The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Vocations come from courage, trust in God

Published: July 11, 2009   
Msgr. Scott Friend

Two months ago, two young men at Catholic High publicly committed to entering the seminary, and another young man did so at the state CYM convention. It was hard to be sure how their classmates would react. It was an unknown factor. Would they be supportive of Joseph, Stephen and Brad's decision to enter the seminary, or would they even respect what they were doing?

We now know what the answer is. For all of us who attended, it was an unforgettable moment to see the students quiet themselves as first Joseph de Orbegozo then Stephen Elser signed their "letter of intent." Then a spontaneous standing ovation, applause and shouts of approval sounded from the students present. The same support was expressed later at the CYM convention as Brad Charbonneau also signed a letter.

It was an affirming moment for me as a priest to see the excitement that a call to the priesthood evokes in the youth of today. I know that for Brad, Joseph and Stephen, it was a great show of support and respect for what they had chosen to do. They each have at least eight years of formation ahead of them, and while it remains to be seen if they will someday be ordained to the priesthood, just to choose to enter seminary formation to discern the Lord's call shows their courage and faith in the Lord.

This event has stayed with me and has taught me something about priestly and religious vocations. It takes courage, but fundamentally that courage has to be grounded in trust in a providential God. True courage is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is very different from risky reckless behavior because it is based on a relationship with God. Ironically, anything that we do that is not based in a relationship with our God is truly risky behavior.

We are so afraid these days of failure, commitments, pressure, being successful, being unpopular, and so on, that we tend to not challenge young people to consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life because of fear. If we are going to hide, to be afraid, to be quiet, then we will continue to face a vocation crisis. It has been my experience that the youth of today respond very well to the challenge to live for something greater than themselves, especially if those doing the asking live that way.

Many people have asked me why the Diocese of Little Rock is doing so well with vocations. While there are several factors, I think that one of the reasons is the way that people have lived their faith here in Arkansas. From the very beginning of our diocese to the present day, the people of this diocese have courageously lived their faith. The fact that the people of this diocese would give over $400,000 to support seminary education in the middle of an economic crisis takes courage built on trust in God.

Another reason is the priests here in Arkansas. It is inspiring to me to see my brother priests in this diocese responding every day to the growing demands of ministry. I am challenged by the generous way they serve the people of God to make sure that they have the sacraments and that they encounter Christ. One of our priests, Msgr. Janesko, gave his whole life to serving the people of this diocese. He got to enjoy about one week of retirement before he went to be with the Lord. I think that we would be amazed at the miracles worked every day in our diocese by the priests who serve here.

I am proud to be able to challenge young men to consider a vocation to the priesthood in the Diocese of Little Rock. I also believe that vocations will continue to grow, if we all continue to be courageous, if we continue to believe in a providential God. It makes the future hopeful when young men like Stephen, Joseph and Brad are willing to live for something greater than themselves and choose to respond to the Lord's call, and that their peers are inspired by their courage and faith.

Msgr. Scott Friend is the vocation director for the Diocese of Little Rock.

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