Nearly 300 participants gathered in Kansas for NRVC Convocation 2016 October 29-31, representing 30 states and the District of Columbia, as well 15 international guests representing Belize, Canada, England, Ghana, Grenada, Mexico, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago. The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) is a professional organization of vocation ministers that promotes vocation awareness, invitation, and discernment to life as a religious sister, brother, or priest. NRVC reflects all forms of religious life and provides educational opportunities, resources, and other supportive services for spiritual, professional, and personal growth.
We had wonderful keynote speakers as well as other workshops during the weekend. This year our two keynote speakers were Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, and Ms. Sherry Weddell, Catherine of Siena Institute.
Fr. Kevin spoke about Discernment. In his talk he shared with us three questions. 1. Who is God for you? 2. How is God calling you? 3. What is getting in the way? These questions challenge us to put into words our image of God.
Sherry Weddell co-founded the Catherine of Siena Institute (CSI) with Father Michael Sweeney, O.P. in 1997. CSI is an affiliated international ministry of the Western Dominican Province and trains Catholic leaders in evangelization and the formation of parishes of “intentional disciples.” In her talk she shared a key to vocations is discipleship. It begins with having that relationship with God and a sustained personal encounter with Jesus Christ that calls us to make a personal response.
Although in one sense, neither of our keynote speakers shared anything new, but their talks did help to make some connections. As I reflect on their talks and think about my youth, I begin to see some of the disconnects in my own family. In some family situations, we have gotten to the point where some are no longer attending church or church has lost purpose or meaning. When I think of my family, my mom’s side grew up Catholic. Grandpa attended Catholic school and was taught by nuns. Mom attended both Catholic and public school and I attended public school until Catholic college. We attended religion classes and church as a family but we never really talked about our faith. I grew in my own faith and came to have that experience and hear God’s call. However, with others who never have that experience of God, will they ever hear the call?
Discernment builds upon our relationship with God and a call to serve others. Where do we stand in our relationship with God? What is our image? For some this may seem obvious, but to others it might be foreign. As Catholics we run the gamete of what we know, understand, and believe, but it all begins with a personal encounter.
In thinking of Millennials, those in their 20-30s, what is their image of God and church? Sometimes it takes inviting them to have that personal experience before there can be any talk of discernment.
We have much work to do in sharing our faith and inviting others to be a part of it but it begins with each of us knowing our own story. What is your response to those three questions: Who is God for you? How is God calling you? What is getting in the way?