Debunking Some Myths About Vocations
by Pat McEntee
Associate Vocation Director
Discerning a religious vocation is difficult enough, but sometimes the myths about religious life make it even harder. Oftentimes a young man feels a tugging at his heart encouraging him to explore a religious vocation. However, it might be the myths that make it easy for him to find excuses for not going down the road of discernment. The following are five common myths, according to the 2009 NRVC/CARA Study. But the realities within Glenmary suggest these myths are not at all accurate:
Myth 1: Very few men are pursuing religious vocations.
It's easy to look at the declining number of priests in the United States and think that the religious life is no longer appealing to young people. True, there was a time when the numbers of men in formation were down. However, more and more young men are answering the call to religious life.
Within Glenmary, three men have taken Final Oath in the last three years. There are currently 13 students in various stages of Glenmary formation.
In addition, dozens of discerners have participated in Come & See mission trips with Glenmary, and many are expecting to attend these events in the near future. Each year, several men go beyond their initial visits with Glenmary: the typical man in this group arranges to live in a mission for a week or more to gain a better understanding of mission life, in anticipation of possibly applying to Glenmary.
Myth 2: Most vocations are coming from older men.
Glenmary's upper age limit for vocations is 47, so it is not unheard for men in discernment to have had other careers and to bring much more life experience with them. However, more and more young men are contacting us while they are in high school or college. Currently, Glenmary's youngest man in formation is an aspirant who is only 18 years old and is now in his first year of philosophy studies.
Myth 3: Most men view religious life as a last resort.
While it may be true that some men exhaust many other possibilities before discerning a religious vocation, the vast majority have many options available to them at the time they enter formation.
Men have entered Glenmary formation while turning their backs on high-paying jobs and family businesses. Others have foregone the possibility of having a more traditional college experience in order to enter Glenmary's aspirancy program, which allows them to get a bachelor's degree in a minor seminary setting at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa.
Myth 4: There is no diversity in religious communities.
The face of Glenmary formation has changed over the last decade or so. Prior to that time, it could easily have been said that Glenmary lacked diversity. Now, however, Glenmary's formation, year in and year out, includes men from a variety of countries and ethnic backgrounds. In the last five years, the Glenmary formation program has accepted men born in Kenya, Nigeria, Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States.
Myth 5: Discerners are drawn to the mission and ministry of a religious community.
Certainly no man discerning a vocation is going to join a community that has a mission and ministry which do not appeal to him. However, many opportunities for lay ministry are available. What seems to be the deciding factor in choosing a community is the witness and positive, joyful example of its established members. The draw of a way of life and a community to join are often as strong as the draw of the ministry itself. In any vocation, a person seeks the joy that comes with doing what God created him to do. Seeing the joy of the vocation in a community's members can help inspire more young men to join them.
There are many more myths about religious life. Don't let the myths hold you back. You can bust those myths by contacting us with any questions you have that may be holding you back from discerning the next step.