Happy August to you! I hope it has been a good summer for you so far, and you have had time to relax with family and friends, while keeping up a good prayer life! There are many things happening in our world these days -- the most joyful being World Youth Day in Poland, where Pope Francis, our bishops, religious sisters and brothers, and many others have encouraged and enriched the faith of hundreds of thousands of young people, reminding them (and all of us) that our mission is to reflect the mercy of Christ for others. Amidst that joy there have been awful acts of terrorism and violence in many parts of the world, and even the killing of a Catholic priest in France. Such times call for action -- not acts of vengeance, but rather acts of Christian love. The blood of martyrs has always brought about conversion of the heart, and nurtured the faith of Christians everywhere. This is still true today, and will be until Jesus comes again!
My first year in the vocations office has been a humbling and rewarding experience, to be sure, with unexpected graces and a few challenges. I’ve been able to visit many schools and parishes, talking about what it means to discern God’s call. The thing is, most of the time the conversation is pretty much the same. We talk about the Congregation of Holy Cross -- where we are, what we do, and our history. I’m most interested in learning about people, and how God has worked through their lives. That’s an amazing part of this job...to have the privilege of hearing how God has guided someone to a particular point in his life. The stories are all different -- but there are always twists and turns, moments of great challenges, and great joys as well.
Much of my job as vocations director is spent talking with people and experiencing their faith across the United States. In July I had the privilege of visiting my brother Bill in Austin, Texas. Not only is he one of my nine siblings, but he is also a brother in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Bill is the pastor of Saint Ignatius Martyr Parish, which has been staffed by religious of Holy Cross since its founding in 1937. During my time there I had a “working vacation” of sorts, spending some time with Bill but also celebrating Masses, hearing confessions, and talking with young people about prayer and discernment. The parishioners certainly love the Holy Cross priests, brothers, and sisters who have served them (even my brother Bill!). They understand our charism of educating minds and hearts, and what’s more, they embrace that charism and make it their own, not just in the ministries of the parish, but taking it to their families and workplaces too. I think that happens in every apostolate where we serve.
Someone once asked me what a typical story is for guys in Holy Cross, and I said “there isn’t one!” Even my brother and I have very different stories, though we grew up in the same house and went to the same schools. Bill knew he wanted to be a priest when he was a sophomore in high school. I knew I DIDN’T want to be a priest at the same time. But I rode my bike with him to the seminary, where Bill talked to the vocations director and I was pretty bored. He went through Old College, our undergraduate seminary, which gave him the chance to pray, live, and hang out with other guys like him, while still having a typical college experience. From there he went to Moreau Seminary, and was ordained before he was 27 years old. I went through undergraduate studies at Purdue University, and then worked for four years before entering the seminary. I was 33 years old when I was ordained. We had two approaches to formation, but at the end of the day here we are, brothers in two different ways living our vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross as priests, serving the people of God in His vineyard. God certainly works in mysterious and wonderful ways. May He be with you in your discernment, as you listen to His voice, and seek to answer His call.
O God, Creator of the world,
under whose governance the design for all ages unfolds,
be attentive, we pray, to our petitions,
and grant to our times tranquility and peace,
that we may exult with unceasing joy
in praise of your great mercy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Taken from the Roman Missal, Collect, Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice
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