by Father Mitchel Zimmerman
Parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith.
Because of this, they are the primary and most important “vocation directors” in our archdiocese. As a vocation director, my first responsibility is to support parents as they teach their children how to answer a call to a religious vocation.
This can be unfamiliar knowledge for parents to attain and to pass on, especially if there is not a priest or religious within the extended family to serve as an example.
The reality is that with fewer priests and religious serving more and more Catholics, parents must make an even greater effort to know priests and religious and to introduce their children to them.
The most important thing for parents, I think, is to let their children know how fortunate they would be if God calls them to priesthood or religious life, and how supportive the family would be of such a calling.
It is hard for a vocation to grow if the parents are only marginally supportive. It is right and proper for parents to assume that their child has a religious vocation until proven other wise, rather than vice versa.
Even if there is not a priestly or religious vocation within one’s extended domestic family, there are priests and religious in our extended parish families.
After parents, parishes are next in line in responsibility for teaching young persons about religious vocations. It is within the parish that we realize our identity as the heavenly family that God is building to live with him forever.
We should be constantly inviting our young people to consider spending their lives building a family that lasts for eternity. The best compliment parishioners can give their young people is to tell them that you see in them the potential to teach God’s people by word and example how to set their hearts on the kingdom of heaven.
“Whoever loves father or mother, brother or sister more than me, is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37). This is not an excuse from our Lord to love our earthly families less, but an invitation to join him in a special way in building a family that is destined to inherit eternal life.
Religious vocations should be the fruit of a parish that is becoming just such a family, a family that truly loves the kingdom of heaven that has been opened through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.