Because I’m a “vocation director,” people sometimes ask how successful I’ve been in my search for vocations. What they’re asking is how many young women I’ve met who want to become Ursulines. While that is one of my hopes, as well as promoting the charism and mission of St. Angela, it’s not really the primary focus of what I do.
I read recently that Pope Francis has encouraged the simple practice of prayer before meals, as a way to tune in to God and remember to be grateful for all God’s given. That illustrates what I try to make the center of my efforts. To me, vocation ministry is not about channeling the young toward one particular life choice, but rather encouraging them to grow in self-knowledge, be grateful, and pay attention to God’s guidance as they discover their own passion and place in life.
Discernment is at the heart of vocation ministry. It’s a way to help a person tune in to her own goodness and abilities, habitually listen to God’s voice within, and grow in sensitivity to what is right and good. Teaching discernment to young people requires practice, shared prayer, and lots of affirmation. For me, the success is not measured by the numbers of those asking to become Religious, but by the personal fulfillment and joy of those who make choices marked by generosity, gratitude and trust that God is with them. Once they learn to stay tuned in, everything takes on meaning.