Creating a Culture of Vocations in our Diocese

“Creating a Culture of Vocations in Our Diocese”

Article for Catholic Times: Vocation Insert 2009

Father Joseph Hirsch, Director of Vocations 

Carpenters don’t begin by building a roof.  They start with the foundations and the walls.  Similarly, when we speak about vocations there is a foundation and walls which need to be laid first before a young person can discern his or her call in life.  The building of a foundation and walls is not just for a chosen few but is the mission of all parents, families, teachers, and the parishes working together within our diocese. As this takes place, we can speak of a Culture of Vocations which will be the seed bed for the future vocations in our Diocese.  

The First Foundation is learning how to pray in such a way that we open ourselves up to speak to the Lord.  Families have such an important role to play in this regard to teach the children about Jesus through night prayers, meal prayers.  These can be both memorized and spontaneous prayer.  When do you pray in your family?  When do you pray as a family?  How do you witness your love for God and your own prayer life to your children?  How can you witness a love for going to Mass as a personal encounter with Christ? When a young person can speak to God and not just about God, then a personal relationship begins to grow which will lead the young person to the next steps. 

The Second Foundation is the importance of Catechesis—learning about our Faith.  Young children love stories and the lives of saints and Bible stories are a never ending way to teach, inspire and lead them to prayer.  These stories help them to learn about Jesus and his relationship to all in the Church.  Catholic formation in our Faith through religious education lead young people to move beyond a simplistic understanding of how the Lord works in our lives.  An example I often use is, if a person is 16 years old, that person has 16 year old problems and should have 16 year old spiritual solutions.  If the person quits learning about his/her faith, then the person some years later will have 20 year old problems and 16 year old spiritual solutions.  If this persists, the person will leave the Faith by age 25 because they feel so disconnected.  How do you stay connected with your Catholic faith?  How do you continue to learn as an adult how to apply your Catholic Faith in a very complex world?  How many spiritual books do you read in a year?  After confirmation what is your plan to grow in your faith?  What adult classes have you attended?  Adults can only be spiritual leaders if they continue to grow in their understanding of our Catholic Faith so that when we are 40, 60, 80, we have a spiritual understanding and maturity which matches our age. 

The Third Foundation is living a moral life—of practicing a virtuous life and making moral commitments.  I have played the guitar for forty years.  I relax by playing the guitar and express who am I through song.  If I turn the guitar around and play it the other way with the opposite hands, I know exactly what I need to do, but it sounds awful and even I find it a torture to play it in this manner.  There are many people who want to have a good marriage someday, but they don’t practice chastity to get there.  There are many who want to be sober, but don’t practice abstinence.  An unchaste heart cannot discern the mission that God has.  Dating is the front line for discernment in so many ways.  If a couple practices chastity, they will get dating right, will get marriage right, will get family right, and then all vocations will find their place.  As Christians this means making a personal commitment to Christ of our mind and heart, of our thinking and acting.  As we are able to commit ourselves to Christ in the actions of our lives we are prepared to finally discern the next step. 

The Fourth Foundation is to give the Lord, not just a part of our lives, but all of it.  As we grow to trust God to lead us in the smaller stages of life, we finally come to the place in life in which we are called to surrender our whole lives. In choosing a career this means that a person will not simply follow his or her own wishes but will pray about where God is leading them?  To which career? To which state in life? In marriage this means that a couple prayerfully discerns that God is calling them to marry each other in the Sacrament of Marriage.  In religious life, a man or woman surrenders everything to the Lord to become a priest, sister, or brother.  I work with our twenty four seminarians—every single one of them is at this level in which they are committing years of their lives to surrender it all.  What is God’s Calling for you?  For your children?  How do you talk about this at home with your family?  Your children?  Your spouse? Your friends? This is not meant to be something which is meant only for those in seminary or convent.  This is the Call to Holiness which is meant for every person in every family in every parish.   

When young people see adults committing themselves to these four foundations, they too will then have the courage to do the same.  When we as adults live out seeking God’s Call in our lives, then we will be able to invite and challenge others to do the same.   

We don’t do this alone.  Get involved in your parish, religious ed, adult ed, Check out the many activities for youth in the Diocese during the year and in the summer.  The retreats, camps, and rallies are important ways for us to network, to support one another, and to grow in our faith, and which ultimately leads us to carry out the mission that the Lord has for us here in this corner of the Church called the Diocese of La Crosse.   

Two resources we would like to offer to those who would like a copy is:

  1. “Pure Manhood”, “Pure Womanhood”, and “Pure Love”.  Three small booklets on discerning one’s vocation in the dating world.
  2. The booklet, “Is Jesus Christ Calling You to Be a Catholic Priest?” is a small book to help young men discerning a call to priesthood.  If you are interested in receiving a copy, please email me with your contact information at