Candidates have often told me they find the period after they’ve read the material, met with the vocation director, chosen the community, and prayed, and prayed, and prayed, the most difficult. They know that in order to finally address this calling that they’ve felt for so many years, they must move forward and begin the application process. This next step is where the rubber hits the road. Inertia sets in, and like an airplane circling an airport, their vocation remains in a comfortable and unobtrusive holding pattern.
This phenomenon affects most of us whenever we face a major life-decision. We face a choice. Either we choose to let the uncertainty and fear of the unknown hold us hostage, or we claim the freedom from fear that comes with being a child of God.
In his book Soul Brothers, Richard Rohr writes about Peter the apostle. He is the “everyman” – the regular guy – because like us he is blessed with an array of gifts that occasionally get overshadowed by fear and bad decisions. Its not until he realizes God’s unfailing love that Peter moves beyond his fears and begin his part in building God’s kingdom.
“On the personal level, which is where it all starts, Peter is a grand and honest statement about how we all come to God. This pattern is a great surprise, and for many a great shock and even a disappointment. We clearly come to God not by doing it right but ironically by doing it wrong.
…Biblical holiness has to do with God’s call, grace and faithfulness to us and not the faithfulness of our response, which is why the text goes out of its way to show Peter’s first response as almost always incorrect, and his second response almost always forced upon him by the goodness and patience of Jesus. Check it out for yourself in all of the Peter stories. He is the first in foolishness, and the first in surrender. That is the normal path. Until the cock crows, we do not get it. Until the cock crows, we do not know ourselves. We are all saved in spite of ourselves, and never is that more clearly illustrated that in the life of Peter. God loves Peter because God is good, and that is what Peter finally sees and what makes him fall in love with Jesus in return. Finally, Peter the everyman runs with John the beloved to the resurrection, always trying to catch up. … Once I knew that fallible, failing men like Peter were the norm, then I was able to hope for love – and find hope for myself.”
“What if I really don’t have a vocation? What if I have to quit?” I’m convinced these questions have plagued candidates (including myself!) for the last hundreds of years. The problem lies in allowing fear (of change, failure, etc.) and uncertainty to hold us hostage in a state of complacency. Like most major decisions, choosing to discern your vocation involves action, risk and ultimately trusting in God.
We know that not all of who enter will remain with us to the end. Part of every formation director’s ministry is to assist the student in discerning whether or not they are called to such a life. Those who leave have not failed. They have, in fact, succeeded in what they originally set out to accomplish – discerning God’s call. They can now go on and continue their journey in another community, marriage or as a single person. There is no failure in trying and finding it is not for you. We fail when we allow our fears to paralyze us from exploring our vocation.
Lent is a time for looking inward; a time to ask the hard questions. You may want to spend some time asking yourself:
- Am I truly responding to what I believe God is asking of me?
- Am I allowing fear (of failure or of not being “good enough”) to hold me back?
- Do I allow my fears to keep my vocation in a holding pattern?
This is a photo of the Mau Escarpment, a steep natural rampart along the western rim of the Great Rift Valley in western Kenya. West and south of the city of Nakuru, it rises to more than 10,000 feet on the Equator. Its crest is covered with a vast forest. To the south the woods are more open, and the plateau falls to an open country eventually leading to the famed Serengeti plains of Tanzania. As it is on the Equator, the weather remains the same year around – so there is no winter!
Since the first time I, Fr. Mike, saw this escarpment as a young seminarian arriving in Nairobi, Kenya and traveling to Tanzania I have always been awed by the breathtaking beauty and majesty of Africa. It has spoken to me of adventure and excitement as one encounters the many cultures, languages and warm welcome of its people.
We are sending you this newsletter because you have indicated an interest in the missionary vocation as a Catholic priest or Brother. Looking to the future and contemplating what God has planned for you may cause you some hesitancy (see Getting Beyond Our Fears in this edition of the newsletter). But you should also take small steps through prayer, the Eucharist, spiritual direction, the counsel of friends and family and volunteer service to nourish the possibility of embracing such a vocation.
Missioners leave their home countries to share their lives, their talents and faith with the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America. In his letter to the Romans St. Paul wrote these wise words: “For those who love God all things work together for good.” Maryknollers have devoted their lives as missionary disciples, messengers of God’s love and mercy for all people. We go to share this Good News and are graced so often to find it lived out daily among the people we came to serve. We witness to a miracle as we wish to give so much of ourselves for others but find that, in the process, we are rewarded by God with so much more in return from the people we have gone to serve.
As always we look forward to hearing from you: Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry (firstname.lastname@example.org), Fr. Mike Snyder, Fr. Joe Donovan and Mr. Greg Darr
We are proud to share a poster with our 18 seminarians and Brother candidates. In his letter to the Romans St. Paul’s writes: “For those who love God all things work together for good.” Please keep these future Maryknoll Missioners in your prayers! As always we look forward to hearing from you: Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry (email@example.com), Fr. Mike Snyder (firstname.lastname@example.org), Fr. Joe Donovan (email@example.com), and Mr. Greg Darr (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On Saturday August 22, 2020 Maryknoll ordained Deacon Greg McPhee to the priesthood. Fr. Greg came to us with a background in law as a criminal defense attorney in Syracuse, New York. As a seminarian he was sent to Tanzania, East Africa for two years on our Overseas Training Program. After the ordination ceremony there followed the Mission Sending Ceremony where we learned that our new priest has been assigned to Latin America.
During his Ordination Mass homily Bishop Edmund Whelan, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York said: “It’s a different world… we don’t know what’s coming tomorrow. All of you (Maryknoll missioners) have gone into situations where you didn’t know what was ahead of you, but you made it work. And right now, we have no idea what’s ahead of us in the Church here in New York, in the Church around the world… And as I was driving here today, I said, ‘You know, these guys have lived like that every day since Fathers Walsh and Price (Maryknoll Co-Founders) came up with this idea,’ so thank you. Because you got it right, we’ll get it right, as long as we remember it’s God who’s the one who’s got it right.”
Jonathan Navarro Jose is 37 years old and comes to us from Auburn, Washington. He is a soccer coach, a member of the Knights of Columbus and has been very active in his local parish. He will begin the Initial Formation Program as a candidate to become a Brother.
Chunsing Jonathan Cho is 24 years old. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Jonathan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Welfare from the University of Washington – Tacoma.
Stephen Harden is 24 years old and comes to us from Houston, Texas. Stephen has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Supply Chain Management from Texas A&M University.
“Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others”. Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel
Pope Francis is a missionary pope! You can tell he is writing from personal experience. Most Maryknoll missioners could have written the same message. With a faith inherited from our parents and nourished in our parish communities we left “security on the shore” and became excited by the mission of communicating life and God’s love to others. We don’t regret that decision because our lives have grown through the experiences of learning new languages, adjusting to new cultures, meeting new people and making new friends.
As missioners we want to give of ourselves for the sake of others, especially the poor and those living on the margins of societies. But, in the process, God graces us with so many experiences that witness to God’s presence in the world. Sure there are difficult times and unexpected events that can even be tragic, but, in the midst of it all God is with us. And when we are down we often see the face of Jesus in the people we went to serve and are lifted up. This is the gift of the missionary vocation!
Never be stymied by the challenges presented in life. Rather, be close to God in prayer, follow the teachings of Jesus and take the steps necessary to find the place where God calls you!
For several years now we have been broadcasting podcasts about the transformational experience of a life of mission overseas, answering God’s call to serve the least among us.
Entitled Among The People, with each episode we bring you the voices of our missioners, authors and the people we serve, who share their impactful stories of life long mission, serving the poor, sick and marginalized in the most needed parts of the world.
So please join us at https://maryknollsociety.org/podcast
Ordinarily we conduct this retreat at our Initial Formation Residence in Chicago over the Columbus Day Weekend. However, this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we are compelled to have it virtually. This retreat will be conducted for a few hours beginning on Friday evening and through Saturday featuring talks by experienced missioners and even featuring interviews with some stationed presently in Africa, Asia and Latin America. If you are interested please contact Fr. Rodrigo at email@example.com.
You are also most welcome to join our Vocations Facebook Group. This is a private group just for men between the ages of 18 – 40 who are contemplating vocations as priest or Brother with Maryknoll. This group features interviews with missioners, discussions on themes presented by group members and offers members the opportunity to comment on line. If you would like to join this group to enrich and nourish your vocational interest then again contact Fr. Rodrigo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Mission is a human touch, in whatever form, place, person or circumstance it may reach out to express itself. It is often simple, sometimes sad, occasionally humorous but always enlightening. When one has felt this touch and has learned to respond to its tender embrace, in love and understanding, then one has begun to experience a true sense of mission, in all its beauty and charm and incomparable value.”
Fr. Richard Clifford MM
+2016 after a life of service in Peru and Mexico
PLEASE CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND THE MARYKNOLL VOCATIONS WEBSITE
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Vocations@mklvocations