Discerning Your Call

Brother David Henley, Glenmary vocation directorOctober 2012

As vocation director for Glenmary Home Missioners, I am amazed and impressed by how many good men contact our office looking for ways they can serve in the mission field. We receive e-mails, phone calls, text messages, tweets, Facebook messages, letters and more. Some men who contact our office are too old, and others are too young. Some live too far away, and still others are just not ready yet.

As Scripture says, "Many are invited, but few are chosen" (Mt 22:14). Have you been invited? Are you one of the chosen? Do you have the desire to serve? Do you trust God enough to take the next step?

How do you know if you are invited and chosen? How do you decide between the many different religious communities? Should you join now or wait another year? During your discernment period, you may end up having so many questions that sometimes you may feel overwhelmed and unable to make decisions. Through it all, discerners must be men of prayer. You'll need to pray constantly and ask others to pray for you. And then you'll need to listen for the answers to your prayers in the unexpected places.

God invites you to find your calling in life and wants you to be happy. You will find that calling and happiness by following your desire to love God and by sharing that love with others.

It's through your relationship with God that you will get to know yourself better and will begin to realize that you are being called. If you are indeed called to a religious vocation, that call will be closely connected with your desire to grow in your faith and to serve the Church within a community that shares your beliefs, passions, goals and desires. Your spiritual experiences will point you toward being part of the Church and working to build the kingdom of God. You'll find your happiness and joy in the service you give to others, which is an expression of your faith.

Joining a religious community is not a blind leap of faith but rather a decision to go in the direction one's heart has been leading. During the discernment process, each person has the chance to pray and ask God directly, "Is this where you are calling me?" You'll have opportunities to speak with others about your calling. You can take the time to read stories about saints who were men and women of faith and hopefully see similarities between their journeys and your own. You can become involved in parish ministry or other service projects in your own community to test your abilities and deepen your commitment. And your prayer and reflection on your life, passions and desires can give you great insight into where you might be called to serve.

The next step is to visit the religious community you are interested in joining and to see if you think you fit with the group and their ministry.

Glenmary is a community of diverse men with a range of backgrounds and talents but with the same call—to give themselves to the missions in the United States of America. As Glenmary priests and brothers, we live out our call by serving the material and spiritual needs of the people living in impoverished rural areas of the United States, places where the Catholic Church was not established before we came. Each had similar fears and concerns when he came to know Glenmary. Each wondered, "Is this for me? Is this really where God is calling me? Why me? Why not someone better?"

But as we discerned the call, we trusted in the way the Spirit was leading us, and eventually each of us took the step to apply and enter into the first years of formation. As in any community, the first year was our chance to test the waters a little, to verify that urge we felt swelling up in our hearts and to slowly become a part of something bigger than ourselves. And as we grew in the community during the formation period, we discovered that our joy was found by serving as missioners. Glenmary priests and brothers do a wide variety of work in the mission areas and bring a variety of gifts to serve in those areas.

While you are discerning, you may not always know what your own gifts are or how they might be of service in mission areas. You may not have all the answers to the many questions that arise. Sometimes you might fear that your past sins will prevent you from being accepted.

Don't let the Scripture quote "Many are invited, but few are chosen" be a deterrent. The next step needed is to "come and see." I like to tell people the best way to get to know Glenmary and discern your call is to come meet us in person, to come and see where the missions are located. Come and see the need firsthand. Trust the call you are feeling and allow the Spirit to show you how to respond. Trust your call and let your heart's response lead you forward.

"A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault."—Blessed John Henry Newman

Members of Glenmary's Vocation department will be visiting missions in Kentucky and Tennessee this fall. If you are interested in taking the next step and in meeting others like you who are discerning their call to missionary life, contact our office as soon as possible to make your reservation for a "Come & See" trip.