Awareness week highlights vocations as a gift from God

National Vocation Awareness Week is Nov. 3-9.

Father Matthew Gray, now Vicar of Vocations, is ordained to the priesthood in this 2011 file photo, along with Fathers David Nerbun and William Hearne. (Miscellany/Doug Deas)

WASHINGTON—The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week from Nov. 3-9. During this week, dioceses across the U.S. lead the effort in parishes and schools to uphold and encourage the fostering of vocations among the faithful and to pray for those currently discerning a call to marriage, ordained ministry, or consecrated life.

In his message for the 2019 World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that unlike a secular career, a vocation is a gift born from God’s own initiative: “The Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God into our freedom; it is not a ‘cage’ or burden to be borne. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be a part of a great undertaking.”

The Diocese of Charleston currently has 15 men in seminary, discerning to be priests.

Whereas choosing a career requires much “doing” — such as the accomplishment of various tasks and goals — vocational discernment requires much “being.” At its core, vocational discernment is a process of self-discovery. 

Assisted by divine grace, each person is invited by the Lord to receive the gift of a specific vocation, whereby they manifest God’s love in a particular way to the outside world. In the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, the husband and wife image the Trinity by their communion of love that produces new life; in ordained ministry, priests and deacons are called to minister in the person of Christ, the High Priest and Servant; and in consecrated life, each member is called to bear Christ’s love through a particular charism.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, of Newark, and Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, echoed Pope Francis’ definition of vocation as a gift. 

“Discerning a vocation is not the same as completing a checklist. It is a process of learning how to receive the greatest gift God could offer us — the gift of living in accordance with our true identity as a son or daughter of God,” he said.

Father Matthew Gray, Vicar of Vocations for the Diocese of Charleston, echoes those sentiments.

“I remind everyone that it’s important to encourage young people,” Father Gray said. “If they aren’t encouraged to discern the different callings they may not hear what God is offering.” 

The observance of Vocation Awareness began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated a day for the celebration. In 1997, the event was moved to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Then in 2014, the USCCB Committee on Clergy moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness to a full week in November in order to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively.

From the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Catholic Miscellany contributed to this report.