by Father Scott Wallisch
While I worked after college, I helped teach religious education at St. Paul Parish in Olathe.
Sally, the director of religious education, invited my friend and me to teach eighth-grade confirmation.
Teaching impacted me and, after three years, I was taking my discernment more seriously. But I kept it to myself. During a field trip to our Cathedral of St. Peter, Sally took me aside and told me she thought I was called to be a priest. Still not fully open to the idea, I muttered at her under my breath to get out of my head. As I thought about her comment, though, I had to admit that I needed take her words to heart, because I had come to trust her and her advice.
Although my experience at the cathedral was not “the moment” when I definitively heard God’s call, it helped give me verification. As I discerned God’s path for my life, I recognized that God placed people along that path to give me some trustworthy and worthwhile perspective. Discernment could not happen only inside my head.
This illustrates another important principle of discernment: We have to take into serious consideration feedback that we receive from those we trust. If someone knows us well, has wisdom and wants what is best for us, we need to, on some level, take into account what that person has to say. They may see in us things that we do not see (or do not want to see).
God uses all sorts of trustworthy people to give us vocational encouragement and guidance. Parents, priests, religious, teachers, coaches, friends and many others can be God’s instruments to move along our discernment. I encourage you who have not yet discovered your vocation to be listening to trustworthy folks in your life.
In the same vein, I also encourage parents, priests, religious, teachers and others, if you can see the potential of a religious vocation in someone you know well, do not be afraid to tell them. Everyone needs encouragement and good feedback in their discernment. A recent survey of new priests found that, on average, three different people had mentioned that they saw a potential religious vocation in the young man. You could be one of those three for a future priest or Sister, so be bold, open your mouth and tell them.
By God’s grace, five years after my conversation with Sally, I was in that same cathedral, being ordained by Archbishop Naumann. As I thought about all the things that brought me to that moment, I still remembered Sally’s words.
Is there a Sally in your life? What is she or he saying? Are you listening?