Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 23, 2007
Maybe God called: I tried to answer
A catholic man found his discernment search thwarted by disinterested vocation directors
By JOHN P. MOORE
We seldom hear the testimony of those who have searched – but not found a vocation.
On the plus side, I have been active in parish ministries and volunteer work; I am willing to work diligently towards the building of the kingdom of God; and I am educated, having completed both a bachelor of arts and a master's degree.
At the beginning of my search, I assumed that despite my liabilities, my expression of interest would meet an enthusiastic response. Having heard for many years of the dearth of candidates, I expected that anyone who did come forward would be welcomed with open arms.
Alas, such was not the case. The first vocations director whom I contacted (of the order of priests which ran the college where I obtained my undergraduate degree) kept me waiting more than six months for an appointment. Apparently he had other duties in addition to his role as vocations director, and travelled frequently. (All of the vocations directors with whom I met juggled this role and other duties.)
When finally we did meet, it soon became clear my case was not a strong one. Men over 40 are considered only if they have a long association with the order, I was told. When he shook my hand at the end of the interview, the chilly smile signalled this would be our final encounter.
The next vocations director I encountered belonging to an international order of priests, brothers and sisters with a relatively small presence in North America, was more welcoming. He seemed genuinely interested in my background and my reasons for seeking religious life.
At the end of the interview, he assigned some readings, biblical and theological, for me to peruse before our next encounter. However, thereafter he proved elusive, neglecting to respond to my communications and ultimately failing to set a time for a follow-up meeting. Eventually I gave up waiting for his call.
The final order I approached was a large international order of priests and brothers with a substantial presence in North America. The vocations director was barely polite and made it clear from the outset that I was wasting his time, and that he was meeting with me only as a courtesy.
He insisted that I tell him exactly what job I could do that would be useful to the order. When I began to speak about my view of the Gospel and the nature of my Christian commitment, he interrupted, uninterested. While he didn't completely close the door to further contact, he made it clear that he would receive future communications with little enthusiasm.
The vocations director was barely polite and made it clear from the outset that I was wasting his time.
It was a bit like applying for a job, except the process was carried out without the professionalism demonstrated by most corporate human resources departments and without a manifest regard for the legal protections afforded job-seekers. (Indeed, the Church may be the last bastion of employment discrimination.)
I was treated less as a brother and fellow follower of Jesus than as someone asking for a favour.
The vocations directors with whom I met apparently had the confidence of their respective orders, but I question their methods and the criteria upon which their judgments are based.
Vocations directors wield considerable power within their orders, and by extension within the Church: they open or bar the door to those seeking to fill these important roles within the Church and the Christian community.
It was unclear to me whether the men with whom I met possessed either the professional training or the native aptitude to adequately fulfill this role.
Even assuming such qualifications and qualities, I found the process needlessly hasty: two of the three made decisions about me based on one 40-minute interview without consulting other data (such as resumes or references) and without seeking a second opinion.
I seriously doubt whether it is possible to adequately assess any candidate in this way.
Shortly after the third encounter, a loving woman entered my life. Now all my thoughts and plans and prayers are focused on our upcoming nuptials, and I am sure that this future is God's present will in my life.
Yet I feel real disappointment that I was not able to explore more fully my interest in a religious vocation.
And I wonder about the fate of those others who nurse a similar fond ambition, who seek to follow a similar course in service of the Church and the Gospel.
Given my own experience, I am not altogether confident that all those with a true call will receive validation and encouragement from the Church they seek to serve.
(John P. Moore is a writer and editor living in Ottawa.)
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