time because I’ll be in school, I’m taking it small chunk by small chunk. Thinking about these smaller chunks has me thinking about discernment, which almost always goes hand in hand with vocations.
I stumbled across this provocatively named article, “Your Vocation is not about You”. At first I was horrified; of course my vocation is about me! But after reading the article, I agree with its basic argument: that my vocation is about serving God and my neighbour. If this is what I believe vocations to be about, then it has some very interesting implications for the culture of vocations I’ve heard a lot about.
Usually when I talk about the culture of vocations, I am referring to the creation of an open culture where people can talk and discern their vocation in a supportive and caring environment. As soon as I affirm that my vocation ultimately is to serve God and neighbour and how exactly I live that vocation (religious, married or single life) will be different, then I can’t discern that vocation apart from my community. I need to be part of community, not just for the personal support as I grapple with the doubt and confusion about where God might be calling me, but because it is only by being part of the community that I can begin to understand its needs and how I can best serve it with my gifts and skills.
If I refuse to be part of a community, then I can’t genuinely understand its needs. My ministry would be hollow and more of an autocratic dictatorship, regardless of how warm and welcoming I try to be or what kind of programming I run. There is no way that walking into a new parish and creating a youth ministry based on weekly bingo and cribbage nights would work out well (unless the youth are really into bingo and cribbage). This is a top-down model that really doesn’t respect the unique gifts, skills and needs of people I’m called to serve.
So in terms of discerning my next steps, I’m looking to the communities that I am currently part of: young adult ministry, my diverse school community, and my previous experiences in university chaplaincy and children’s ministry to first discern what my gifts and skills are, and how they might be useful in these communities. As I do this, I’m trying to keep in mind that I hope to be working in a particular community with its own needs and priorities. I know from my own experience that God will call me to surprising places if I’m open-minded about where He is calling me. So, with an open mind, I want to embrace this deeper sense of a culture of vocations by reaching out to the communities I know personally, getting ready to launch from there.
Counting down the days until school begins,