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Impact of Catholics on Call on Young Adults
2015 - Stories of Alums
We have asked several Catholics on Call alumni to share with us what impact Catholics on Call has had on their discernment of a vocation to ministry. We have invited them to respond to the following questions:
- In which way are you currently involved in or preparing for ministry?
- What did you find helpful on your vocational journey?
- In what ways did CoC impact your decisions?
- What would you recommend to other young adults who are seeking direction?
Here are some of their stories:
My name is Greg Evers. I attended Catholics on Call in 2013 and it has had one of the largest impacts on my discernment into ministry with the Church. I am currently in my second year of philosophy studies with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. One of the things that I found to be most helpful during my vocational journey was to talk with people who are experiencing similar emotions, thoughts and questions about their call to ministry in the Church. Being able to share experiences with people who are going through similar feelings was very crucial for me to formulate where God is calling me in my life. Catholics on Call has impacted my discernment by helping me to establish a network of people I can talk to and share my experiences with. It has also helped me to realize that ministry is more than just helping those in need. Ministry is a way of walking with others. I would highly recommend Catholics on Call to other young adults who are seeking direction for their lives. It will help them to meet other people discerning their vocation in the Church, expose them to some different areas of ministry that might appeal to them and establish new friendships to help them along their way.
My name is Sr. Christina Skelley, ASCJ, and I professed first vows as an Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on August 1, 2015 and am now in the stage of formation called the juniorate, where I continue to study religious life and prepare for full-time ministry. I am attending Saint Louis University to get an M.A. in Teaching with certification, likely for middle school language arts. I also help with GFASC (Great Family of the Sacred Heart), my community’s ministry with families who are living Sacred Heart spirituality. What I found helpful on my vocation journey was attending daily Mass, making time for quiet prayer, and having a regular spiritual director were key in leading me to pray about the direction of my life. I found the example, encouragement, and stories of others very helpful, especially other young adults who were considering or had entered religious life or priesthood. I also found it helpful to meet religious and priests, learn different ways of prayer and discernment, learn about the reality of different vocations, and receive guidance about practical steps for discernment. In our culture, you can find a lot of help and support for applying to college or finding a job, but it’s a lot harder to find support and guidance for discerning a vocation in the Church. Catholics on Call was a turning point in my vocational discernment. Most importantly, it allowed me to meet and talk to other young adults discerning their vocation in the Church. Even in Catholic circles, I had not encountered many other people who were considering religious life, and for a while I thought I was crazy to be considering it. I also did not know what practical steps to take in discerning religious life. Catholics on Call gave me a supportive peer group. The conference also helped to learn more about discernment and ministry, meet mentors, and be honest with myself that I was not satisfied with my career and life path at the time. Because of Catholics on Call, I found the courage to begin seriously discerning religious life. What I would recommend to other young adults who are seeking direction, is to pray daily in a way that works for you, make time to be quiet, and receive the sacraments as much as you can. Find spiritual mentors that you trust who can help you listen to God’s voice in your life. Talk to faith-filled people in your life, including peers, about your questions. Likely they have, or have been through, similar questions or decisions. When you are not sure where God is leading you, try to be patient, open, and live your everyday life with love. We often want clear answers and resolutions, but discernment is a never-ending process.
My name is Joe Quane. Over the past seven years I have served as the parish chairperson for the SPRED (Special Religious Development) ministry at St. Cajetan and over the past 4 years I have assisted the archdiocesan SPRED staff with the training of new catechists. Last January I decided to pursue The MAPS degree from CTU and am currently part of the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Program for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Catholics on Call continues to play a critical role in my vocational journey. Prior to attending Catholics on Call, I really had no long term plans of serving the Church, nor did I have any plans to pursue a graduate degree in pastoral studies. Prior to the conference I was unaware of the different vocational paths one could pursue. In fact, prior to the conference I never heard of a Lay Ecclesial minister and was unaware that lay people could even obtain graduate degrees in theology. In a non-pressure environment, Catholics on Call helped me to understand the different opportunities that were available to me as I discerned a life of service to the Church. Catholics on Call also helped me to develop strong relationships with other young adults discerning a call to serve the church. In my current ministry, I seldom come across other young adults interested in serving the church. In many ways I felt like a loner prior to attending the conference. Catholics on Call brought me together with other young adults from across the country who, like me, were interested in serving the Church in some capacity. Over the years I have formed a strong support network with several Catholics on Call alum who have played a crucial role in my discernment journey. As I continue to discern my calling I will continue to rely on these individuals for support.
My name is Dannis Matteson and I attended Catholics on Call in 2010 and served as a CoC Mentor in August 2015! I have served the Catholic Common Ground Initiative (CCGI) since September of 2014. I received my M.A. in Theology with a concentration in Systematics from Catholic Theological Union as a Bernardin Scholar and I am excited and honored to continue the legacy of Cardinal Bernardin at CCGI. In addition to my work at CCGI, I serve as Hope House Co-supervisor alongside my husband, Thomas, who has attended CoC in 2006. I also teach theology as an adjunct at Saint Xavier University in Chicago and write for Daily Theology. Tom and I have started an intentional community called the Hope House which serves the Port Ministries in the under-served Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago. We serve as House Supervisors and are in charge of the spiritual and physical life of the Hope House. On my spiritual journey I found it helpful to I have a spiritual director. This is very important to me. I also find that prayer is fundamental to answering God's call, and also being true to myself by acknowledging and going towards to the things which fill me with passion and joy. Catholics on Call was immensely helpful for me to feel the support of a community in terms of answering my call at that time. Because of CoC I ended up attending CTU! What would I recommend other young adults who are looking for direction? Find a spiritual director who you trust. Spend a lot of time thinking about questions such as, What gives me life? What do I love? When am I most happy? What is my ultimate dream? What/who fills me with passion? Try to be ok with uncertainty. Don't worry about having everything planned out. Do a year of service! Taking time to serve helps crystallize what is most important to you, who God is to you, and who you are. Take it year by year. You don't have to decide any over-arching vocations all at once! Every year poses new callings!
My name is Fr. Robert C. Bacik, son of Thomas and Julie Bacik, home parish Queen of the Miraculous Medal, Jackson. I am a graduate of Grand Valley State University and Sacred Heart Major Seminary. On June 20, 2015 I was ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Lansing. Currently I am serving as Parochial Vicar at the Catholic Community of St. John, Davison and Blessed Sacrament, Burton, MI. Since I was very young I thought that God was calling me to be a priest, the problem was that I did not want to be a priest. I have a distinct memory of sitting in my junior high classroom listening to a visiting priest talk about his vocation. He told us how much he loved being a priest and that he had no doubt that at least one of us was called to be a priest. Sitting in the back of the room, slouched down in my chair, somehow I knew he was speaking to me. That night I prayed with extra fervor, “please God, not me!” The question of the priesthood lingered in my heart through my mid-twenties. I knew that I needed to give this idea some serious thought and prayer or I would wonder about it for the rest of my life. It was around this time that I attended the Catholics on Call conference, which was instrumental in my discernment process. Not only did the conference put me in direct contact with other young adults who were considering a life of service to the church, the presentations gave me the necessary framework to approach my discernment. I eventually understood I needed to be in the seminary to figure things out. When I told my parents my decision to apply for seminary I had an incredible sense of peace that continued to grow as I traveled through each step. Ultimately, the discernment process led me to understand that not only was God calling me to the priesthood but also that I wanted to be a priest. For many years I was trying to discern this call by myself— this is not possible! We need the assistance of other people to help us discern such great a call. Catholics on Call was my first step in this direction. I cannot tell you how freeing it was to finally discuss my internal questions of the priesthood with other men who grappling with the same questions. If we are discerning a life of service to the Church it is so important that we be in dialogue with other people. I believe that it should be a normal part of a Catholic’s life to prayerfully discern whether or not God is calling them to be a priest or a religious. We need not be afraid of this vocation. God will not call us to something that we do not have the desire for. Entering the seminary or exploring a religious order does not necessarily mean that you are called to that way of life— God will make it clear along the way. All we need to do is take one step at a time and trust that God will guide us on the way.
My name is Shannon Ambrois and I am a Tolton scholar at Catholic Theological Union. SPRED is an awesome ministry that I am currently working with. The SPRED ministry (Special Religious Development) is a ministry that helps provide faith formation to adolescents and adults with developmental and learning disabilities. During our SPRED sessions we all participate in quiet and calming activities, pray, sing, and listen to the word of God. We close each SPRED session by socializing over a small meal. Having the opportunity to meet people that are involved with different ministries from around the world has helped me tremendously with my vocational journey. From this I have been introduced to a variety of programs and ministries and received ideas on how I could be of service to others. Visiting the ministry locations has also helped by allowing me to be hands on. The Catholics on Call retreat was such a positive experience for me. I was able to learn more about prayer, faith and was introduced to ministries in the area. After attending the retreat I made the decision to go back to school to pursue a M.A. in pastoral studies at Catholic Theological Union and started volunteering. I would recommend Catholics on Call for anyone that is seeking spiritual direction. The team was very welcoming, I was able to meet and socialize with others whom I share similar interest with, and most importantly I received valuable information that has helped me with making important life decisions.
My name is Matthew Boni. I was encouraged to participate in the Catholics on Call Conference in 2014 by a campus minister at my college because I had been discerning a vocation to the diocesan priesthood, and was ready to go further in the discernment process. The conference gave me an opportunity to reflect on the joys and consolations of my faith experiences in college, and to see how God was working through it all. I had spent a lot of time discerning before the conference. Personal prayer, written resources about discernment, different retreats, and encouragement from others were all necessary and very helpful. From the many different kinds of experiences I had, I learned more about myself. Although I had many fears about priesthood, I trusted that if God was indeed calling me to take that path, then it would be what is best for me and the world. As I continued this discernment, I began to realize that I was more afraid about entering seminary than I was about being a priest. And eventually I came to realize that I had more fears about beginning the application process, rather than seminary itself. I learned that I needed to live in the present moment and take my discernment one step at a time. It was important for me to say “yes” to God at each step and see where that leads.
One of the biggest obstacles to my vocational discernment was that I did not feel “good enough” to be a priest, or even a seminarian. The most important thing that I learned about myself from the Catholics on Call Conference was that I was focusing too much on my limitations, rather than my gifts. I learned that I needed to nourish my gifts, and trust that God will strengthen the weaknesses. This realization helped me further as I began my senior year of college. I would encourage all those who are discerning a vocation in ministry to see the discernment as a long step by step process that requires a constant “yes” to God. It is important to be patient, and to not be afraid of your weaknesses. Midway through that year I decided to apply to the program of priestly formation for my home diocese. I was accepted by my bishop, and began to feel more at peace with my decision. I am now in my first semester as a seminarian of the Diocese of Providence. Although I am still uncertain if I will be called to ordination someday, I am very confident and thankful that God led me at least this far. Thank you, Catholics on Call!
My name is Megan Mio and I am currently the Director of the Mission Office at the Archdiocese of Chicago. My work consists of serving as a liaison and advocate for missionaries serving around the world in mission dioceses. I am also a part-time student at the Catholic Theological Union in the Ecumenical Doctorate of Ministry program, with a concentration in Hispanic Theology and Ministry. I see my studies as a way to keep me thinking ahead, reflecting on the living church. I hope my research will serve to form current and future church leaders to recognize and celebrate our Latino/a reality.
Right around the time I finished my Master of Divinity degree, and I was about to start full-time pastoral ministry at a parish, I attended a Catholics on Call conference. It was an important time of discernment for me. After three busy years of study in ministry, I needed to slow down and really reflect on where God was calling me. The Catholics on Call experience gave me the confidence and encouragement I needed to recognize my vocation to lay ecclesial ministry. It also strengthened my approach to work, reminding me to truly be myself and tend to my garden spiritually, intellectually, socially, physically, etc.
My journey has been gradual and really came out of an intellectual pursuit. I followed where my brain led me in school, and over time it became more and more clear that serving the Church was the best way to share my gifts and passions. I spoke with many mentors along the way, I tried a lot of new things to see if it was right for me, I asked a lot of questions and I listened. I heard God calling me in a variety of ways, but most especially in the longing of my heart. If you are not sure what God may be calling you to, stop and listen. God can speak to us in seemingly unlikely ways. What makes you laugh? What makes you cry? What fills you with righteous anger? What makes you feel like you belong and you are loved? These are very good discernment questions. They seem like simple things, but they speak to a profound longing in each of us.
The best thing about Catholics on Call was that it put me in touch with many talented, intelligent and inspiring leaders in the Church. It showed me that there are many more young adults who are interested in serving. It also gave me the contacts to reach out, ask questions and reflect on where I am going. I am profoundly grateful for the wonderful support system CoC provided me. I have stayed in touch with the team for many years now and as I continue to grow and ask new questions, I still return to this excellent foundation.
My name is James Smith and I am in formation with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, a society of apostolic life. Within my formation I am completing studies at CTU, in the MDiv program. I am preparing for and continuing to discern a call to ordained ministry as a presbyter, and am completing academic studies for that. As an integral part of formation these past seven years, I have been engaged in various ministries in a continued discernment of that to which I am called to serve as a Missionary of the Precious Blood and as a presbyter. I have been engaged in food pantries, Catholic High school tutoring and substitute teaching, religious education teaching, RCIA leader, and other ministry experiences.
Discernment is a long process. Even if I just look at the time period between first contact or conversation with the religious community with which I am in formation, it was a 3-4 year process to enter into formation. At times it was really frustrating of just how long it takes - if this is something I want to join, why can’t I just pack up my bags tomorrow and jump in? However, the length of the process did give me an opportunity to really sit down and look at what was happening in my life, where God had been calling me earlier in my life, my responses then, and my responses now and in the future. Allowing myself some time to process, to journey, to not rush it was helpful. There were/are parts of my vocational journey that were awesome, other parts that were kind of bland, other parts I really just didn’t want to do. Having seen others go through similar intervals in their discernment and formation processes, including those things they didn’t really want to do but kind of had to, was helpful. The biggest help for me was having people in my life who authentically and wholeheartedly listened to me and where I was without judgment or too much advice. Catholics on Call really gave me a taste of that experience of being heard and hearing others in the midst of being called.
Vocation doesn’t happen in a vacuum - whether as a married person with a spouse, as a religious with fellow members of an order, as a priest or any minister with those one ministers with. Being that God’s call to us is both as an individual and to a community, direction in the midst of vocation works best when it’s done with other people. It’s not easy to seek out, let alone find, people who can be trusted with such heavy conversations, but once they’re found they should not be let go of. I found a wide range of folks, from vocation directors who weren’t pouncing on me or expecting anything more than me having an honest conversation with them to other young adults considering religious life or priesthood to young adults who had no interest whatsoever in religious life or priesthood, the wide range of folks helped me clarify what was stirring in me and what they saw already inside of me. The conversations that really stuck out at me, both then and still today, were with folks who unabashedly said they couldn’t see me as a priest or religious. I really wanted to know what it was that they saw that didn’t match up to this where I was getting affirmation from folks on it. Men and women who had been through discernment with religious communities in the past ten years, men and women who had been ordained or professed for decades, and men and women who were my age really helped me see what it was that was already in me as a response to this call.
It was also really helpful to not only get input on me from others, but to hear others stories. The congruences and incongruences helped me see what was typical in my process of discernment and what really stood out. It sounds cheeky to recommend a discerners support group, but it sometimes kind of feels like that’s what was needed or developed at discernment retreats or vocation events.
2014 Alumni Survey
In February 2014 we sent a survey to 295 of our alums through emails and facebook. We received 70 responses (24%). Sixty-nine percent of the respondents were female, thirty-one percent were male. We had a representation of each of our young adult conferences from 2006-2013.
2013 Conference Survey
At the end of each young adult conference we invite our participants to rate the impact of the conference on their lives. More than 90% of the participants absolutely agreed or agreed to the following statements:
- I have deepened my understanding of ministry… (100%)
- I have a greater desire to spend time with God in regular prayer… (98%)
- I have a deeper commitment to pursue a life of service to others… (98%)
- I have gained deeper insight into the various ways I can serve the Church… (98%)
- I have deepened my understanding of discernment… (97%)
- I have formed relationships with peers who are also on a vocational search… (97%)
- I have a greater awareness of God’s personal call and desires for me… (94%)
- I have a greater comfort level in discerning personal vocation and ministry choices… (94%)
- I have a deeper commitment to pursue a life of service in the Church… (93%)
2009 Retrospective Survey
In a retrospective survey we asked past participants how Catholics on Call has been helpful to them. Four themes dominated the responses: gratitude for getting to know other young people who are discerning a vocation; openness to new ideas and experiences; finding direction and guidance; and having time and the possibility to reflect on one's own life/calling.
Participants appreciated getting to know other young people who are discerning a vocation.
“Catholics on Call helped me create a network of friends and peers that serve as a source of support and fellowship because of the things we so strongly have in common and the experiences we shared with one another.”
“I was able to connect with other young adults who are in the same place as me, trying to figure out what their meaning in life is and how to keep God at the center.”
“CoC gave me a network of peers who are like me- religious, prayerful, discerning, etc. I keep in contact with many of these friends who are a source of support, prayer, encouragement and laughs.”
“I have met so many people that have been a great support in my daily religious life and have helped me with so many decisions and thoughts that I have or have had. It has shown me the value of prayer and also the value of relationships with myself, others and God.”
They opened themselves to new ideas and experiences…
“It has shown me the many forms and ways that I can be called to serve the church. Through the people that I have met and have experienced this with, it has helped me to see things from very different perspectives.”
“It helped me see all the options for lay ecclesial ministry and religious life. I was able to do further discernment and found motivation to discern more seriously. I also felt more encouraged to pursue academic knowledge beyond the undergraduate which I had never really thought about before.”
“Catholics on Call definitely changed my perspective on my vocation discernment process. I was scared to bring it up to anyone in my home parish because they push the married life and I was not sure how they would take my news of thinking of religious life. I came home a different and definitely, happier person. After I got home from CoC, I started researching more and more religious orders. I even came so far out of my box that I was not scared to anyone that I was discerning, no matter who it was. I was definitely yelling it from the rooftops.”
…and found direction and guidance in their discernment.
“It has given me a basis for support in regards to my vocation and what I need to do, to come to my decision.”
“It helped my find the direction I needed and helped me to learn how to inspire others on finding their direction.”
“Catholics on Call has given me a supportive community. It has really given me direction in my prayer life, and I’ve grown so much through using what I learned.”
The Catholics on Call Conference provided a space for them to reflect on their own life and calling.
“Catholics on Call has helped me by challenging me to sincerely search my soul and talk to God.”
“Catholics on Call opened up new possibilities, comfort and self-confidence …; an openness to finding my true self, and affirmation that I am on the right path and it would be okay to be a young sister.”
“It simply encouraged me to get to know me better, so I can get to know my God better.”
Catholics on Call has impacted the life of our participants in many ways.
“This retreat and program has helped me better understand my vocation and call to the Holy Priesthood. The week-end re-affirmed my desire and drive to follow the still small voice I heard from within. The voice of God inviting me to give my whole self to Him and Holy Mother Church. The talks ignited the Holy Spirit within to continue and pursue my call no matter how difficult.”
“Since Catholics on Call, I have been involved in a parish as a lay minister and more than anything I was greatly encouraged by the testimonies and the lives of the other participants that have challenged me to live the Gospel faithfully in my work now.”
“This program made me more interested in what forms of communal life the Church has to offer both lay and religious. It has helped draw me closer to the importance of the Catholic Church rituals and teachings in my everyday life.”