Where do vocations come from? What prompts a young man or woman or not so young man or woman to respond to God’s call to serve God’s people as a religious, brother, priest or sister? I believe it starts within the family where parents are open to any reasonable vocation for their sons and daughters, for their granddaughters or grandsons. Without the promptings of parents and grandparents to even suggest: How do you want to serve God? Many young people may simply not even consider the possibility of serving God in the church. What are the priorities in your household?
I am grateful that both of my parents, in particular my mother read to us from the lives of the saints when we were little. They made sure we knew each priest who served in the Air Force Chapels or the parish where we lived, to develop some kind of relationship with a priest. In my own family my aunt was a Precious Blood Sister for over 72 years. Her zeal for serving God through teaching Latin and other subjects was real and genuine; she touched lives in many ways. My cousin, Father George, served as a priest for over 25years and taught us how to waterski.
From those relationships and my mother’s openness for us to discern God’s call led to my consideration of priestly ministry, putting my baptism promises into action, believing in God as Father, Son and Spirit leading to service in the Catholic Church. Many times people admire those who have responded to the call, appreciate their sacrifices, their decisions to forego marriage and offer a life of service; but, when it comes to your own family do you think of asking the question to your own children: “Where is God calling you to serve?”
Unless we ask that question, unless we pray heartily for vocations to priesthood and religious life, in one generation there will be insufficient numbers of men and women to serve the pastoral needs of the church. In twenty years, without at least one vocation per parish there will be fifty percent fewer priests in the Diocese of San Jose.
Though I only have my brothers, sister and their families, no sons and daughters of my own, I am included as a member of several families I have met over the years. When we do what God asks us to do, God opens up for me, the opportunity to become the person God has created me to be. As Fr. Dan Danielson said to us deacons long ago, “A priest has the reserved front row seat in the lives of so many people.” It is a privilege and a responsibility. For those who are thinking of responding to God’s call, live the greatest adventure of your life; say yes to God. Help me ask others the question: How are you being led to serve God and the church?
Blessings, Father Larry Hendel