by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Father Dan Morris has to put it on his business cards. But his new title “Vocation Director” leaves out an important nuance.
Neither he, nor anyone else, can rightfully claim that title.
“We are, in a sense, facilitators of the One who is [vocations director] — the Holy Spirit,” said Father Morris, who succeeded Father Scott Wallisch in July.
“It’s really God who is the ultimate vocation director,” he added. “We try to help facilitate all of those vocations the best we can.”
Father Morris, who was ordained in 2015, formerly served as associate pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Shawnee and chaplain at St. James Academy in Lenexa. Although he didn’t seek out his current role, he feels it’s a good fit.
“As I look back on my time in the seminary, an internship I did at the Church of the Ascension [in Overland Park] and my time at Sacred Heart Parish in our vocations ministry, I can see the rhyme and reason behind the choice,” he said. “I’ve always had a heart and passion for vocations work.”
As part of his seminary pastoral internship, his “large” project was to design and teach a vocations curriculum to a seventh-grade class.
“It’s kind of cool, as one of those [former] seventh-graders will enter his first year as a seminarian at Kenrick- Glennon in St. Louis this fall,” said Father Morris.
While at Sacred Heart, he helped organize a three-bus vocations pilgrimage in October 2017. Almost a third of which were high school youth.
“[The trip] was to expose families and young people to the reality that is seminary life and the lives of religious Sisters,” said Father Morris.
Father Morris, like his predecessors, will live at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and have an office at the chancery in Kansas City, Kansas. It’s a great setup, he believes.
“It’s a blessing that the vocation director gets to be in residence here at the University of Kansas,” he said. “Geographically, it’s located between two of the most populous parts of the archdiocese — Topeka and the Kansas City area.”
Moreover, it is from college campuses that vocations often surface.
“Many young people are discerning at this time in their lives,” he noted.
Another plus is that the chaplain- director of the St. Lawrence Center, Father Mitchel Zimmerman, is a former vocation director.
The University of Kansas has been a good seedbed for vocations. Indeed, Father Morris is a 1998 graduate of KU.
“My whole ordination class — all four of us — were from KU,” he said.
Father Morris will celebrate Masses at the center, make himself available for spiritual direction and work with the Samuel Group for Young Discerners.
So far, the transition has been a smooth one. Father Morris has worked with Father Wallisch to establish relationships with discerners and others. He has also formulated a vision for the vocations office.
“My big vision is to continue building on what my predecessors have already successfully started: to keep building a culture of vocations in our archdiocese,” he said.
“I want to give all people — but especially young people — permission to say ‘yes’ to their vocation,” he added.
Father Morris believes that everyone knows, deep down in their hearts, what God is calling them to.
Often, however, because of the culture, peer pressure or lack of support from family and friends, people don’t always feel like they have permission or the courage to say “yes” to that vocation.
“Also, many people don’t find themselves free enough, on the level of virtue, to say ‘yes’ to any vocation,” he said. “I don’t just mean the priesthood and consecrated religious life.
“I mean even for young couples in marriage preparation, to really have the permission to say ‘yes’ to sacramental marriage and to follow their desire to actually live out that authentic kind of love that Christ invites us to.
“I think that’s the first level of building a culture of vocations, and it’s already begun.”
The good news? We already have all the vocations we need.
The challenge? A lot of us just aren’t aware of it yet.
What is required, he said, is a team effort.
“Everyone needs to see themselves as a vocation director,” he continued. “Ask yourself: ‘What particular office of vocations has God entrusted to me — as a parent, a teacher, a coach, a youth minister, a chaplain, a pastor, a friend?’ How do we help one another recognize our gifts and talents — our vocations — and encourage those around us to say ‘yes’?”
Discernment doesn’t take place in the abstract, concluded Father Morris. If you’re a young person and not seriously open to all vocations, you’re going to have a hard time finding, let alone being able to say ‘yes,’ to the one God is calling you. Young people must seek — and they must pray.
“If a person is in conversation with the One who is calling on a regular basis, that person cannot help but come to know, trust and ultimately desire to say ‘yes’ to the call.
“God will never call any of us to a vocation that will not fulfill us. Nor will he take us down a path that isn’t in line with the passions, desires and gifts that he has already given us. God will always take and multiply those gifts — 30, 60, and a hundredfold — for his glory.”