So often we hear, the future of the Church is our youth. I disagree. The future of our Catholic Church is most especially in the hands of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents - really, all of us.
As parents, we chat with our friends and family, and some tend to one-up others, talking up their children, discussing their careers, marriages or grandchildren. Don't we feel proud when they select a successful (money-making) career? We are thrilled when those grandchildren start coming along. When was the last time you heard a parent encourage their child to a vocation in the Church?
Six years ago, our eldest daughter told us she was entering the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Mich. She attended the University of Detroit-Mercy for civil engineering, worked two semesters as an intern in Honolulu, was named Engineer of the Year in her senior year, and graduated summa cum laude in civil engineering. Shortly after graduation, she began working for an engineering firm in the Detroit area. She had a great paying job, yet she was willing to give it all up after almost two years, because something was missing in her life and she felt God was calling her to this community.
It didn't come as much of a surprise for myself or my husband or her siblings. We could already see where she was journeying. She had attended World Youth Day in Toronto, Germany and Australia. She was searching for answers. With my husband already a permanent deacon in the Church, we were familiar with many Church vocations, so it wasn't hard for us to understand and support her. Did we suggest religious life to her while growing up? To be honest, no we didn't. But through the Holy Spirit and prayer, she heard God's call.
When she entered in August 2009, there were 16 young women alongside her. While she was in formation, she often asked for prayers for some of her classmates, as they were not getting support from their families. How sad I felt to hear that parents aren't supporting these vocations. Many of those young women eventually left the order. Yes, it is possible that it might not have been where God wanted them, but to have that heartache of doing something your family isn't supporting makes it all the harder.
If we want more vocations in the Church, then each and every one of us, most especially parents, need to encourage those discerning, those entering and those who have gone through formation.
Please pray for vocations. Encourage children and relatives to consider a vocation in the Church. Look around when in Church to see if there might be someone who might make a good priest, sister, brother or deacon. There could be someone, maybe across from us in church, or possibly even sitting in the same pew.
Tap them on the shoulder and encourage them. Perhaps they were already thinking about it and our verbalizing it may be their answered prayer. A personal invitation is the best. Tell them you will pray for them.
God willing, with the support of our family, friends, and many priests, religious and deacons, Sister Dominica will profess perpetual vows in July 2017. Please keep her in prayer while praying for more vocations in the following way:
Dear Holy Spirit,
Please help those who hear Your call only as a whisper, that they may know that it is You calling them to service. May You fill those You call with the grace and courage to respond to Your whisper. I will pray, encourage and support those whom You have chosen for Church vocations! Amen.
Linda Hooper is married to Deacon Mark Hooper, mother of Sister Dominica, Timothy (Jamie) and Mary (Jeff) Skrzynski. She is communications coordinator for St. John Paul II Parish in Lake View and executive board member for the Serra Club of Buffalo, which promotes vocations in the Diocese of Buffalo.
For more information on the Dominican Sisters, go to www.SistersofMary.org